Well a lot has happened in the last week. And we have now been in Liberia for 1 month. Jerome and I both completed our workshops. Jerome worked with an education administrator Mr. Ballah to build a workshop on lesson planning/presentation. About 25 teachers from 12 schools participated. Schools run very differently here, there are many but they are not very functional. Many of the teachers do not even have a 12th grade education themselves and they are teaching a Gr. 10 class. They have many problems when it comes to teachers copying straight from a text book, minimal resources, and low income. It is common for a student to bribe a teacher to improve their grade as teachers are searching for money to support themselves. The government and other citizens are trying to change this and they were very receptive to the knowledge and the handouts Jerome provided. Thanks again to everyone who sent resources!
As for me I also held a workshop. One day on HIV/AIDS and the other on basic nutrition and malnutrition. I was quite nervous to present on these topics as I felt I did not know enough but I to am thankful to everyone for the resources! The lectures went really well!! I presented to 25 healthcare workers and they were very receptive. It is true that people here crave knowledge. We have yet to see a school or clinic here with more than 1 or 2 books. Makes me realize how much I take for granted day to day information that I have access to in Canada. Anyway, after we broke the discomfort about talking about HIV and its relation to sexual intercourse people starting asking questions like crazy! For instance some of the question were "are 2 condoms better than 1". "What is the difference between HIV & AIDS etc" It was great! Very interactive and I enjoyed presenting. As for the nutrition lecture they were very attentive. Simple things like how to maximise vitamins and minerals by not overcooking, eating a variety of foods, feeding children more often in smaller quantities, etc they found very informative. The book "Where there are no Doctors" was very helpful. Another problem here is access to food with protein. They have access to some beans, small dried fish but the rest of the meat is very fatty and poor cuts (pig hocks, pig face, chicken legs).
It is hard to explain the people of Liberia and their mentality. They are very welcoming but it is a country that has been halted for 20 years by war and NGO presence here is vast. Shaping the mind is a big deal here or there is a fear everything will happen again. We met a man of approx 30yrs who had been a boy soldier from the age of 12-22 (1990-2000). He now runs an organization that rehabilitates and reintegrates boy soldiers. His story is pretty incredible. Currently the buzz in Liberia right now is recruitment of Liberians to go to Iraq. It is popular with a lot of young men and women as it is an opportunity for money. But again, a large issue because when they get back there are no resources to rehabilitate or support them. There are always multiple perspectives and different sides to the story and as we stay here longer we are seeing more and more of the "bigger picture".
Anyway, on sunday we spent our first day on the beach. We went to sunset beach where a lot of the UN workers go on their weekends. The ocean was great and refreshing and it was nice to get away and relax.
The girls also had a kickball game the other day. A man from Monrovia who is on the soccer team put up a price of 1000 liberian dollars (15 US) to the winning team. And our girls won!!!! They were so excited! They have decided to by skips (small shoes) for the team with the money as they currently play in bare feet. Skips or shoes are about 1.25US for a pair.
We are still getting called chinese man but many of the children on our walk to the market.....it is still entertaining.
Projects with PAC have still been busy. We are trying to work with Save the Childre, WFP, Right to Play etc to get some funding for projects. We also still hope to visit the interior next week
Both Jerome and I have been healthy for the whole first month we have been here!!! We are very happy about that especially considering our toilet facilities (reminds me of Mr. Eds but worse everytime I go in there...ha ha ha).
Well, thanks everyone for the updates from home. We have very much enjoyed reading them and what is going on at home. Our plan currently is to stay 2 months in Liberia and then probably move on to another west african country. But we are taking it day by day and see how things are going.
Take care, lots of love to everyone
Love Robin & Jerome