Established in 2017
Hugs for Sierra Leone
Motivation for the Mission
Hugs for Sierra Leone (HFSL) was established in 2017 by Michael Bervell when was a sophomore at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA.
After serving as the Executive Director of “Hugs for Ghana” for 3 years, Michael sought to grow the work of Hugs by reaching out to other non-profit organizations working heavily in West Africa and found Young Vision Africa (YVA, http://youngvisionafrica.org/).
Michael began working with their team to find a way that ‘Hugs for’ could work together with YVA to host a service trip for students in Sierra Leone, one of the primary philanthropic regions for YVA. These discussions led to the creation of “Hugs for Sierra Leone.”
The purpose of the three-week trip was to hand-deliver supplies to three schools in Sierra Leone, teach math and English lessons to students, and provide medical treatment at the rural medical center. On December 29, 2016, seven Americans boarded a plane to embark on this trip titled “Break the Barrier 2017.”
The purpose of the trip, as recounted by Michael, was “to make a permanent mark of hope, love, and vision on the lives of schoolchildren, teachers, young adults, and street kids of Sierra Leone.” He also hoped to overcome the fear and the barrier of misinformation and unfamiliarity regarding Sierra Leone.
Just months after the end of the West African Ebola, the H4SL team landed in Sierra Leone to work in hospitals, schools, and orphanages for three weeks.
The philanthropic trip began in the village of Blama Peri where YVA had built a medical center. The team taught sexual education curriculum and provided basic checkups to villagers who never had formalized medical care outside of these annual trips.
Harvard students also worked alongside Sierra Leonean teachers to craft curriculum and integrate new technology (such as cameras, phones, and radio) in the classroom from 9am to 3pm. The team taught classes to over 100 students at both the Benmat School and the Tato Primary School.
Throughout the trip, the team also hand-delivered over 1,500 teddy bears, backpacks of basic school supplies, and medical supplies.
As described by Michael Bervell the trip was “a truly transformative experience.”