Thursday, May 28, 2009
Link to Cause for Creation: http://causeforcreation.wordpress.com/
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The Classroom-in-a-Box units each contain subject-specific materials - one is math/science and the other language arts/social studies, for example. This particular pair of units also shared a "Teddy Bears" theme based on the generous donation of 30plus teddy bears from a Fredericksburg merchant and donation of hand made costumes for each bear from a LOEP supporter. The Language arts/social studies unit included story books and instructional materials with bears and woodland themes. The math/science unit included "counting bears" color/counting games (top picture) and environmental lessons on preserving bear and other animal habitat. Part of the learning process for young children is creative play and teddy bears with fancy, fun costumes certainly filled a good part of that requirement.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
· 50 Liberian doctors, according to UN estimates. There are also about 75-100 doctors serving with missions, NGOs and other aid groups.
· Three hospitals in Monrovia - one of those was converted from a war-ruined school into a small hospital with 150 beds and one operating room. The largest is a war-ruined medical facility of 1970s vintage with intermittent electricity, among other severe limitations.
· NGOs that operate more than 70 percent of health care facilities in Liberia
Personal safety and protection from violence is not the only measure of safety, though, and we were very aware of personal, individual vulnerability in a nation where there are no emergency services and access to health care is minimal. There are no rescue services with ambulances, fire trucks, etc. in Liberia. The only ambulances we saw with sirens and lights going during our time there were provided by NGOs such as Doctors without Borders and UNMIL (United Nations Mission in Liberia). It was not clear how the patient in those vehicles qualified for help and a race to the hospital but certainly such access is extremely limited – only available to the average person by chance or some luck of the draw.
Traffic and driving is chaotic and wrecks often result in horrible death and injury with only passersby to administer first aid or assistance. We happened upon one auto wreck and, before I turned away with a lurching feeling in my chest, I saw a motorcycle under the front wheels of a Hummer-type NGO vehicle. The motorcycle tried to take a turn, passing close on the inside and ended under the wheels of the much larger, heavier vehicle. A crowd had already gathered and people were trying to be helpful and provide what assistance they could. There was much shouting, gesturing and it seemed an effort to pull something/one from under the vehicle was underway. Here in the U.S. such a crowd would likely be waiting quietly for trained medical personnel in the ambulance speeding to the rescue. In Liberia there is no rescue – they know they are on their own.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Friday, May 8, 2009
The lovely little girl pictured in the new Children's Section of Lott Carey School library is Tracy. Tracy is in pre-Kindergarten and has just started her studies at Lott Carey. She is, quite simply, a remarkable child.
The LOEP team and Tracy spent a delightful afternoon in the Lott Carey library sorting books and setting up the Children's Section (more about that in another post) while Tracy "read" book after book. She could not get enough of those books! Selecting a book from the sorting pile, she pointed to each letter, whispering the letter to herself and once all the words on the page were "read" she examined the picture. Occasionally she would come to one of us with a dazzling smile, point to the picture and talk about the story. We were impressed that this kindergartener could spend an entire afternoon fully engaged in this solitary, quiet activity and seemed to enjoy every minute of it.
Tracy is hearing impaired in a country where deafness is viewed with suspicion and with less sympathy and tolerance than other disabilities. Deaf infants and children are sometimes abandoned and sign language is almost completely unknown so the deaf have no language and no way to communicate with the hearing world.
Tracy lives with her grandmother, one of Lott Carey's excellent administrators, who is determined that Tracy will have the advantage of an education. Little Tracy is no less determined, it seems. She completed her pre-school education in a school where there was no accommodation for her hearing impairment -she learned by watching and absorbing whatever she could. Amazingly, she is at or above her grade level in all areas and has been accepted into Lott Carey although there is no accommodation for deaf students in that school either. With no classroom accommodation for hearing impairment, students like Tracy begin slipping behind their peers and fall farther and farther behind.
LOEP is working on a teacher training program that will help teachers at Lott Carey and partner orphan schools accommodate their teaching and classrooms for deaf and hearing impaired students like Tracy.
Tracy is fortunate to have family/school support because children with hearing impairment are not unusual in Liberia and most do not have a support system. Tricia, an American teacher of the deaf who was recently in Liberia writes: Presently, there are no statistics available as to how many people are deaf or who have a hearing loss in Liberia. If audiologists are available in the country, many do not see them, so there are no statistics on the causes of deafness. But talking to the Principal of the Hope school, David Worlobah, and going through student information sheets, I found that most of the students became deaf after an illness or due to loud noises during the war. These illnesses consisted of malaria, typhoid, or Lassa fever. With these diseases, a high fever is likely, which can cause deafness. Deafness that could be preventable.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Liberian President Johnson-Sirleaf has recently been on tour here in the U.S. touting her just-published memoir, This Child Will be Great. Her book has had some mixed reviews but there is no disagreement on the fact that she is an amazing, strong and determined woman. Her life story is remarkable and from that standpoint alone her memoir is undoubtedly worth reading. I have to confess I have not read it yet but have read every review I can find and heard every interview with her on television and radio. Can't wait to read the book.
Blue Clay People, by William Powers is written by an American who lived in Liberia working for an NGO shortly after the war ended. It gives a good account of Liberia from an American's perspective. I found much in common with Powers account of his impressions and his response to Liberia. Also had some differences of opinion and reaction but the book is well-written and very interesting.
The House at Sugar Beach, by Helene Cooper is a fascinating account of Helene's childhood in Liberia which ended abruptly with political turmoil and brutality. Cooper explains the Americo-Liberian, Congo, Country social class system that exists in Liberia from her own point of view as one who was of the privileged elite. Her explanation was very helpful for me in terms of understanding how the political situation in Liberia evolved. Cooper and LOEP Board Member Brenda Bush-Weeks grew up together in Liberia and attended school together there.
Redemption Road, by Elma Shaw is a novel (unlike those mentioned above). It takes on the difficult subject of recovery from war in Liberia. I have not read this one yet either but Rev. Emile Sam-Peal highly recommended it and said he could not put it down. Of course, his perspective is entirely different from what mine would probably be but all other reviews concur. It is the next one on my list.
For several years now I have been reading all things Liberia which has been mostly somewhat dry history, highly charged political rhetoric or ex-pat blogs. There just has not been that much available until now. The 14 years of war and the long period of political upheaval leading up to the war has changed that and a new genre of Liberian literature seems to be developing. There are incredible stories everywhere in Liberia. War survival, political turmoil and even ex-pat accounts of good works are all more interesting with a Liberian backdrop - probably because the incredible stories are true.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Bea's immaculate, well-organized home/business is a single room that functions as sewing studio, fitting room for clients and her personal sleeping/living quarters. We spent such a fun afternoon there thumbing through fashion magazines (to pick out styles for ourselves), having head ties and shoulder pieces styled and oohing and aahing over the beautiful fabrics and sample garments and designs she was preparing for an upcoming fashion show.
Friday, May 1, 2009
This links http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=84052 to an excellent article that clearly states the case for most of West Africa. One point that really puts the issue in perspective as it relates to Liberia's future stability:
"Education activist and former child soldier in Sierra Leone, Ishmael Beah, told IRIN: 'Education is not only something to get a career or change your socio-economic status, but it is a way you can begin to understand your government and demand more of it.' ”