Tag Archives: Sierra Leone

Arts and Crafts in Sierra Leone


In addition to meeting new people and mentoring, style, fashion, and exploring local markets have been some of my great joys during many trips to Africa. The recent TechWomen Delegation to Sierra Leone was no exception. This is an update on my 2017 blog post Fabric Arts and Crafts in Sierra Leone. Having shopped in Sierra Leone before, my daughter Jessica and I arrived with clear ideas on what we wanted to bring home this time.

An unexpected delight was that TechWomen Fellow, Engineer, and fashion entrepreneur Michelle Sesay (of House of Cordelia in Freetown) generously offered to have clothes made to order for the TechWomen mentors. She brought fabric and some made-up samples, took our measures and design ideas, and delivered wonders. Her tailor is amazing! Jessica and I and most of the TechWomen wore our new outfits to the final dinner.

In addition, Jessica and I brought home bolts of fabric, batik, and wood carvings as presents and to decorate our homes. After experiencing the design and color flair in West Africa, the San Francisco Bay Area is visually boring.





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Images Copyright 2019 by Katy Dickinson –  with thanks to TechWomen for the group photo!

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TechWomen Delegation to Sierra Leone

I recently returned from the TechWomen Delegation to Sierra Leone and am still catching up with all of my work and homework. I was happy to be able to travel with my daughter, Jessica Dickinson Goodman, who was also a Delegation Member and who posted excellent daily blogs during the trip. We met with hundreds of girls and boys, entrepreneurs and leaders, schools and organizations, and came home inspired by the energetic and welcoming people of Sierra Leone.

Jessica and I had a long layover in London, so we were able to see an excellent all-female cast of Richard II at the Globe Theater. Once our flight arrived in Sierra Leone, we took the boat between Lungi and Freetown. The next day, we started visiting initiatives around Freetown developed by the creative and dedicated TechWomen Fellows of Sierra Leone, and participating in other events, including

  • The Services Secondary School, Juba
  • Reception by US Ambassador Maria E. Brewer
  • STEM Career Day with secondary students at British Council, Tower Hill
  • Fourah Bay College STEM students
  • Women’s Leadership Forum at Radisson Blu Hotel
  • Connecting the Future networking event and reception at Sierra Lighthouse
  • Women in #Techpreneurship at Family Kingdom Resort
  • Pitch Night and Startup Exhibition at Toma Boutique Hotel
  • Reduce-Reuse-Recycle at Saint Edward’s Primary School
  • Hands-on STEM Experience with Students at Buxton Memorial Methodist Church

I gave a keynote on Networking, and Jessica gave a talk on Finding Funding, and we joined all of the Delegation members to help present workshops and activities. Of course, Jessica and I passed out our Notable Women in Computing cards and posters. After the delegation ended, many of us took a bus to visit Families Without Borders in Makeni. Even after a 42 hour trip home, it was a remarkable and fulfilling experience.





















Updated 23 March 2019

Photos Copyright 2019 by Katy Dickinson – Thanks to TechWomen for the Pitch Night photo!
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Honoring STEM Mentoring

ECR Simple Servant Award to Katy Dickinson 3 Nov 2017

At the 37th Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real annual convention last weekend, I was honored by Bishop Mary Grey-Reeves with a second Simple Servant Award for my work since 2010 with the TechWomen mentoring program of the US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The award certificate reads:

Simple Servant Award
Presented on November 3, 2017 to
Katy Dickinson
The Diocese of El Camino Real honors you. May God bless you for your
faithful ministry mentoring women in Africa and the Middle East in STEM
professions, and for your contribution to the creation of a “virtuous cycle” of
knowledge and wisdom sharing in the world of technology.

It has been an honor and pleasure to work with TechWomen and my mentees from Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Watching this program thrive and touch so many lives is a great delight. Since I worked in 2010-2011 as the TechWomen Process Architect, I have been a volunteer with this life-changing program as a mentor, working with groups of STEM leaders who travel to the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley to be hosted by 122 science and technology companies and organizations for a month (and then continue a mentoring relationship once they have returned to their home country).

Beginning with the first cohort of 37 from 6 countries in 2011, there have been 518 TechWomen Fellows from 22 countries and 698 mentors. I have formally been assigned to mentor 14 women in Lebanon, Algeria, Gaza-Palestine, Jordan, and Tunisia – and have worked with many more who have asked me to be their mentor. I have also participated in nine formal TechWomen Delegations with the State Department, to: Jordan (twice), Kyrgyzstan, Morocco (twice), Rwanda, South Africa, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe, as well as making informal trips with TechWomen mentors to visit our mentees in Lebanon, Gaza-Palestine, and Sierra Leone.  Learning from my sister mentors as well as from my mentees is part of the joy and value of this excellent program for Citizen Diplomats.

Want to make a different in STEM? Please consider joining TechWomen as a mentor yourself!

ECR Convention Simple Servant award Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, Katy Dickinson 3 Nov 2017 by Elrond Lawrence

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Photo Copyright 2017 by the Diocese of El Camino Real, Elrond Lawrence.

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Africa: People, Food, Technology, Business

Katy Dickinson and John Plocher 2014 Church of St. George Lalibela Ethiopia

Tomorrow, I am giving a presentation to my home congregation of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Saratoga, California) about my nine trips to Africa since 2010. The talk is called “Africa: People, Food, Technology, Business”. I have linked the talk here so that my audience can access my pictures and stories after.  My bold intention in giving this talk is to present a small part of the wonderful complexity of the African continent, and to encourage them to visit and get involved in African enterprises.

“If you only visit two continents in your lifetime, visit Africa – twice.” – R.Elliot

TechWomen and TechGirls in Tunisia 2015

Katy Dickinson presenting to AIMS and TechWomen at in Cape Town by Rejoyce GaVhi Feb2015

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Images Copyright 2010-2017 by Katy Dickinson

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Fabric Arts and Crafts in Sierra Leone

Fabric shopping, Sierra Leone, July 2017

While visiting Sierra Leone in West Africa earlier this month, my daughter Jessica traveled with fellow TechWomen mentor, Terri Khonsari, and with Ibrahim Kalokoh and Joseph Ellie of Families Without Borders Tech Center (FWB). Some of our activities were arranged by Mrs. Thaimu (“Mrs. T”), an entrepreneur in Makeni who works with FWB.

In addition to giving presentations at FWB, the University of Makeni in Makeni, and at Fourah Bay College (University of Sierra Leone) in Freetown, we wanted to learn more about Sierra Leone. In particular, we wanted to purchase some of the elegant fabric and embroidery that we had seen Terri wearing in the Silicon Valley.

Our first day, Mrs. T brought us to her home to show us samples and discuss options for design.  Then, we went fabric shopping, followed by a trip to the tailor. Most of the fabric we purchased was cotton, often with local designs but mostly manufactured outside of the country.  One variegated brown cloth  was made locally from kola nuts. Our shirts, tunics, and dresses were completed in just a few days. We ended up fabric shopping several times during the whole trip: the vast design range and high quality of available materials are remarkable.  Jessica and I will be sewing with our new fabric for quite a while!

In addition to fabric, I purchased a batik panel at the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary gift shop. It shows a woman in local costume against a map of Sierra Leone. I made it into a pillow for my office – to remember my first trip to West Africa.

23 March 2019: see also Arts and Crafts in Sierra Leone

Mrs. Thaimu, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Fabric shopping, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Embroiderer, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Tailor, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Embroiderer, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Kola nut fabric with embroidery, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Sierra Leone woman batik, July 2017

Sierra Leone woman batik, July 2017

Sierra Leone woman batik pillow and embroidered clothes, July 2017

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Images Copyright 2017 by Katy Dickinson

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3 Baskets: from Apache, Rwanda, Sierra Leone

3 Baskets: from Apache, Rwanda, Sierra Leone

While visiting Sierra Leone in West Africa earlier this month, my daughter Jessica and I purchased some lovely baskets from a road side vendor between Makeni and Freetown. The basket I purchased is very tall but made it home safely, well packed by my laundry.  The new basket from Sierra Leone now lives in my dining room with two other favorite baskets:

Jessica and baskets in Sierra Leone, July 2017

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Images Copyright 2017 by Katy Dickinson

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Truth on the Internet, Sierra Leone

Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone, July 2017, photo by Salwa Campbell

While Jessica and I visited Sierra Leone earlier this month, we gave presentations to Terri Khonsari‘s technical center Families Without Borders, and the University of Makeni in Makeni, and at Fourah Bay College (University of Sierra Leone) in Freetown – to about 300 students in all. We answered many questions but variations of one question came up most often everywhere we went: “How do you tell what is true on the Internet?”

Since we were presenting on web research, e-learning (also known as educational technology), and blogging, and since the topic of fake news has been much discussed worldwide during the last year, I suppose we should not have been surprised at the frequency of this question.  We answered it in a variety of ways, including many that have been widely discussed elsewhere. For example, Factcheck.org provides this list on “How to Spot Fake News”:

  1. Consider the source
  2. Read beyond the headline
  3. Check the author
  4. What’s the support?
  5. Check the date
  6. Is this some kind of joke?
  7. Check your biases
  8. Consult the experts

Two other ways we answered the question:

  1. During our Internet Treasure Hunt exercise at Families Without Borders in Makeni, we asked the 50+ students to find out what the CIA World Fact Book thought was the population of Sierra Leone, and then what Wikipedia said (since they do not agree). We then asked them to find an error on the Wikipedia page and discussed how these mistakes or differing opinions can happen.  We encouraged them to help by correcting the Wikipedia page and directed them to instructions on how to do so.
  2. At Fourah Bay College in Freetown, after asking about Finding Truth, a first year Engineer asked me why someone does not fix the Internet – make it always correct. I looked at the large and eager young audience and asked why someone does not fix them – make their own answers always correct. They laughed. I followed up by saying that the Internet was and continues to be created by people of many viewpoints who may want to deceive, or who may not know what is correct, or for whom there may be many versions of Truth.

Families Without Borders, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

University of Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

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Images Copyright 2017 by Katy Dickinson and Salwa Campbell

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