Liberia is in a difficult economic situation right now and the prospects for improvement are not bright. The value of the Liberian dollar continues to fall, the availability of Liberian money in the banks is limited, the cost of staples like rice are rising, government workers like teachers have not been paid, wages for workers are declining, and a gasoline shortage has resulted in long lines and rationing. Poor leadership and government mismanagement is compounding the problem.
It’s within this backdrop that the people in our small Deanville community struggle to get by with some families reporting monthly earnings equivalent to $5 USD per month. No wonder they don’t have enough for school fees after they’ve paid for food and medical treatments — the top three household expenses. In my last posting I mentioned the child with the “oozing ear” whom Kathy wanted to help. Turns out the prescribed medications indicate the baby had typhoid, malaria, AND an ear infection. For less than $7 USD, this baby is making a remarkable recovery from a miserable mixture of maladies.
As we visit family after family, a common thread of unemployment, lack of money for food, and constant healthcare issues is blanketed by a fabric of warm and welcoming people in this community. We are treated with great respect and always offered the best shady place to sit as we talk together. Kathy and Marsha have tried their newly acquired Kpelle language skills and are close to mastering the Liberian handshake snap.
We continue to be surprised by the skills children possess at such a young age. We frequently see children caring for children, especially small girls around 5 years old carrying infants on their backs, strapped in place by a simple piece of fabric as a “baby carrier”. I encountered a young boy just moments after he cut the head off a chicken. Over the course of the next few minutes this 9-year old plucked and scrapped the feathers off the headless hen and proudly showed me his handiwork.
Just a few feet away, his 2-year old younger brother was busily wielding a long carving knife to shell some large lima-like beans.
Meanwhile back in the US, some helicopter parent is helping their 12-year old lay out coordinating school clothes for the next day then driving them in the family SUV some 100 feet from the driveway, giving them time to Instagram the entire event while keeping them “safe” at the bus stop.
But I digress…
There are moments when we encounter surprises of ingenuity. A 17-year old boy named Wilmot rigged up an 8″x10″ solar panel on the zinc roof and ran wires to a small battery and tiny LED bulbs, bringing light to his mud block family home. He also shared a toy truck he constructed from scrap materials that included a hinged metal hood and engine compartment.
Liberians seem to love appreciation programs. Despite having had a welcoming full of raucous singing just days earlier, we had to attend another “program” around noontime. Remarks were shared, prayers were offered, and gifts were given as the school children and staff said goodbye. After the program and having all the students present, Kathy did a short hygiene lesson about hand washing in conjunction with distribution of 200 bars of soap donated through the Clean The World Foundation.
Yesterday was capped off by a dinner we arranged to have at the Passion Hotel with Sumo, Amuchain, and our four teachers. It was intended to share our appreciation for their work and commitment to GLTC while providing an opportunity to get feedback about the Liberia Reads program, their teaching experiences, professional goals they have, areas for improvement, and their visions for the future of the school. Overall I think it went well, although I’m a bit concerned about the timidity of our new — and only female — teacher, Garmai. I’m used to strong “Meyer woman” that are rarely reserved with their opinions.
This morning we did last minute packing, photographing, and spending time with the kids. Kathy went to the library and read stories while Jon goofed off with children outside.
After a quick lunch, we loaded the truck bed with luggage — and Kathy. Since the cab is too small for four, Kathy sat on a foam mattress for the ride to Monrovia. A motorbike driver yelled into our window at John 2 asking why he was putting “that woman in the trunk”! After checking in at the Brussels office, I was dropped off at the LCL compound then Kathy and Marsha were off to the airport. Thank you Kathy and Marsha for spending time getting to know “my Liberian family”.
The Guesthouse will be quieter over the next few weeks!