Monday, November 24, 2008

Sleep Over and Out

On Friday Iona went to stay at a friends house ashore for her first sleep over off the ship. She stayed with the Chapman family who left the ship last year with their two daughters and adopted Liberian son to set up a dental clinic here in Liberia. As you can see she had a lot of fun, and no matter what country you are in or what country you come from, nothing is quite as much fun as an empty box! It was the Chapmans oldest daughter Taylor (not pictured) who was the inspiration behind Iona's new hairstyle!

A Clean Sweep

As our patients recover from surgery and leave the ship, our nurses are able to start cleaning up and closing down the wards. Minor surgeries will continue until the end of this week and then everything will need to be cleaned, inventoried and stowed ready for us to sail. What do the nurses do then? They are being absorbed into other departments to help spread the load during our time in Tenerife. We may not be doing operations in the Canary Islands but most other departments need to keep working throughout the year.

Final Orphanage Visit

As we get closer to leaving Liberia we enter the 'Lastimever' zone. You know how it used to be in school holidays?Last Time I'll ever do this before, last time I'll ever do that before......

Well Saturday was the 'last time we'll ever' visit the Center for the Aged Orphaned and abandoned children Liberia Corp. as a family. There were tears and laughter, prayers and many many thank you's - from us and them. We prayed with every child in the center, then prayed over their leaders, and then they all prayed for us.

During the previous weeks visit each child had decorated and written their name on a paper bag. These were then collected back in and through the week Brenda (helped by Anne and others) filled the bags with sweets and little gifts. So on Saturday the bags were handed back out and all 64 children, regardless of age got a bag full of goodies. I don't hink I've ever seen so many big smiles!

It isn't quite farewell yet though as we are bringing around 30 of the younger children to the ship next Saturday for a farewell party here. The older children came last year so this time the under 11's can come. I'll stick some photos on of that next week.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Kama Chameleon

One of our Crew (Jeff) rescued a Chameleon from the market last week and brought it to the dock to show the children. It was a very friendly little thing and despite being stroked, prodded and blinded by countless flash bulbs it sat quite happily on Jeff's arm. Where is it now? Well Jeff heads up the water, sanitation and building teams, so he took it 'to work' with him in the bush and released it back to its natural habitat.

Everyone say "Awwwww!"

A new start for 5000 more Liberians

More than 5,000 former combatants from Liberia's civil war will participate in the next round of the United Nations-led reintegration and rehabilitation programme for ex-fighters so they can successfully rejoin their former communities, a UN official says
Mr. Tamagnini said the programmes - which have begun in 28 locations across the West African country - are being expanded so that they directly benefit not just the ex-combatants, but the communities that host them as well.
Participants in the programmes work on roadside brushing projects, cleaning drainages, agricultural projects and other job schemes to help them back on their feet.
In a survey in Lofa county, which borders Guinea, "97 per cent of the ex-combatants said they were better off now than when they were fighting. Two thirds said they will not fight again. One third said 'yes, they will fight again.' The reason was unemployment and [the] economy."

Please keep praying for initiatives like this that are offering an alternative to fighting for the thousands of people who have known nothing else in their lives.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Walk on the Wild Side

This weekend Anne and I had a stroll into town. Actually to be more accurate she walked 4 miles to Mamba Point on Saturday with some other mums, and I went on Sunday with the guys. It was supposed to be a joint venture but there were no baby-sitters available!

When you are used to driving around town it is easy to isolate yourself from the poverty. However when you walk 8 miles through some of the poorest parts of town, it really brings home just how much of a struggle it must be for the million or so people living in Monrovia.

Reminders of the war are still all around with burnt out buildings and street lights bearing the scars of bullet holes, yet the smiles on peoples faces are genuine and their greetings truly heartfelt. Could I stay so positive in their position? I hope I never have to find out.........

What a Result

On the same day that I posted news about Liberias debt, it was announced that Norway will cancel 35 million U.S. dollars of Liberia’s debt to Norway, which constitutes 90 percent of Liberia’s debt to the country.
Liberia’s remaining debt to Norway will be canceled when the country reaches the completion point defined under the Indebted Poor, it added.
“I am glad we have agreed to cancel most of Liberia’s debt to Norway. It is important to support the positive developments that have taken place since the election of President Johnson-Sirleaf four years ago,” Erik Solheim, Minister of the Environment and International Development, said in the statement.

Nice to see some GOOD news for a change :-)

Friday, November 14, 2008

In the Red

This week President President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says significant progress has been made to reduce Liberia’s external debts of $3.7 Billion USD.
The President told a cross section of Lofa citizens during a meeting to discuss the government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy(PRS), that the debts were accumulated dating as far back to the 1980s but her government is making tremendous effort to have the debts waived.
African Debt cancellation may be out of the International headlines at the moment, but in a country as poor and badly damaged as Liberia it is hard to see how it can ever get fully back on its feet with a debt like that around its neck.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ghanaian sailors sentenced

The nine Ghanaian sailors arrested onboard the vessel Blue Atlantic with $500 million (2.4 tonnes)worth of cocaine onboard have been sentenced to 10 years each in prison here in Liberia. The judge said that they had acted in violation of the Public Health Law of Liberia. The ship meanwhile continues to sit opposite us on the dock. Last week our electricians ran a cable from the Africa Mercy to the Blue Atlantic so that the security guards who are still onboard guarding her have some electricity. I've been inside Monrovia central prison, and another in Kakata. 10 years is basically a life sentence.