Emerging from the shadow of a global pandemic can be life-affirming but it is also a journey wrought with difficult, painful, and sometimes overwhelming challenges, this true for both individuals dealing with grief or fear and for communities dealing with infrastructural or or a broken supply chain or healing social cohesion. For the people of Sierra Leone, emerging from the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic was made doubly difficult as they were still recovering from the aftermath of the Ebola pandemic.
For many people, the pandemic and the last 70 years have been been made easier by a woman who has been a beacon of stability and hope, Queen Elizabeth II. The passing of someone so committed to the service of others and the global community as a whole had me feeling sombre but also reflective; reflecting on her legacy of leadership and selfless service.
It was in this mode that I began to reflect on the summer of 2022 and our staff going to Sierra Leone to provide supplies to our local staff and programs. This was the first trip of its kind in two years since the start of the global pandemic. Our local staff have been stalwart and heaven-sent and they have kept us running during the last hectic two years but now more support and more hands on deck were on the way.
With this trip our focus was to expand our education programs. We awarded more educational scholarships to ensure that continuing education is a priority for girls and that they have access to more opportunities. We were incredibly moved and inspired by the growth in the students in our Girls Advocacy Movement (GAM). The change was phenomenal, they are not just more confident and more comfortable in their identity, but they are also dreaming bigger. They are working to become doctors and engineers when people told them to not even imagine it let alone pursue it. It ended up being a summer of renewal: renewing friendships; renewing our commitment to communities; to teachers and doctors; to families; to students; to mothers, women, and girls.
And ultimately, that is the legacy of Freedom Tree, our work in the community and our commitment to those we help. But Queen Elizabeth II exemplified that your legacy is never fully written but continuously being written.
And now as we continue to write our legacy, we cannot help but feel immensely grateful and incredibly moved by how far we have come but there is still so much work to do for the women and communities of Sierra Leone. We are excited by all the possibilities that will come from impactful and live-saving programming. Programs that could help Sierra Leone and so many communities to grow and heal. We are excited to hear from and engage with our community here in Calgary as we do every December. We are excited to dream of all that could be better in our communities and then work towards that dream.