10 Things You Might Not Know About Sierra Leone

07/22/14

Sierra Leone is beautiful, green, and mountainous. It has suffered through a long, dark history, but things are changing for the better. Learn more about the country your sponsored child calls home:

1. The national symbol of freedom is a tree 

The Cotton Tree is a historic symbol in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone
 
The Cotton Tree is a historic symbol in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. According to tradition, former African-American slaves landed on the shoreline and walked up to this giant tree and held a thanksgiving service, praying and singing hymns to thank God for their deliverance to this free land. They settled here, the site of modern Freetown. (Photo from sabisierraleone.tumblr.com)
 

2. They love their radios

In Sierra Leone, about 85 percent of people have access to a radio
 
Because so many people in Sierra Leone do not know how to read, radios are very popular. About 85 percent of people have access to a radio and about 72 percent listen to the radio daily. (Photo from aljazeera.com)
 

3. They suffered through a 10-year civil war

Civil war in Sierra Leone
 
Between 1991 and 2001, war between rival groups competing for control of Sierra Leone left more than 50,000 people dead and the country’s infrastructure in pieces. It also displaced more than two million people, who fled into neighboring countries. In 2001, United Nations forces began disarming rebel soldiers, bringing an end to the war. (Photo from e-ir.info)
 

4. Diamonds put this country on the map

This country is one of the top ten diamond producing nations in the world
 
In 1972, the world’s third-largest gem-quality diamond was found here. It’s called the Star of Sierra Leone. This country is one of the top ten diamond producing nations in the world. Unfortunately, the diamond industry has also been a great source of conflict and pain in Sierra Leone. (Photo from Science Photo Library)
 

5. They love the cassava plant

Cassava is a staple in Sierra Leonean households
 
Cassava is a staple in Sierra Leonean households. They use cassava leaves to make a green stew that traditionally contains meat and fish, and they use the roots to make bread. Preparing cassava for cooking is often a labor-intensive process! (Photo from flickr.com)
 

6. Its name means "Lion Mountains"

In 1462, Portuguese explorer Pedro de Sintra mapped the hills around Freetown
 
In 1462, Portuguese explorer Pedro de Sintra (also known as Pedro da Cintra) gave the area around Freetown the name Serra de Leôa (Portuguese for Lioness Mountains). The Italians eventually translated this name into their language and made it masculine, making the country's name Sierra Leone. De Sintra was quoted as saying the area was named for "its wild and rugged appearance." (Photo from funkvista.deviantart.com)
 

7. Israel built their parliament building

Funded by the Israeli government and built by Israeli construction firms
 
Funded by the Israeli government and built by Israeli construction firms, Sierra Leone’s parliament building overlooks Freetown harbor. (Photo from tabletmag.com)
 

8. The British sent freed slaves here

Freed slaves are welcomed to Freetown, Sierra Leone
 
In 1787, the British sent 400 former slaves to settle in modern-day Freetown. Most of these settlers died, though. Then in 1792, the British sent 1,200 former slaves living in Nova Scotia, Canada, to settle in Sierra Leone. In 1808, after the abolition of the British slave trade, the British sent more freed slaves to Sierra Leone after liberating them from illegal slave ships. Today, Sierra Leone is made up of the descendants of these early settlers and the indigenous tribes such as the Mende and Temne people. (Photo from en.wikipedia.org)
 

9. The big ships dock here

Freetown has the largest natural harbor on the African continent
 
Freetown has the largest natural harbor on the African continent. It is capable of receiving oceangoing vessels of all kinds. (Photo from flickr.com)
 

10. Their history is built into a church

Saint John's Maroon Church in Freetown, Sierra Leone
 
The pews and rafters in Saint John's Maroon Church are recycled pieces of history, made from a ship that brought freed Jamaican slaves from Nova Scotia, Canada. The church was built in 1820, making it one of Freetown’s oldest churches. (Photo from sabisierraleone.tumblr.com)