When twenty-two year old Patrick O'Leary stepped off the plane in Sierra Leone, West Africa in January 1967, he was dressed for the snow storm he had left in Freeborn County, Minnesota a few days earlier. It didn't take long for him to realize his rural Catholic upbringing, training for Tanzania, his original Peace Corps assignment and an earlier road trip to Key West Florida--in a Cadillac hearse--had only partially prepared him for two years living alone in the village of Binkolo. Before being evicted from the village, O'Leary was befriended by the local Chief. In spite of time distance, and war, they maintained a relationship for over forty years. Working to interpret and understand his Peace Corps experience, Patrick returned to Sierra Leone in 2004. He was pleased to see old friends, but dismayed by what had become of the country. From Freeborn to Freetown & Back reflects on treasured memories, and divergent but connected lives.
Patrick lives in Saint Paul and has been involved in heighborhood and community work for many years.