Tuesday, 23 December 2008
Thursday, 18 December 2008
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
26 November 2008
Transcript of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s speech at the Thank You reception
onboard the Africa Mercy.
I know you know that Liberians are good at making speeches. We are good at giving some of
those very good addresses. We are good at taking positions and conveying them. We are
good at the talk shows.
Today, I don’t want to make a speech because I am too touched. What we have seen, what we
have experienced, what we have benefited from, what we have worked with, what the Mercy
Ship family is beyond what I could speak to. You know from whence our nation come: health
services three decades ago, when we had the John F. Kennedy hospitals as one of the best
referral hospitals in the West Africa sub-region, when we possessed hospitals in all of our 15
counties, clinics, medical services, as with so many of the other sectors; what happened to us
during those years of turmoil and tragedy and what it reduced us to; to where we are now, to
a few years ago. I think if I have the numbers right, one doctor to 61,000 persons.
In the midst of all of this, the Mercy Ship offered its services to our country. It came for a few
months, to be a help to a nation desperately in need of medical services, to a population so
impoverished and deprived that there were no facilities for them, and even if there were
facilities, far beyond their reach or their income to be able to take advantage of.
And the Mercy Ship came and spent several months in their first tour, did so much. Many of
us came and went through some of the operating salons and visited the beneficiaries, saw
such a transformation in the lives of many people who would not have had a life otherwise.
And then we asked them to come back. The service was so, so appreciated. And this time
they responded not only to come back, but to come back from a longer period of stay and to
go beyond that which was their core activity and their core objective of providing medical
service to our people.
You’ve seen what they’ve done to touch the lives of Liberians who could not be reached by
their own governments because of the lack of resources—human, financial, technical. To go
into communities and give those communities a chance for self-empowerment, a chance for
dignity, to restore in young people a hope for the future, and in their ability to rise to their
potential. What effective partnership.
And those who render this service do this as a sacrifice. They are not paid for it. They do it as
volunteers, the majority of them. Many of them contribute their own resources, human and
financial, to be able to serve humanity, to be able to share with others, to be able to lift
someone and give them an opportunity to have a better life, to be competitive. What effective
We have lots of partners—bilateral partners, multilateral partners, private partners. And so
many of them have so many more resources to give us. We talk about the $200 million
agreements that get signed, the $50 million agreements that get signed. But $11 million, I
daresay, has touched the lives much more than those $200 million.
Because it’s not so much the size of the assistance, the magnitude of the resources. It is what
comes with it. Whom it touches, whom it reaches, whom it changes, that is what true
partnership is all about. And I want to thank you.
We can only commit to you that we will try to ensure that that which you have started will be
carried on, will be sustained, so that it can forever be remembered that this came from a
partner who brought to the task resources, but also the caring and sharing that comes from
great Christians, because that’s what they are.
Tenegar and Royesville and all of those places whose lives we’ve touched, we will be
working with them.
We don’t want to see you go. I wish we could reverse our acceptance of saying, “Thank you.
We know you have to move on to other places because you’ve done so much.” But you’ve
left behind those who we hope can carry on, and a government who would remain committed
to be able to give support in those areas where they are due.
Many of you were commissioned chiefs at the Tenegar ceremony when you were gowned. So
remember you are part of the Liberian society.
We are going to lose Bill Martin. I think you know that your name in circles is a well-spoken
name. Every time we ask about the Ministry of Health, somebody says, “Bill Martin is there.”
But your contribution, working with Dr. Gwenigale and his team, has made today the
Minsitry of Health and Social Welfare one of the better performing ministries in this
government, to the point where the confidence of our partners is such that they can say, no
longer do we have to do our individual programs. We can all come together in a pool fund
that respects the priorities of the Ministry and the government. And we can sit with those
colleagues in the Ministry and we can disburse funds collectively, thereby scaling up the
results in any activity. We want to thank you, Bill, for all that you have done, with that help.
I don’t know where you go next, but I do know the country which you now move on to serve
will also be blessed by the things that you have done. They are our neighbors. So we’ll
continue to benefit from that service. Because a strong Liberian or a strong Benin or a strong
Togo or a strong Cote d’Iviore or a strong Sierra Leone also makes a strong West Africa, and
that’s good for us.
I’ll end where I started. We speak a lot, we Liberians. We love to make speeches. So we are
going our time to give our speeches for you .It won’t be today. This is your day. We came to
thank you. We came to show appreciation, but be prepared, when we have our program,
that’s when we do it our way and you will have to sit through those long speeches as we
honor you and your colleagues, all of you in the Mercy Ship family.
I know that there are so many of those out there, the young ones, the old ones, the afflicted
and the affected, who will be there praying for you, who will be there remembering what you
have done for them. And some of them tomorrow will become leaders of this community.
And they will be able to look back and to say, “I am what I am today because of the caring
and sharing of the Mercy Ship family.”
I hope that I am around when I can join them in their ascendency, to be able to continue to
give you the appreciation that you so well deserve. Thank you all for serving our country.
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
It doesn't seem possible that
the chatter of foreign tongues
the clapping of tiny hands
the clanging and banging
the coughing and snoring
will cease in a few days.
That by this time next week
the ward will be a large empty room
in need of a deep cleaning.
There will be no need
for oxygen saturation monitors.
There will be no wandering children
with stuffed animals tied
to their backs
like little mothers.
The Jesus Film Jesus (speaking Wolof and Mandinka)
our constant companion during these months
will return to his shelf in Hold 2.
At the same time, the idea of cruising to the finish line merely on momentum seems impossible.
"Winding down" for the ward is more like an all out sprint to the end
"Closure" means making sure sutures hold and infections clear
before the line handlers man their stations.
"Wrapping up" means arranging followup for bottom of the ninth patients.
The END is so nearly tangible
Yet with shocking suddenness we will stare at
while we celebrate completion.
We will soon discharge ourselves from our own little hospital. On our way out the door, we will take the hand of The Gambia in that familiar
Two handed handshake...
and thank her for teaching us dignity and compassion.
Mariama, Ebrahima, Yahara...
Abdul, Amadou, Isatou...
Kaddy, Louis, Lamin...
Lalo, Dawda, Saiku...
Awa, Ebou, Ancha...
Janka, Binta, Ousnu...
We thank you.
You have been excellent teachers.
Last one to leave the ward:
please unplug the coffee maker
and turn off the lights.
Poem by Kristy Layton
Friday, 31 October 2008
I just love a new book. And when I heard of this one, I was excited.
Redemption Road is a novel dealing with people dealing with those things done to them during the 14 year civil war here in Liberia and also dealing with the things they themselves have done. A civil war is an awful awful thing. And the person who has done things to you may live nearby. I think it was brought closer to me as a woman shared with me how her 21 year old son was gunned down during the war. The man who did it lives a couple of streets over and people have asked her, Do you want us to go get him? But she says no. The things people just have to forgive are amazing. I know there was a civil war here and I think it was mainly tribal in the end, but the power and willingness to forgive is also great here.
Anyway, the other evening the author of this book, Elma shaw, came on board. She read a chapter, told her story and signed books for us. It was a delightful evening. Truth and Reconciliation. It is going on here in Liberia. What does happen to those people who have done terrible things? And how do you deal with those things you may have done? And perhaps you were a child or forced or drugged to participate.
This book is going to be required reading here in Liberia in the older grades in school and at the university level. And because illiteracy is so very high, mostly due to the fact that there were no schools during most of the 14 years of war, there are plans to make an audio edition in Liberian English to be read over the radio so people can hear.
The author has said one of the main things she would like to see from this book is that people begin to talk…and talk…
Monday, 20 October 2008
That may not sound big but on the way to the dumpster I have to pass probably 30 people, some coming to have their eyes checked and patches off from the previous day’s eye surgeries and some are carers who have helped them get here. And it is no small thing to come for early appointments. There are long long lines of people waiting for taxis. tThey have been up for hours to get here for 8am. Then I stopped to practise a little, very little French, with a couple from the Congo who are crew and work in Agriculture and Community health. Then, as I came back from the dumpster, I saw a very excited man having his picture taken with the eye surgeon. He is so pleased that he can see. And in the background, there was a young woman, looking no more than 20 but probably older. Feeling her way along the gangway, obviously she could not see as she was feeling along with her feet and guided on board by one of our day workers from the area. She will come away with sight in one eye. Isn’t that amazing? Waiting by the gangway to be admitted was a young man with an ear that sticks out about 3 to 4 inches. His life will be changed. I stopped to talk with another day worker who is our security person at that aft gangway. His name is Sam and he is a local pastor with a family and he is a most gracious man. We are so blessed to have him there. As I came up the gangway I passed Arthur, an older gentleman from the area who works with our vehicles and also Marcel, our other Agriculture person. He was heading out for the day. I walked down to the hospital deck. To weigh myself as I am trying to lose some of this excess weight, and went by the patients waiting for their eye surgeries. This morning there is an 11 year old girl who has cataracts on both eyes. She has never seen. Never seen. Can you imagine that? We do not know at this point if she will see but we will find out. And I saw all this just because I chose to take my trash out early this morning.
I know I have said it before, but it is such a privilege to be here. It makes me cry.
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
It is a great day and one that blesses me every time I go out!
Friday, 26 September 2008
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
Monday, 15 September 2008
She is an amazing woman. She has been on board at least three times for the VVF female surgery that we do. Vesico Vaginal Fistula surgery. For 27 years she has been leaking urine continually. Today she is dry. Her problem was due to obstructed labor, when she was in labor for days and days. Her baby was born dead. During those 27 years, she also spent one entire year in the local hospital. I cannot tell you the hazards of that alone. She thought she was the only one with that problem.
Garmeh found out we were doing surgeries for women just like her when she brought her uncle to the ship for a cataract surgery and that very same day, we were screening women for the VVF surgery. A coincidence? I do not think so.
Recently on PBS, Nova showed a documentary about women just like Garmeh, called A Walk to Beautiful. You can find our more about that at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/beautiful/program.html
I had the privilege to be part of the team that took Garmeh home. Her home is blue, the only painted home in the village. And she has flowers growing around it which is very, very rare. It seemed a shining light to me.
“…the patterns were loud or subtle, anything could be on them: patterns of fashionable shoes, perhaps, or a mobile phone print – this was very popular, as were sky scrapers, electric irons, kettles and radios. Flowers, animals and trees were rare – the preference was abstraction or abstract impressions of modern things. Like lawn mowers. Then there were travelogue prints – Sacré Coeur patterns, Saint Peters, the Statue of Liberty, Big Ben, Arc de Triomphe…There were the special celebration prints; you could tie the Pope’s face round yourself, or (in Liberia, the President) or you could have a run of cloth specially made celebrating your grandfather’s seventieth birthday or funeral, or your son’s graduation, or praising your candidate for local office.” From a book on Benin titled Show Me the Magic by Annie Caulfield
I have seen here electric fans with cords, here in a country with no electricity. Lipsticks, Madame President, Cups of coffee, coffee tables with lamps, Jesus saying Come to me…, Mary saying she is the Immaculate Conception. Sometimes I think I should not drive in this country as I am fascinated by all the fabric that I see. I do enjoy it.
She was born in 1917 in Dorchester, Mass., the daughter of Charles W. Cleary and Gertrude (Brayden) Cleary. She grew up in Wollaston, Mass., and graduated from Bridgewater Teachers College in 1938. After moving to Stratham to teach, she met and married Robert S. Berry in 1941.
She is survived by four children, William S. Berry of Bristol, R.I.; Gertrude B. Guth of Wallingford, Conn.; Kenneth R. Berry of Mercy Ships, now serving in Africa; and Donald B. Berry of West Springfield, Mass. There are 12 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
She was predeceased by her husband, Robert S. Berry, and a daughter, Kathy Laurin.
The Berry family would like to extend its appreciation to the staff at the Exeter Hospital and Exeter Health Care, who took exceptional care of Marjorie, and to the community of Langdon Place, where she made her home.
WE REMEMBER: "Marge" was a past member of the Stratham School Board, a trustee of the Exeter Hospital and a member of the Board of the Rockingham Co. Community Action and Head Start Program. She was instrumental in bringing child and family services to the Seacoast region, serving on its board for some years.
As a communicant of Christ Church in Exeter, Marge served in many capacities. She taught Sunday school, served on vestry and altar guild, and was the first woman lay minister. On the Diocesan level, she was involved in leadership training, was an Episcopal Church Women officer, and was the first woman to be elected to the Standing Committee for the State of New Hampshire. She was also one of the first women elected as deputy to the General Convention.
SERVICES: There will be no calling hours. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, at Christ Church, 43 Pine St., Exeter. A luncheon at the church will follow the service. Burial will be in the Exeter Cemetery, Exeter. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the Christ Church Memorial Fund, 43 Pine St., Exeter, NH 03833, or to Mercy Ships, P.O. Box 2020, Lindale, Texas 75771. Brewitt Funeral Home, Exeter, is handling arrangements. To sign an online guest book, visit http://www.brewittfuneralhome.com/
Friday, 11 July 2008
Tuesday, 8 July 2008
I went out to the village with the community health care team. What an afternoon it was. Sometimes I think it is all the sensory overload that can be overwhelming. First stop Duala market because we needed some peppers and onions for the meal provided for the participants in the class. While waiting in the land rover, there were so many things to see. UN vehicles, taxis, taxis, taxis….So, after the buyers got back into the vehicle, I reach in to the bag to see what they got and pulled out……chicken feet. Wow!! Not expected. Then on our way to the village, watching from the back of the vehicle - A beautiful young pregnant woman hurrying through the crowds. What must it be like to be her? What does she see. I know as women, our dreams must be the same.
Reaching the village, something is amiss. We find out that the baby our team took to the hospital on Tuesday died of malaria on Wednesday. Today is Thursday and she is already buried. It is her 4th child to die. They think all died of malaria. We got started late with the class, held in a small Catholic church which functions as a school in the mornings. We talked about nutrition and they coloured and played a game. It was a review day and they seem to know their stuff. Rice is the main thing they eat. And in talking to our crew, we learn that if they have not eaten rice they have not eaten that day. A crew member from Guinea told me that he might eat potatoes, carrots, and corn but if he had not had rice he would not think he had eaten. And I have also heard that if rice is hard to come by, it is considered a desperate situation, like a war time situation. And we know that right now rice is hard to buy. It is expensive everywhere. It poured while we were there. It rains so hard during this rainy season that if you are in a building with a zinc roof, which most public buildings are, it is so loud you cannot hear the person beside you talk. All teaching stops. It was like sheets of rain. On the way home, we stopped to see the young mother to offer our sympathies. Losing 4 children I cannot imagine. And from Malaria?? Next week the team begins handing out mosquito nets, training in the villages at the same time and then the teaching and hanging of the nets will be continued by the participants in the class. They will go from house to house in their villages and teach at the same time.
Use your net every day.
Keep mosquitos away!
Use your net when you’re sleeping…
It is the best way!
Anyway, it was five hours of sensory overload.
And again…..so much to think about!
Monday, 7 July 2008
I would rather
clutch my invitation
and wait my turn
in party clothes
safe and clean.
But a pulsing hand
keeps driving me
and spidered brambles.
So, I’ll pant
up to the pearled knocker
and full of tales.
by Janet Chester Bly
Tuesday, 1 July 2008
Let me share a few stories. We do a lot, a whole lot, of cataract surgeries on board. Sometimes 30 a day. One older woman came on board with fear and trembling. Her people told her that if she came on board, we would sail away with her. She came anyway. Another woman came with a shaved head. Her village had told her that we would cut off all her hair when we operated, so instead she did it herself. And she came anyway. Then I heard last week of one young man who was agitated in the OR and fought the nurses we then found out that he had been told we would circumcise him if he let us operate on his eyes. It is amazing to me the courage it takes to come to a Mercy ship. And the desperation that brings people here.
Tuesday, 17 June 2008
Friday, 13 June 2008
In the past few weeks, we have undergone various screenings in the rural areas of Liberia, looking for people who may be helped. As our surgery schedules have been filling up, we still have openings for maxillo facial patients, patients with cleft lips and large facial tumors. With the help of the UN we have been to Greenville and they have already transported patients up to Monrovia. One was a young boy with a rapidly growing cancer. We have supplied Chemotherapy to a local Catholic hospital here and they have agreed to supervise the treatments while the child stays in Monrovia with a grandmother.
When asked if there was anything more she might like us to do, she thought, only for a moment, and then replied that she had recently met a man with swollen legs. What did she do? She did what we, as crew, are supposed to do. She had a picture taken and now we can give the photo to our Health Care Services department and they can determine if we can help. It says to us – one person counts to her. Later she asked if we might help a local clinic. We are looking into that.
She talked about some of the needs she sees, specifically among the women in the rural communities. She has a great task ahead of her still.
I was impressed… with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf herself, for the incredible job she is doing, with her heart for her country, for her concern for the poor in the rural communities, for her courage, for her gentleness, her compassion, her graciousness. I was reminded of a title of a song I heard recently, “Mama Liberia”.
She is indeed an amazing woman!
Monday, 9 June 2008
Tuesday, 3 June 2008
Friday, 16 May 2008
Thursday, 15 May 2008
His name is Alimu and he comes from Conakry, Guinea, in West Africa. We first met him when a team of us went from the ship to Guinea to see if there were people there who needed surgery. We had slots still available for facial tumors and cleft lips. He is 22 years old and he has had this tumor growing for 8 years. All of his teenage years. He had come 24 hours to see if we might be able to help. He carries a towel around for whatever reason...to hide the tumor…to wipe his mouth as the tumor stretches his mouth open…or to cover up the odour. He is very social, or at least he was with us.
The clinic where we saw him was in a village called N’Zao. A great place, run by the Christian and Missionary Alliance. A wonderful place with very caring people. The World Food Program flew him down here to Monrovia for free for his surgery and will fly him home to Conakry when he leaves here. With a new outlook on life…
I left there on a great high. People we met were wonderful. We felt like we were with old friends. People with great need would be coming for help. The team I had just spent 4 days with was fun. The 20 hours of travelling together had gone quickly and interestingly. But I also had thoughts that were not quite so comfortable. I had just seen at this clinic some people with great commitment. I read recently that a refugee is not just for Christmas and the thought kept running through my mind last week as we travelled. I had seen people whose doors are open 24 hours a day…yes, they have to set some boundaries but it is because they are willing…willing to be there for the people they serve all the time. Learning all the time…teach me to pull teeth, tell me what you are feeling, what does that lump feel like, what are you looking for. Yes, I love being here, and I love development issues and all I have learned here, and yes, I love being out in the village and yes, I love getting to know the patients and the people I meet here... but I do not think I want it 24 hours a day. Am I weak? Am I not committed enough? Am I spiritual? These are questions I wrestle with, that do not make me feel comfortable.
Alimu is in surgery right now as I write. One of our team is a young man who I know will visit him in the ward many times through out the days as he recovers. He will take him back to the airport and see him personally onto the plane that will take him home. I wish I could be there to see him arrive back home. I wish I could see what he does next and what his life holds. I think it will be different.
Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Tuesday, 22 April 2008
Also, many young patients are in for clubbed feet correction. I saw 2 young boys the other day on the dock, leaving to go home. They were probably 7 or 8 years old, hobbling very fast on new crutches, walking casts on, big grins, happy family members, just as if it were all so normal. Made me smile. a life can change so quickly!
Wear your slippers (flip flops here are called slippers)
Wear your slippers
When you wear your slippers
When you wear your slippers
The worms stay away
The worms stay away
Of course, all this with motions. They all started to sing it. And a couple of days ago, while walking through the same village, people saw me and started singing. My favourite scripture lately has been Psalm 121. Our help cometh from the Lord who made Heaven and Earth. Why don’t I fgo to him more often. It was so fast, so direct, so practical and the ship people who are out there everyday, say that the people young and old are still singing that little piece of wisdom.
I am excited!!