It took us 5hrs to get to Buchanan the roads were BAD. My kidneys are still shaking. After securing hotel( there is only one) we were met by Rev George a local pastor and business man. He will take us to several local orphanages so we can gauge the needs of the area. Liberia suffered through 15yrs of war ending in 2004. The horror and brutality is hard to comprehend when told the stories. The war created many orphans and thus many orphanages. As with anything there are good ones and bad ones. There 180 orphan facility within the country. The govt is trying to drastically reduce the quantity and increase the quality of these facility. This is prudent. But change is always difficult, especially when it affects these kinds of kids. We were brought to a small ramshackle facility. About 30 children greeted us with beautiful songs and some of their stories. One boy was being held by his mother when a rebel soldier shot her in the head. As she dropped her baby(the boy) fell from her arms and into a cooking fire. His lips and face forever scarred. But the mental scars of seeing his mother murdered will always affect his life. This particular facility is being shut down in June. Too late to save it. This can be very discouraging at times. Especially when you look into the childrens eyes and realize that their tough lives are about to get tougher. I continue to be amazed by Chris Clark ,founder of Children Of The Nations, as we travel together. His wise compassion built from a life time of experience is an honor to observe. I am on the”right” team. Attached are some relevant pictures.
Archive for May, 2010
We arrived in Buchanan Liberia on Thursday. About 4 hrs on a kidney busting jungle road. Buchanan was named after President James Buchanan. Remember, Liberia was founded by former “freed ” slaves. Packed onto boats in the early 1800s and dumped on the shores. We are visiting this coastal city to evaluate its need for help with orphaned/ displaced children and to visit my childhood home. My family lived here for 2yrs in 1961 – 63. We followed my father who was a chief engineer on an enormous construction project. He was to build a large port and a railroad from the port 200miles inland to the town of Ketema where enormous deposits of iron ore were to be mined from the Nimba Mountains. Us kids were along for the ride. Little did I know the profound effect it would have on my life. We checked into the Sparks hotel. The only hotel in town. It was a dingy dark dump. The electricity runs periodically between 6pm and 8am. The cockroaches are huge. Stoy Hedges and Bobby Corrigan would have a field day. The GREAT thing is that it had air conditioning! After checking in we proceeded to one of many orphanages we were evaluating. This facility was small compared to most. Turns out it was founded during the war by a gentleman who was my age. He had worked(as a boy)as a dishwasher in our camp mess hall. No pay, but ate for free.
Everything in West Africa is magnified or”extreme”. The weather. It is HOT. The sun, being this close to the equator is brutal. Combined with humidity in the 90 per cent range means you are in a constant steam bath. You sweat from head to toe constantly. You are drenched. This saps your strength. You drink more water in a day than in a week at home. There is a saying here ” hurry, hurry has no blessing”. It has more than one meaning. But you physically can not move fast so as to conserve energy. The pace of life slows. Everything slows down. When it rains, which can be often, it is torrential. The storm will last an hour then the hot sun returns. A perpetual sauna. You have to be very aware of your health here. For example, the growth of your hair/ fingernails is accelerated. If you don’t trim your nails you can scratch yourself and a little cut can become a big wound in a hurry. I have to take malaria pills daily and use of a mosquito net at night is a must. Malaria is big trouble. All living things seem to be bigger, more colorful, brighter, fast and strong. Bugs are huge. Butterflies and birds are brilliant and varied. The lizards are big and colorful. And the snakes. Let’s not talk about them. The people are very social. Arguing loudly is the method of communicating. Usually finished by loud hysterical laughter. Again, everything is extreme. Magnified.
Today we traveled south to Buchanan , my boyhood home. About a 4hr drive on TERRIBLE roads. We passed thru the old Firestone Rubber plantation. At one time the most productive latex sources in the world. This picture is a rubber tree. Notice the diagonal cut grooves on the trunk. The latex oozes down the grooves into a small bucket. It is collected , processed and eventually ends up as tires on your car.
On the road to Liberia. A 7 hour drive on jungle road( seen here) plus 5 hrs added for being hassled at 10 different police checkpoints. Most trying to shake us down. If you act scared or pay $ too fast they really go after you. I’m glad I’m with Chris Clark (founder of COTN) he is a smart, strong man. He doesn’t back down. Got to the border and had to wait and “pay”. Finally crossed into Liberia; 3hr wait. Total took 12hrs.
Spent the night with missionaries from American Bible College in Monrovia the capital. AC a fan and a good shower. HEAVEN!
Friday I visited the clinic at the COTN orphanage. The picture is of a 1-month old baby and her aunt. Her mother died giving birth to her. No breast milk means no nourishment along with rapid dehydration and death. This baby’s skull already had deep creases in it. Dehydration the cause. But COTN gave her powdered protein formula which when mixed with potable water is going to give her a chance of living.
Later I Went fishing with some of the kids in swamp/creek. I bet them all that I would catch the first fish. I found a good spot. Not so good. I was standing in a “Driver Ant” nest. Literally within seconds I was covered from my neck to my ankles with biting ants. The kids told me to strip. Which I did quickly. They all picked the ants off my body and my clothes. A 56 year old fat , white guy standing in the bush, naked with kids picking ants off of him. They will all need psych counseling I’m sure! Africa humbles you quickly. Sunday, on to Liberia.
I am reading a letter from Julie to Alfred and his grandmother. His parents abandoned him. He’s a quiet/ shy boy. Sad because his parents are gone. But this was a happy day for him and the village.