Surveys and Liberia Reads!

Another cool restful night followed by a hearty breakfast — it’s tough to beat fresh Liberian eggs, precooked bacon shipped from the US, and rehydrated and fried Ore-Ida hash browns to start the day. We drove to Deanville by 9:00 accompanied by Amelia who would serve as translator during our community surveying effort. Wanting to be politically and culturally correct, we started with the chief’s household. It was a slow beginning as we felt our way through the best way to ask questions so they were clear and understandable. Gathering basic demographics is complicated by unique names, complex family structures, and lack of formalized information like birthdates so many older individuals (40+) don’t really know how old they are. We’re learning about family finances, health issues, children’s school enrollment, and adult educational levels. Despite having distributed malaria bed nets several years ago, some homes still do not have them. I’ve been encouraged by an increase in latrine use versus “going in the bush”. Other survey topics include an attempt at ranking the importance of various projects or community initiatives we’ve attempted over the last several years, including blockmaking, poultry farming, and adult literacy classes. We end with asking what could GLTC do to make it better. Answers range from building a playground to providing a school bus service.

After lunch we had visitors from the Liberia Reads! program. Lyn Gray, the country director, and Geri Melosh, the program founder, stopped by for a brief meeting with Kathy, Marsha, and me before a short class observation. They will return next week for a more extensive visit. In the meantime, we discussed the program’s future, possible travel her candidates for our new 3rd grade teacher, and other programs Liberia Reads! has for grades 4 through 6. I was invited to join them and Sumo at an inter-school Liberia Reads! meeting in a couple of weeks which I plan to attend.

We returned to Deanville and continued with surveys, this time splitting up into two teams after enlisting a young man named Joshua to translate. More progress was made but there are many more homes to reach. We cut the surveys short to head into Gbarnga. We wanted to visit a typical “clinic” and Sumo also needed assistance picking up bags of rice for the school lunch program. Kathy was also determined to purchase medications for another case in Deanville: an infant with an oozing ear.

The early evening was capped off by a meeting with our two former adult literacy teachers., Matthew and Emmet. For some reason, the adult literacy class has stopped. Last year there were upwards of 25 adults attending and we needed to understand why the sudden change. The bottom line issue is economic hardship. The Liberian economy is in a difficult state and people are needing to work more. Longer days mean they are too tired to attend an evening literacy class. Interestingly, many adults mentioned the importance of the literacy class and wished it were still available. A community meeting is planned to discuss how the program might be modified or improved to re-activate the class.