Friday, 31 October 2008

Redemption Road

A new book.

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

A Walk to the Dumpster

This morning I took my trash out.

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

Long Day's Journey

One of things I love to do on board is to take a group of the crew out to see the Community Development sites. I call it seeing the "sites" not seeing the sights. But there are a lot of those along the way. Most of the crew do not have the opportunity to see where the wells are being dug, where our construction teams are working and where the agriculture team is. So, we head off around 10:30 in the morning and have a very bumpy, sometimes very muddy hour long drive out to Tenegar. The first place we stop is at the Clinic our team is building. the president of Liberia has asked us to rebuild this clinic. It was destroyed during the war. I mean destroyed. No roof, nothing but the walls and trees growing inside when we saw it. It is now beautiful. We have 2 people there and 17 local men who work every day on it. In a country with 80% unemployment this is a blessing for them and for us.

Then we walk over to the Agriculture site and see the amazing plaintain farm and compost heaps and lettuce, etc. It is a community farm and sometimes there are 50 people working and learning. Our agriculture man took his 3 year old daughter one day. I saw her standing in reception ready to go with her shovel under one arm and her dolly under another. She had a blast, her mother told me. Then we stop under the Palava hut for our sandwiches.
Last time we were then visited by about 15 children on their way home from school. It was a bit uncomfortable and so now I have at least put a supply of juicy fruit gum in my backpack so I have something to offer them.
From there we head out to see where our Community Health teams are at work. You can see the church where they meet. The area consists of 11 villages and the villages chose 3 from their village to meet 2 afternoons a week to learn about water, health, malaria, etc. and then these students will teach their own village. Check out the neat Church bell. I had no idea why that rusty propane tank was hanging in the tree! A bit farthur up the road a new well was being dug. The villagers and instructed and encouraged and helped to dig about a 40 foot well. Then we supply the cement, and pump and supplies and the learn how to cap it off and to maintain it. By that time it is time to head back which we do, visiting the Dental team that has set up in a local hospital. The hospitals are in a bad way and struggling to improve. We have met wonderful people who are wanting the best for their country but it is a battle. Our Dental team heads out after breakfast each day and spends long hours on their feet, seeing things they would never see in their countries.

It is a great day and one that blesses me every time I go out!