In 1996, Dr. Nancy Peddle was working on her dissertation in war-torn Sierra Leone when she found herself in the middle of a bloody coup. As the violence mounted, Dr. Peddle was evacuated from the country, leaving behind close friends – many of whom lost their homes or were forced into hiding.
The struggle between the Revolutionary United Front and the national army - which penetrated the Western imagination through the 2006 movie Blood Diamond with Leonardo DiCaprio - ultimately claimed 50,000 lives. After witnessing the coup’s destructive violence, Dr. Peddle decided to transition from academics to action. She founded an organization called the LemonAid Fund, a deliberately optimistic endeavor aimed at improving the lives of Sierra Leone’s children.
Today, more than a decade later, the organization oversees a network of 16 schools, two foster care homes and ten libraries around the country, and focuses on children’s access to education. According to UNICEF, only 30 percent of boys and 20 percent of girls there continue their education into secondary school. We talk to Dr. Peddle and her colleague from Sierra Leone, Francess Browne, about their work on the ground.