travel to Sierra Leone with palS
**Please note that the trip is now full! Email email@example.com to be added to the waitlist! Thank you to everyone who signed up!**
At Philadelphia Adult League Softball (PALS), we believe in the power of recreational softball to not only be a place for friendly competition but also a source of true camaraderie and friendship, in addition to being a way to collectively engage the community and support the efforts of non-profits and organizations where we play, live, work, and beyond.
As a result, are so excited to continue to combine the founding pillars of the league--competition, community, and camaraderie--to travel to Sierra Leone for our latest softball service trip! To be held Thursday, June 16 through Monday, June 27, 2022, this trip will take us to the capital city of Freetown and the surrounding areas on the Western Peninsula. While there, we will be facilitating a four-day USA Quickball Softball + Baseball Skills Camp for 150 young people from 14U teams in the Western Area Football Association. We will also donate equipment kits for each of the participating teams, conduct training clinics with the adult coaches, and host friendly slowpitch softball games designed for teaching and learning. This is a pilot for what we hope will be a long-term, sustainable partnership and youth initiative in Sierra Leone and we would love to have you be a part of it!
As we have an ongoing partnership with the Belize City Softball Association (and have facilitated two PALS softball service trips to Belize in 2019 and 2021, and will do more in the future!), we are also incredibly excited that our friends at the Belize City Softball Association will be participating in this project and bringing their softball expertise and love of the game to Sierra Leone! This will be an awesome way to expand our collaboration and we truly can’t wait.
In addition to facilitating the camp and clinics, we will have the opportunity to see the sights and experience so much of what Sierra Leone has to offer. We will also volunteer with the Sierra Leone Animal Welfare Society. It is sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
To sign up and save your spot, email firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, January 21. Your non-refundable deposit of $150 is due at that time to secure your participation in the trip. Spots are very limited so make sure to sign up asap! If spots remain after that date, we will continue to take signups.
This trip is open to current or former PALS players and their families, current or former umpires, and other league partners and sponsors.
ABOUT The TRIP
learn more about What we will do in Sierra Leone
Facilitate USA Quickball Youth Clinics
We will facilitate a four-day USA Quickball Camp for 150 young people focused on teaching softball and baseball fundamentals in a fun, fast-paced, and inclusive way while fostering teamwork and building knowledge of the game in a supportive environment. The camp will take place from 9am to 12:30pm and lunch and beverages will be included for all participants. Campers (100 girls and 50 boys) will be from youth teams in the Western Area Football Association.
Provide Adult Training + Coaching Support
We will conduct training sessons for the participating adult coaches from teams in the Western Area Football Association who wish to expand access to baseball and softball in Sierra Leone. We will also provide each team with an equipment kit so that lack of gear is not a barrier. In addition, we will host friendly and instructional adult softball games to give the coaches the opportunity to play the game.
See The sights of Sierra Leone
We'll take time to see some of the world famous sights in Sierra Leone, including the beautiful beaches of River No. 2 and Tokeh on the Western Peninsula, Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, the Sierra Leone National Musuem, and other important historical and cultural locations. We will also volunteer with the Sierra Leone Animal Welfare Society, where will be providing much-needed donations. In addition, we will make sure to enjoy some amazing Sierra Leonean cuisine!
why pals in Sierra Leone?
Located on the coast of West Africa, Sierra Leone is a small, tropical country–about the size of South Carolina–with an abundance of beautiful beaches, dense rainforests, and lush mountain ranges. The 8 million people who live in the country–who collectively speak a total of 23 languages–are known for being extremely friendly and welcoming to visitors, and Sierra Leone is widely recognized for its high levels of religious tolerance and inter-religious cooperation (UNHRC, 2017). Endangered chimpanzees and pygmy hippopotamuses, along with countless other species, reside in the wilderness, and the country has vast natural resources including diamonds, gold, iron ore, and bauxite.
Sierra Leone also has a longstanding connection to the United States, as it was the site of several ports where Sierra Leoneans and other West Africans were forcibly sent–after being taken and enslaved–to the Americas as part of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Starting in the late 1700s, the country also served as a location for formerly enslaved people to return to Africa and resettle–providing the meaning behind the capital’s name of Freetown (Kaifala, 2017). After remaining a British colony until 1961, Sierra Leone experienced thriving tourism in the 1970s and 80s to the pristine sand and warm waters of the country’s Western Peninsula.
However, today, many in the United States are most familiar with Sierra Leone for its decade-long civil war led by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The conflict, which lasted from 1991 to 2002 and relied on the use of approximately 10,000 child soldiers, devastated the country and left an estimated 70,000 people dead, 1.6 million people displaced, and many others with serious long-term injuries (UNDP, 2006). Since the end of the war, the country has worked hard to rebuild and has remained stable and conflict-free for twenty years, despite facing a tragic Ebola outbreak in 2014 which killed nearly 4,000 people.
While Sierra Leone has experienced two decades free from conflict, life is still difficult for many of the people who live there. The country ranks 182nd out of 189 countries on the United Nation’s Human Development Index, and nearly 60% of people experience multidimensional poverty (including living on less than $2 a day). Life expectancy has increased significantly but remains at 54.7 years, and the infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the world; more mothers die in childbirth than anywhere else. And, fewer than half of individuals 15 and older are able to read (UNDP, 2021). In addition, infrastructure challenges mean that less than a quarter of the country has access to electricity (World Bank, 2021) and less than 1% of households have piped water in their home (UNICEF 2021). Limited basic sanitation services and poor road conditions also compound the challenges of daily life.
Sierra Leone is also a very young country, with 40% of the country under the age of 14 (World Bank, 2020) and an average age of just 19.5 (UNDP, 2021). While indicators have been improving since 2010, many of these young people remain especially vulnerable, with 66% of children experiencing multidimensional poverty indicating deprivation in at least one area including shelter, health, water, nutrition, sanitation, education, or information (Stats SL, 2019). And, while in 2018 Sierra Leone eliminated school fees and made school free to children in government-approved schools, only 64% of children complete primary school and 22% complete upper secondary school (UNICEF 2021). Poverty, gender discrimination, distance to schools, teenage pregnancy, early marriage, and a range of other factors all contribute to children not finishing school. Young people also struggle to find stable, sustainable ways to make a living (2021).
The positive impact that sports can have on young people, particularly vulnerable young people, is well known and demonstrated in research–especially when sports are introduced in a positive, inclusive way with a focus on participants’ wellbeing (UNICEF Innocenti, 2021). Sports programs, when facilitated appropriately, can promote physical as well as mental and emotional health, build confidence, improve teamwork and social skills, increase school and community participation, integrate and/or reintegrate marginalized groups, and enhance child protection (UNICEF Innocenti, 2021; RAUN, 2020; PCFSN, 2020). They can also be critically important drivers of gender equality for girls and young women (UN Women, 2020). In addition, a recent report by UNICEF found that sports increase “access to, and participation in, initiatives and services for children – including the most marginalized children. By so doing, sports promote equitable outcomes in learning, skills development, inclusion, safety, and empowerment.” (UNICEF, pg. 12). The broad appeal and popularity of sports can also help include the most marginalized or otherwise hard to reach groups (UN Sport and Peace, 2021).
Sports in post-conflict societies have also been found to be a valuable tool in promoting social inclusion, integration, and cohesion, especially when focused on training and without an emphasis on competition (Council of Europe, 2011). This can be especially important in post-conflict countries such as Sierra Leone, which are experiencing a “youth bulge,” and have a very large number of vulnerable young people (Bennet, 2010).
As a result, we will be working with the teams of the Western Area Football Association to implement a four-day USA Quickball Softball + Baseball Skills Camp for 150 young people 14 and under to build new skills and foster learning in a supportive, positive, and inclusive enviroment. The young people (100 girls and 50 boys) will be divided into smaller groups by age and gender and a full lunch will be provided as part of camp each day.
USA Quickball is particularly well-suited for this program because it is designed to teach fundamentals in an welcoming, fun, and low-pressure way with an emphasis on teamwork and inclusion, and is ideal for new players of all ages. We utilized this model with a girls 14U team for a mini-clinic in November 2021 while in Sierra Leone on a pre-planning trip and it was received very well by the participants. We also used this model on a previous service trip to Belize City in August 2021 where we facilitated four community-based clinics, and with our Youth Softball + Baseball Skills Camp we held at Mill Creek in West Philadelphia in August 2021, and have witnessed its benefit firsthand.
While all of the participants currently play soccer, this will be the first experience with softball or baseball for most of them. There have been some previous local efforts to expand access to the sport in the country, but the cost and availability of equipment is a significant barrier. However, there is interest in growing the sport in-country and setting up a youth league on behalf of some of the youth soccer teams, and we will also be providing full equipment kits to all of the participating teams to support this initiative. As the majority of the young people have limited exposure to softball and baseball, focusing on a new sport is also a way to level the playing field and make the experience fun and accessible for all of the participants, as they will all be learning something new together.
Prior to the four-day camp, we will conduct a training for local coaches in facilitating USA Quickball so that they can both run the camp with us and continue to have trainings after we leave. We will also offer refreshers for coaches through the week as needed. In addition, we will host friendy adult rec softball games designed for teaching and learning for the adult coaches so that they have the opportunity to play the game themselves.
This project is an initial pilot program for what we plan will be a sustainable youth sports development initiative involving a range of partners to support the most vulnerable young people in Sierra Leone through the platform of softball and baseball, and we hope to have you involved in this first step of the journey! It is also an amazing opportunity to experience Sierra Leone firsthand by getting to know the people who live there, and we can't wait to have you join us!
What's NoT Included
Want to Help?
Can't go but still want to be involved? We need your help to make this trip possible again this year! In the past you went above and beyond and we could not be more grateful! Once again, we are accepting monetary contributions as well of donations of equipment and other supplies to bring with us support the participating teams of the Western Area Football Association and other organizations that we will be working with while in country.
We are also accepting monetary contributions to minimize participants' costs so that all players have the opportunity to participate in the service trip and to ensure that cost is not a barrier--as it often is for these types of service trips.
To make a monetary contribution, please send via Venmo @phillypals or PayPal at email@example.com. Check back soon for the link to our GoFundMe!
The following softball and baseball items are needed (new and gently used):
**For used items, please make sure that you would use the items yourself, that they are clean, and that there is no damage whatsoever to the equipment--particularly protective gear.**
Dropping Off Donations
You can drop off any donations at the Mill Creek Recreation Center field during games time on Mondays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays between 6pm and 10pm or on Sundays between 11am and 4pm starting on April 3, 2022. The field is located at 48th & Brown in West Philadelphia. We are also happy to pick up items from your location. Thank you so much for your help!
© Philadelphia Adult League Softball 2021