OVP’s Program Manager, Aaron Ackerman, writes about his upcoming transition within the organization.
This July, I will move to rural Sierra Leone for two years to continue my work with OneVillage Partners. Our current Field Officer, Kari Foley, will be finishing her time in the villages this August after two years of tireless service. Up to this point, I have served as OVP’s Program Manager in Minneapolis, working on finances, program research, fundraising, intern management, and more. In Sierra Leone, my focus will shift to Monitoring and Evaluation, Communications, and Expansion.
During a field visit to the villages last fall, I got to experience life and work in rural Sierra Leone. The challenges were plentiful, my own ignorance humbling, the learning constant. Through countless Mende language lessons, staff meetings, and torrential rainstorms grew connections with the people of Jokibu, Pujehun, and Foindu. Cocoa farmers, schoolchildren, and chiefs readily shared the customs, struggles, and desires that constitute their daily lives. There were numerous examples of the cultural and humanistic commonalities that link all of us together as a single people, but the realities of illness and poverty served as constant reminders of the glaring inequities that splinter this unity.
For many, two years in the forests of sub-Saharan Africa without running water and electricity would not be a promotion. For me, in Sierra Leone awaits a unique confluence of circumstances that collectively represent the greatest opportunity of my life. The communities are warm and accepting, the serenity of village life calming beyond description. The work is at once daunting yet stimulating, and will undoubtedly greatly influence my future career path. Most importantly, OVP’s mission aligns with my own personal convictions and worldview, which is why I first began volunteering for the organization two years ago and am now preparing for life in Sierra Leone.
OVP is poised for exciting and significant growth in both the scope and quality of its work. I am proud to represent an NGO that employs an inclusive, community-led approach to development, and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to live with and learn from the people of Sierra Leone.
–Aaron Ackerman, OVP Program Manager