Freelance videographer Zach Fackrell spent one month in the West African nation of Sierra Leone. Here, he shares highs, lows, and telling images of his time there.

Why did you decide to travel to Sierra Leone?

I was asked to join the humanitarian organization, FAS Movement, as the videographer for their trip. We spent 3 weeks in Freetown, the capital city, and 1 week in Kono, a small village deep into the country.

FAS Movement’s mission is to provide basic educational needs and introduce a new lifestyle to underprivileged youth through focus sports: surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding. While there, we traveled to schools in the areas to donate supplies to the students, visited a community around the diamond mines of Kono, and assisted a surf clinic in instructing young children how to surf. It was amazing to see such different, lush landscapes all in one small country.

What stood out to you about the country?

Freetown was unlike anywhere else I have ever been. The streets are extremely crowded – people are everywhere, always in motion, trying to get from one place to the other to try to earn their living. Time of day didn’t matter; morning, afternoon, or night – the city was always awake.

What challenges did you face while there?

As a photographer/videographer, the biggest challenge I faced was not always having access to power (to charge batteries, etc.). Obviously, this is a much larger issue that needs talking about – I was only there for a short while and was able to find quick solutions (like portable battery chargers and solar panels).

Can you describe the process of making the video?

It was super fun! There were usually kids looking over my shoulder as I filmed around them – many of the smiles that I captured were really in response to the funny faces they made behind the camera. My goal was to capture as many candid moments as possible, like the reactions of students when we pulled up unexpectedly to their schools.

When I returned home after the 4 weeks away, I realized I had tons of footage. Because the video had a clear focus – to showcase the work of FAS Movement – there was a lot that I had to cut out that wasn’t entirely relevant: city life, car rides, landscapes, sunrises. I’ll have to make a sequel!

Watch the video here:

What was the highlight of your experience?

I loved photographing the kids I met. Photography gave us a reason to connect – they loved the attention and became so excited at the sight of my camera. It felt good to see the smiles on their faces, and to be able to capture those moments.

This piece was originally published on April 4, 2014.

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Not long ago, Zach Fackrell quit his desk job in order to spend more time traveling and making videos. Since then, he's adventured through North and South America and to Europe, Asia and West Africa as a full-time freelance videographer. See more of Zach's photos at zachfack.vsco.co and check out additional videos at vimeo.com/zachfackrellfilms. Follow Zach on Instagram @zachfack.
  • JB

    Love these captures, especially the candid ones — such emotion!

    • Dina

      Beautiful images!

  • Michelle

    Love the featured photo of all the kids rubbing your head. Cute!

  • Brooke

    Amazing pictures and video! What a rewarding experience, thanks for sharing. The smiles on the kids’ faces are so contagious!

  • Akash Narendra

    People like you make me believe in life 🙂
    Thanks