Saturday, February 28, 2009

Liberia Orphan Education Project

One of the things we heard a lot during our time in Liberia was the question, "What is LOEP?" followed up with "How did you get involved in this?". This blog has made some new friends for LOEP and some have been asking the same thing. Even some of our old LOEP friends may also be interested in updates on where we are and what we are doing - our work has geared up so fast! Here are some questions we have been answering a lot recently.

What is Liberia Orphan Education Project (LOEP)?
LOEP is a small group of people who are committed to supporting education for orphans and vulnerable children in Liberia. It began with a very modest effort to send periodic shipments of school supplies to orphans in the closing years of the war.
How did we get involved in this?
Several of us heard Rev. Sam-Peal speak about the devastation of Liberia's war when he was in Virginia. We were inspired to action and formed a non-profit organization (LOEP) to do what we could to provide ongoing educational support for Liberian orphans of war.
What does LOEP do now to support education for orphans?
Through Rev. Sam-Peal, LOEP was introduced to two struggling orphanages that operate schools for their children. LOEP has worked with the two orphan schools, Children Relief Ministry (CRM) and Alfred and Agnes Memorial Orphan Mission (AAMOM) and partnered with them for several years.
1) LOEP underwrites the teacher payroll at CRM through our Sponsor a Teacher Program. A donation of $50 to LOEP sponsors a teacher's salary for one month!
2) LOEP sends periodic shipments of school supplies, instructional materials and books as well as other needed items to AAMOM.
How does LOEP know that the orphanages in far-off Africa are accountable and responsible?
LOEP board members do extensive research before committing funds or support to any institution or project. LOEP partner orphanages and projects are carefully vetted to determine that they remain a) certified by the Liberian Ministry of Health, b) have been reviewed be the United Nations Mission in Liberia (the largest UN peacekepping operation in the world), c) are qualified to receive food supplements from legitimate organizations with offices in Liberia such as Christian Aid Ministries, World Food Program (UN) and others.
LOEP Board Member Brenda Weeks travels annually to Liberia. Her yearly visits to LOEP partner orphanages and meetings with appropriate organizations and officials on behalf of LOEP help to insure personal contact and strengthen the partner relationship. LOEP has developed a reliable network of supporters and friends in Liberia and in the US who assist in maintaining accountability and transparency.
How is LOEP funded?
LOEP has a small, committed group of individual donors who faithfully support the effort to educate orphans through LOEP projects. All of LOEP's work is supported by this group of individuals who are Friends of LOEP. LOEP has no overhead and no operational costs. All work is on a volunteer basis and all travel expenses and any other expenses not directly used for CRM teacher salaries or school supply shipments are borne by volunteer individuals.
Does LOEP work with other organizations?
Seveal Rotary Clubs have partnered with LOEP to provide support for specific projects for orphans in Liberia such as classroom construction and improved water supply.
LOEP has often worked alongside the mission effort of Browntown Church in Virginia. Some active members of Browntown Church are also Friends of LOEP.
The recent LOEP Teacher Training in Liberia was a joint project with Lott Carey Mission School. Teachers from CRM and AAMOM orphan schools participated in the training offered at Lott Carey School. There were 10 teachers from orphan schools involved in the teacher training at Lott Carey School (along with 40 teachers from Lott Carey and other community schools). Four of the orphan school teachers were identified as trainers and will help train their peers at the orphan schools.

The LOEP board of directors from left: Elizabeth Iden, Phylis Benner, Brenda Bush-Weeks at Children Relief Ministry orphan school.

Students in class at CRM

CRM students at the close of the school day during a recent LOEP visit

AAMOM choir presented a beautiful music program for LOEP visitors
From left: Phylis Benner, LOEP Board Member and Senior Trainer, Mrs. Elsie Bush (Friend of LOEP in Liberia), and Emmalee Iden, LOEP Co-founder and Trainer on a recent visit to AAMOM

Friday, February 27, 2009


The drive into the Lott Carey campus is interesting. Just past the bustling market area (it sits squarely on the railroad tracks, established there by squatters during the war when the railroad could not run - now, of course it is ruined and will ahve to be rebuilt some day) and the police checkpoint area on the main road, is a noticeably well-manicured, rolling area dotted with palm trees. On school days, uniformed students stroll along the campus pathways there on their way to class. Turning into the driveway, the complex of single story, red-roofed, school buildings to the left really does look comfortingly "schoolish". In particular, the cottagey nursery building with it's brightly colored shutters and the Liberian-style picket fence is absolutely charming. It really looks enchanting (ed?) when those adorable little uniformed "munchkins" gather there for class.

The view on the right of the drive is anything but charming, however. Like most places in Liberia, Lott Carey Mission School did not escape war. The bombed out hulking shell that looms over the right side of the drive is such a sad reminder of that recent past. Rebel forces took over the school campus and occupied it for several years as a rebel stronghold, barracks and ammunition storage. The once-gracious administration building pictured above was used for fuel storage on the ground floor and ammunition on the second floor. As a parting shot when they evacuated, occupying forces blew it up.

On one of our trips out to the countryside we saw the once-beautiful home of a former president of Liberia. The setting was spectacular and there were enough remnants of the old style estate left to indicate it's past life as a tropical paradise. Now, however, the roofless house is occupied by squatters. Laundry draped over the window openings, the neglected fountain at the entrance, overgrown outbuildings and cracked pool pit give the place an eerie quality and we passed on by quickly.

There are building remnants like this all over Liberia. At the same time, there is construction everywhere. New buildings are going up all over and the Chinese are very busy re-building the destroyed roads. It is sometimes hard to tell the destruction from the construction but there is an overall optimism about the future that is infectious.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Liberian Lapas and LOEP

Here are three members of the LOEP Team proudly wearing our gifted Lapas in the style that has become popular thanks to Madame President - Ellen Sirleaf of Liberia. Many women now wear lapas as a "shoulder piece" over dresses and suits.
This little one rides snug and safe in her lapa.

This market lady wears her lapas in the classic fashion - under-skirt, over-skirt and on her head as a head wrap. With all these lapas, she is ready for most anything!

Lapas and LOEP

All four members of the LOEP Team are completely smitten with African "lapas". In fact, even Brenda, the Liberian member of the LOEP team, became so attached to one of her lapas that she walked around the market hugging the thickly folded, beautifully printed fabric to her chest and only reluctantly gave it up to have a seamstress sew it into a beautiful African style gown. We loved the fabrics so much that our new friends, the teachers at Lott Carey, presented each of us with a Lapa as a parting gift. We really love lapas!

Lapas are the lengths of brightly printed, woven cloth that look so spectacularly and distinctively African. The lengths of cloth are generally sold in 3 lapa lengths (about 6 yards) and serve as highly practical and essential multi-purpose items in the African household. The same lengths of cloth are also used as wearable items and accessories in African fashion.

African women use full length lapas for everything from carrying babies to wrapping loose items into huge hobo-like bundles to carry on the head to market (and everywhere else). Twisted and rolled into little nest-like bundles, the lapa is placed on top of the head to cushion large, heavy items such as coolers and filled, 10 gallon water jugs (!). It can be spread on the ground to display market wares and produce and to catch nuts shaken from a tree.

Classic African attire for women is the lapa wrapped and tucked securely around the waist as a full-length skirt. A second lapa is wrapped over the first under-skirt. The over-wrap serves as a handy apron that can also be unwrapped if it is needed for a baby, a head bundle, a beautiful, regal-looking head tie or unfolded and draped around the shoulders it can serve as a shawl/wrap against the early morning chill - an amazing all-purpose item, the lapa.

There are several distinctly African textiles used for lapas. In Liberia, the most commonly found are the least expensive lapa fabrics. Generally 100% cotton, the most popular ones are those that are wax printed. According to one expert description of this type of lapa fabric:

For most people, the phrase "African fabric" evokes images of African women dressed in colourful wrap-arounds or fantastically tailored dresses, in many cases made from African wax print fabrics.
These fabrics started their life during the industrial revolution in Europe, where they were made for export to Africa. They have now become very much a part of West African culture and are gradually spreading further afield across the continent and to ethnic markets in the UK, Europe and America.

African wax print fabrics are printed using a unique mechanical process developed to imitate handmade Indonesian batik. The technique is now used exclusively to produce African wax print fabrics.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Friday Morning Academic Competition at AAMOM

Each Friday morning at AAMOM assembly is held in the little chapel building. The children gather for competition between two teams who are quizzed in subject areas including spelling, math, social studies and science. Each week a different grade level is featured in the Friday morning contest. It is quite an event and the children are very attentive as you can see from the picture above.
Two teams of the most outstanding students from the grade level are selected to compete. The teams take turns drawing questions on folded paper from a box. They turn the question over to the teacher who acts as MC. She reads the question and the team that is "up" has a brief moment to confer about the answer and select the spokesperson to deliver the team's response. In the picture above the lovely smiling young lady knew all the answers. It was interesting to see that she declined to stand and deliver the team response. Instead, she murmured the answer to one of the male team members who then stood and answered for the team.
Gender education is an issue in Liberia where girls have diminished opportunity for education. Liberian President Sirleaf (the first elected female head of state in Africa) has made gender education and other issues related to gender inequality a major cornerstone of her administration. Lott Carey Mission School is exceptional in that it maintains a nearly 50-50 ratio of boys to girls.

Each correct answer is greeted with enthusiastic applause and the excitement mounts. At the head of the room a score keeper writes the score for each team in each subject area on the board. At the end of the competition, the scores are totaled up and the winner is announced. It was interesting to see that both teams received applause from the audience and commendation from the teacher.
When the excitement is over the children stand, put their chairs on their heads and go to class.

There are not enough chairs for any to stand unused and the chairs are carried from place to place by the children. After chapel they are carried to class. At the end of class they are carried to the dining hall for lunch. After lunch they are carried out and placed in the shade for studying and socializing. As evening falls and the mosquitos begin to swarm, the chairs are picked up again and carried into the candle-lit study areas of the dorms for homework and evening prayers. These chairs get some use! Even the littlest AAMOM resident carries her own chair.

More Liberia to Come...

The trip home was very long but, thankfully, uneventful! A bit of a break for re-entry fatigue and jet lag but we are back on the blog now and will continue to post. There are many hundreds of pictures, some new friends, and impressions to share now that we have a faster internet connection here in the U.S.

We are sorting through the pics and will post some later today.

Keep checking in for more on Liberia!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Friday Rotary and Business of the Future

After a very interesting stop at Duala Market where we left the NAWOL union brothers proudly wearing their T-shirts, we went into town for the weekly Rotary Club meeting. The LOEP Team were guests of Rev. Sam-Peal who has been an active member for many years. It was a lively meeting held at a very nice hotel in Mamba Point. Mamba Point is the area where the U.S. Embassy is located. It is also where the nicer hotels of the pre-war era have managed to carry on. Most are small, locally owned businesses that barely survived the war but have managed to carry on mostly because of the large ex-pat community here - there are literally thousands of international NGOs represented with staffed offices here. Mamba Point, located on a bluff at the ocean's edge, is the "tourist area" of Monrovia and the views of ocean and lagoons from each hotel is spectacular. There is a small craft market there that has some beautiful wood carvings, baskets and craft work by Liberian artisans. We spent a great afternoon there.

One of the many sad results of war is the loss of the arts and crafts tradtition among a whole generation of Liberians. Children who grew up during the 14 year war spent most of their young lives running from warring factions. Family and village life, where culture and tradition normally thrive for all of us, was badly damaged during the conflict. Liberians who were children during that period are now young adults (the age of my own children) whose childhoods were traumatized and insecure. A difficult environment for survival of humans much less arts and crafts of one's culture.

However, there are signs that the old crafts may be coming back and we were encouraged to see some cloth decorated in the old way with natural dyes (it was exactly the lovely, mellow color of African dust that is everywhere during this dry season), with old time stamped patterns in one store. (Brenda was so excited to find such cloth, she would not let go of it long enough to have it made into a gown for herself and walked around the market with it hugged close to her chest.) The art of basket making is beginning to return also, and the wood carvings are absolutely stunning. Many are real works of art. Others are charmingly rustic. The artisans in the little market area spend much of their time selling because "hustling" is what most Liberians must do to eat every day.

Normal business and commerce has a long way to go for recovery in Liberia but signs are there. Bob Johnson, a wealthy African-American businessman and founder of Black Entertainment Television, is building a major resort on the ocean front just outside of Monrovia. It is a four-star establishment and the new manager was the speaker at the Rotary luncheon we attended. There are big plans and great expectations for that new resort to be the cornerstone of a new era for Liberia's tourist industry.

As commerce returns to normal in Liberia, arts and crafts will offer great opportunity for development to those in the import and export business. The work is beautiful and the artisans are eager to sell.

Friday, February 20, 2009

One Wheel and Two Strong Arms Carry Liberia's Freight

The ride from suburban Brewerville, where we are staying and where Lott Carey is located, into Monrovia is endlessly fascinating. One market area after another lines both sides of the road right up to the pavement. Sitting in the car passenger's seat, one is within arm's length of market stalls selling everything from rice, fresh produce, CDs and used clothing. Hardware, tools, women's lingerie, dried fish and "fresh" meat, lappas, motorbikes and shoes are all available at the market. The roadside between the pavement and the sellers stalls (what we might call the "shoulder" of the road - here that area functions as a combination sidewalk, freight lane and cab lane all in one narrow space pushed up alongside moving traffic!) is choked with people. People are everywhere and all are hustling and bustling. Everyone has some kind of business to attend to and everyone is trying to get somewhere. The city of Monrovia is so overcrowded and the population is so dense, it is much like India or China in that people are very closely packed. Public transportation is almost non-existent. Those factors combined with the fact that most of the country's roads were destroyed during the war means that traffic is a really huge problem!

Traffic is such a major problem it often takes as much as an hour to go twenty miles into the city from here in the suburbs. Rev. Sam-Peale, our very gracious host, thinks it is very funny that we love to get caught in the traffic. Sitting in an air conditioned car inches from the hustle and bustle is endlessly entertaining for us. It really rivals any television or movie I have ever seen!

In Liberia fuel is far more expensive than labor. Two strong arms and a wheelbarrow are the delivery trucks of Monrovia. We have seen wheelbarrows loaded with as much as 400 pounds of rice being pushed down the street. We have also seen wheelbarrows stacked with huge loads of lumber being pushed and pulled along by as many as three or four men uphill!

Some merchants hire wheelbarrow operators to deliver goods from their stores to their customers, some operators hire out to individuals who are shopping and need their purchases carried home. Some merchants have their own wheelbarrows that serve as portable kiosks filled with their merchandise. Anything sold in a market stall is also sold from a wheelbarrow.

Wheelbarrows are all over the city and the wheelbarrow operators are self-organized into unions according to their particular sector of the city. Today we visited the "union hall" of the National Association of Wheelbarrow Operators-Liberia who operate out of the Duala Market area. I had a nice chat with one of the union leaders who told me that his group, NAWOL, has 400 members. He explained to me that the wheelbarrows are all marked with a number and the operators show up in the morning at the Union Hall (an outdoor area adjacent to a sort of general retail store) to get their assignments for the day. He assigns them a number, they find the wheelbarrow and begin to work. It seems that the numbers are assigned according to what has to be carried or delivered.

The wheelbarrow unions are a close group of independent people who look out for each other, defend each other in a very tough business environment and help each other in times of trouble such as sickness or family problems. They are an incredible group of workers who keep commerce going in this city and surrounding areas.

Some reading this blog may recognize the shirts the guys are wearing in the picture. I delivered a small gift to a few of them when I visited today. T-shirts from union brothers in the US were greatly appreciated and are now being worn very proudly by the wheelbarrow operators of Duala Market!

Ol' Ma Phylis

Our time in Liberia is quickly coming to an end. Phylis, Mom and I took some time this evening to carry on our tradition of sitting out in the yard to enjoy the refreshing breeze and be entertained by the puppies. They really enjoyed the water bottle that I gave them to chew on. I'm gonna miss those little guys, they are really something.

As promised, Ol' Ma Phylis posed for us here in her African finery. (Ol' Ma is a Liberian term of endearment and respect for older women. Even the president is referred to as Ol' Ma Ellen.)

Ol' Ma Phylis will miss the puppies too. And we will all miss Richman!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pictures come to life

As has happened so often on this trip, there was a jolt of familiarity when we saw the sign to Children Relief Ministry. After viewing so many pictures and videos over the years it was a real thrill to see the children at CRM and the facility.

Hawa, CRM's first high school graduate is a really beautiful girl who has great plans for her future. She has applied to University of Liberia and is awaiting word on her acceptance into a program to study nursing. She wants to become a nurse and provide health care to the children at CRM. She is very determined and CRM administrator, Sam Kargbo, is working to insure that her tuition is fully paid by CRM donors. Obsrving her interaction with the students at school, it is very clear that she has a natural ability to care for children. She is a gentle, loving young woman adored by her younger "siblings"orphans.

CRM School serves not only the 48 orphans at CRM, it is also a free school open to the community. There are a total of 322 students who attend and we were pleasantly surprised to find that the teachers are quite well qualified. CRM's Third Grade Teacher, Mr. Gbah, and four of his CRM colleagues attended the LOEP teacher training at Lott Carey school last week. The group eagerly participated and did very well - so well in fact, that Mr. Gbah will receive additional training support from LOEP to help him train other teachers at CRM. Several CRM teachers, including Mr. Gbah, attend a teacher training institute here in Liberia. Their tuition to the teaching school is paid by CRM as a sort of valuable employee incentive and they are extremely conscientous about their work and their studies!

It was a great day and our LOEP board is so gratified to know that sponsoring teacher salaries at this community school allows teachers the opportunity for a teaching education and children in the community an opportunity for free school. Liberia's govenment schools are not free and, in fact, are somewhat expensive. Mission schools such as CRM take up the slack by providing free or reduced-fee schooling in their communities. Liberians are determined to rebuild their nation and they know education is the key. Parents here make huge sacrifices to see that their children can go to school.

CRM Visit

Today was a very exciting day for LOEP Board of Directors and training team. After years of stories, pictures, and videos, we were finally able to visit CRM Orphanage ourselves. It really was a fantastic experience and we are glad to share these pictures with you.
As today was a school day for the orphans and community students, we saw several of our trainees putting their new skills to use in the classroom. We did catch one of our trainees with a pointer - which the LOEP training team thought we had banished as part of the training. (I will say that the teacher who had the said pointer was not in the classroom in front of students, only relaxing with some other teachers during a break between classes.) Phylis promptly confiscated the pointer and put an end to that! (Notice the teacher laughing in the window behind her as she flees.)

Mr. Gbah was one of our star pupils during the training at Lott Carey. We were pleased to see him teaching his 3rd grade class today at CRM. Mr. Gbah is going to be training his colleagues from CRM who were not able to attend the training using the LOEP materials and techniques.

The children at CRM were very friendly and seemed happy to see us. They particularly enjoyed my camera and reviewing the pictures of themselves. The beautiful girl in the uniform is Mr. Gbah's daughter, Blessing. After we took pictures, the children allowed me to accompany them to the play area to play games and sing songs with them.

When we first arrived these little guys looked a little concerned. Or perhaps it's just curiosity. Whatever it is, it wasn't enough for the little man in the middle to take his thumb out of his mouth. Their concern turned to smiles very quickly and they were very quick to laugh and shout as I led them in a game of Simon Says.

Once they had warmed up, the littlest children were eager to mob around me, touching my skin and hair. With the help of mother hen Hawa (front right), we were able to arrange a group photo. Hawa is 19 years old. She was raised at CRM from when she was a little girl and is the first high school graduate from CRM. She is a lovely young woman, and obviously loves her big CRM family. She is planning on entering the University of Liberia and will study nursing. CRM is currently seeking sponosors for her tuition - they are determined to pay her way.

Orphanage Visits today

Today we are off to visit CRM Orphanage and School where LOEP has partnered for the past three years, underwriting the teacher salaries. Sam kargbo, director of the institution, is an old friend who has visited with us in the US.

We are also scheduled to visit THINK, a facility that houses female ex-combatants who were forced into combat as very young girls (some as young as pre-teen). Their war experience is often particularly brutal and many had babies and now young children. THINK has been working with these young mothers since war time and Browntown Church has partnered with them in the past providing sewing machines and supplies.

Back to School at Lott Carey

Vice Principal for Administration is Pandora Banks. Ms. Banks, Rev. Sam-Peal, Rev. Fuller (Chaplain of Lott Carey) had two training sessions on Strategic Planning with Beth. The group will develop a 5 Year Strategic Plan for Lott Carey Mission School to carry the institution forward into the future.
The Nursery Class worked with the Counting Bears set that Phylis designed for the mobile classroom. They enjoyed the plastic colored bears and they are such smart little ones!

This is the Nursery Class (pre-K) with their wonderful teacher. Miss Harvey. This class is so much fun! The children are quite awestruck at the sight of us but even that cannot distract them from Miss Harvey and her terrific instruction methods.

Now that the training is over, the Lott Carey students have returned to classes for the new semester. We had the pleasure of spending the day on campus yesterday for their first day back. Phylis and I taught in the morning, did some observing, and met with a few teachers for one-on-one evaluations.

Last Day of Training

Monday was the last day of training. We are a few days behind on posting pictures due to time constraints, I apologize. The training seems to have been a great success, the teachers are all pumped and ready to go back into the classrooms and start implementing some of the things they learned. I only wish I could be here in a month to observe them all and see the changes!
One of the last activities we did was making clocks for a math lesson using paper plates. The teachers really seemed to enjoy it. I feel quite sure there will be many students making clocks in their classes in the coming weeks!
Mr. Sango teaches arts and crafts and PE at Lott Carey. The students all love him, and we can certainly see why. He is a dear man and was very fun to have in training. He was very pleased with his football clock!

Miss Valerie is the home economics teacher at Lott Carey. While Phylis and I were training, Mom and Derek the camera man went to visit Miss Valerie at her house. She and her helpers were busy preparing lunch for all the teachers. Mom will post on this visit and provide more information.

Mom's new friends have been fascinated with her hair. They really wanted to plait her hair, and as you can see here, they finally got her to cave. (They didn't get very far - trying to plait with a plastic knife - but Mom still looks a little concerned.) Notice Wesue standing in the back. He, of course, did not take part in the plaiting but did find it all quite comical.

Coloring is always a favorite activity. I know many of you following this blog will be reminded of the crayon story that started this whole endeavor years ago!

Kindergarten friends Denise and Belle pose here for a picutre. Denise's grandmother and Belle's mother were both participants in the training. Their teacher, Mrs. Goe, was also a trainee.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another word about food...

One of the features of the workshop is the wonderful hot lunch served by the home Economics Teacher - Miss Valerie. Every day at noon she arrives with a serving crew bearing enomous cook pots full of rice and huge plastic pots full of dishes, eating utensils, etc. It is an amazing thing to watch as they set up and begin serving heaping plates of rice and chicken, fish or both. The smoked chicken is a particular favorite of mine and it is delectable.

On the second day of the workshop when I met my new friends we invited them to lunch and they arrived at noon ready to eat. I filled up one plate for them to share as instructed by my Liberian hosts and, also as instructed, took 3 spoons and the heaping single plate outside and put it on a ledge by the porch for the three little girls. The school day for young childen ends around noon time here and by the time I got out there with the food, several more younger children had stopped by on their way home from a neighboring school. Attracted by the sight of teachers eating their lunch on the library steps and porch, passing children were drawn irresistably to the cluster around the "children's" plate. Without a word of squabble or argument every child found a place around the plate and they began eating quietly. The three spoons were passed among themselves with each taking a bite and passing it to the child next to them, eating with their little hands in between spoonfuls. They were clearly very, very happy. When I went to check a few minutes later, another group of little children was clustered around yet another plate that had been set on the ground for them by one of the teachers. Some of the teachers were saving half of their own lunch and emptying it onto the two plates for the children.

Mrs. Allen, one of the lott Carey Principals told me that most of the time children do not eat but once a day in the evening. They arrive to school with no breakfast, go home around noon with no lunch and eat in the evening when their parents arrive home and can prepare a rice meal. This week the children have arrived every single day in time for lunch and play time afterward. The training ended yesterday and today the regular school routine resumes for Lott Carey students. No more lunches on the library steps and it is difficult for us to to think of the children going all day with no food and arriving at school in the morning in their clean, starched uniforms ready to study on empty tummies.

Monday, February 16, 2009

An Enjoyable Sunday

The rubber trees are planted in straight rows and all have little balck rubber "cups" attached near the base of the trunk to catch the seeping sap (latex) when the tree is tapped. When the cup is upside down it means the tree has been tapped and when right side up it is awaiting tapping. The tree leaves are all brown now waiting for the rainy season which starts in mid-May. The leaves will green up then but now it is "winter" for them.
This is the river bank at Shiloh Baptist Church from where many have been baptized since the lat 1800s when the church was built. The historic church and site is quite beautiful and the area very peaceful. Before the war, people used to to call and sing to each other across the river.

Brenda's husband Aurelius joined her here in Liberia (he lives/works in saudi Arabia) for this week. He hosted a lovely brunch for all of us at a lovely resort in Careysburg, an historic community about an hour from Monrovia. Pictured, l. to r. Emile, Emmalee, Phylis, Brenda, Beth, Nazarene Tubman, Elsie Bush (Brenda's mother) and Aurelius. Nazarene is a friend of LOEP. She has distributed our medical supplies through her non-profit organization (based in Maryland, U.S.) Caring Hands for Liberia. Nazarene has recently returned from her U.S. home in Maryland to live in her former home in Liberia.

The view from the old Shiloh Baptist Church on the banks of the St. Paul River is beautiful. The church is no longer used and is somewhat abandoned. A beautiful site and worthy of preservation! The view across the river is of Monrovia. When we leave Monrovia to return to our place in Brewerville, we pass over the St. Paul River and enter into Virginia County (like crossing the Potomac from D.C. into VA). Liberia is divided into counties, each with it's own name, some of which ar very familiar (Virginia, Maryland, etc.) So many of Liberia's place names are familiar because so much is named for places that freed slaves who settled here knew from their lives in the U.S.

Valentine's Day

With no school or training on Saturday, we spent the day in Monrovia doing some shopping and sightseeing. Emile has been very patient driving his "Miss Daisies" around. Here you can see the famous bridge over the Monserrado River going into Monrovia. Many of us saw pictures of this bridge during the war. It has since collapsed and is not currently used.

After feeding our lapa habit (more on that in another post), we went to Bee's house to consult with the fashionista. She has quite a little studio set up, and her work is beautiful! She helped me fix a headpiece to go with the Liberian suit she made me.
Emile even got into it - and seemed to enjoy looking at the fashion magazines and giving us "suggestions". What a great help... :-)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Friday the 13th - Doesn't mean a thing in Liberia!

It seems that one of the favorite activities we've done so far in training was the bubble lesson we did yesterday. The teachers had a blast mixing bubble solution (discussing the different ways students could measure the ingredients, mix them, etc). They enjoyed making bubbles so much that we decided to have an impromptu bubble-making competition between Phylis' group (The Chickens) and my group (The Guinea Pigs). It was quite enthusiastic!
Ms. Blango was one of the master bubble blowers. She got the hang of it right away.
Everyone likes making bubbles!

After lunch we walked over to the soccer field to watch a bit of the inter-school kickball game going on between Lott Carey and a neighboring school. It was dusty and hot as blazes, but extremely enjoyable! There were so many spectators, and people selling things, singing, yelling... it was something to just soak in all the sounds.

Back to work - we did settle down to make science lesson plans. The teachers really seem to be enjoying the small group work. They are taking advantage of these opportunities to share ideas with their colleagues.