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