For only the second time in its history, the US-based group Friends of Sierra Leone (FOSL) have awarded their Lifetime Distinguished Membership Award to Peter Andersen. Andersen owns and operates what many believe to be the richest and most authoritative website on Sierra Leone, a country where he works as head of the public affairs section of the UN-backed Special war crimes Court and had worked as a Peace Corp volunteer.
“We are honored to bestow upon Peter C Andersen the … Lifetime Distinguished Membership Award in recognition of your dedication and significant contribution to the culture and development of Sierra Leone” the citation, signed by the group’s president Peggy Murrah, reads in part and continues that the recipient has “exceeded the standard”.
At the ceremony which took place in Minneapolis and also attended by Peter’s Sierra Leonean wife and their son, the citation was read out by Jeff Hall, who has raised tens of thousands of dollars to rebuild his Peace Corps village in Kailahun District, before he presented the award to Mr Andersen on behalf of FOSL.
The citation goes on that the FOSL does not bestow the award “lightly or on a regular basis” saying Mr Andersen should have received it years ago given his “renowned website that is considered the authoritative resource for matters concerning Sierra Leone – particularly during the civil war – and your availability to anyone” researching on the country.
The Friends of Sierra Leone was originally founded by returned Peace Corps volunteers from Sierra Leone in the Washington, DC area and quickly expanded both geographically and in membership. The current vice president is a Sierra Leonean.
The group has advocated for Sierra Leone with US lawmakers, especially for the return of Peace Corps. It also has funded a number of development projects, and individual members have been active in such projects as well among them 9 schools built around the country by a couple of returned Peace Corps volunteers. When he was a Senator, the current US president, Barack Obama urged for the resumption of Peace Corps activities in Sierra Leone to help develop the country.
Reacting to the award, Peter Andersen expressed happiness saying “It is the greater honour because those who conferred the award are themselves people who have given much to Sierra Leone, in good times and bad times for the country, over many years.”
By Umaru Fofana