Interview: Moving Back to Sierra Leone

Leslie moved to Sierra Leone only 17 months ago and has set up a business and settled into the community.  Here are his tips on moving back…

1. What prompted you to leave London to go and settle in Freetown? There are several opportunities in Sierra Leone, I would refer to her as a virgin territory waiting to be explored. You just need to be strong mentally, think positive when you are in a negative situation and always look out for solutions. In 2009, I worked in Sierra Leone for a few months in a UNDP funded project called Access to Justice. That was the first time I realised that I could live here and make a life here for myself. It was also rewarding, not the money but the way individuals and communities value you. I felt like I belonged in Sierra Leone, thus I started thinking and planning how to cross over from my comfortable life in London to an unpredictable life in Sierra Leone.

2. How did you make the move? I planned and saved for about 2/3 years and set a target that by Xmas 2013 I would have relocated. I was scared as I have lived in the UK for most of my life. I however bought a 1 year return ticket and said to myself I would try it out for a year. If it doesn’t work I would move back to UK. 17 months in and I am still in Sierra Leone and making progress.

3. What challenges did you come across when setting up your recruitment company in SL? In Sierra Leone , I realised I had to be versatile and adapt to the system. I now operate in Business Development, Project Management, Real Estate including Recruitment. The challenges I faced was getting use to clients not paying up on time, clients and partners double-crossing me. The slow work culture. I have however met determined and focussed individuals along the way who gave me strength during my tough time, plus I would like to believe I have adapted well into the system.

4. What do you love about living in SL? Working and living in Sierra Leone, I feel as if I am giving back to my community. Through Recruitment I have assisted a good number of Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora to relocate to Sierra Leone. I have also helped a good number of locals to get better paid jobs. In Real Estate my business partners and myself have been successful in assisting companies and individuals secure decent properties. Lastly I was the Project Manager of the verification team that verified over 30,000 Ebola Response Workers during the height of the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone. I am currently attached to highly ranked Software Development company in Sierra Leone; iDT Labs (www.idtlabs.sl) which designed and developed the only job search engine in Sierra Leone – Careers.SL (www.careers.sl)

5. What 3 tips would you give to something thinking of moving to SL?

I. Don’t just pack up your bags and relocate.  Go on several trips to Sierra Leone (between 3- 5 trips) not as a holiday but to work or do business.

II. Set yourself an achievable sum of money to save as you could use some of that money to start a business and some for just in case things don’t work out and you want to return abroad.

III. During your trips try to network and see which sector you would be most useful. Never judge a book by its cover, some of the individuals that I have done business transactions with or that have given me opportunities in Sierra Leone, by first glance I would not have spoken to them, but I was open and made reasonable contacts with everyone I came across.

imageMr Leslie Gordon-Browne, MA. BA

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