Thursday, January 26, 2006

On the blocks. Its where the cool kids hang out now. I forget the standing kid's name. Andrew is sitting, then Hannah of course, Noah and Majua.

Here are a couple shots of some changes at one of the schools some of you support. This one is a partner with Millbrook Christian in Grand Rapids. Here the kids work on a dirt floor without desks.

And here is the same room, same kids, with a concrete floor and desks. Thanks Millbrook! And example of what Liberians and Americans are accomplishing as we work together.

On to the LEAD workshop Renita is headingl. Here is a familiar face to some of you-- Pastor Sam Reeves of Providence Baptist Church offers his perspective at the workshop. Sam is a LEAD board member.

James Hilary, LEAD program coordinator, talks with business leaders about making their businesses grow.

A few shots of the training retreat I attended in Gbarnga. Here we are on our way. Noah got a little motion sick after four hours of bumpy travel.

We arrive at the retreat center in Gbarnga. Noah waves out our bedroom window.

A water tower. Noah and I are thinking the same thing-- running water, and flushing toilets. Ahhhh!

The retreat participants. I get to hang out with heroes rebuilding their war weary people.

And finally, this shot of the area surrounding our retreat center in Gbarnga. Early morning, looks like we should see a dinosaur any minute.

Monday, January 23, 2006

What Are We Doing Here, part 2

This week finds a couple of new activities on our work list. Renita has started the LEAD series of twelve weekly workshops for the twenty-five business owners that were accepted into this round of the program. Businesses involved range from bread making to steel work, from construction to solar lights, from hair salons to tailoring, from soap making to wood carving. Potential new jobs as a result of loans from LEAD will be around 130. She took some shots of some of her co-presenters—hopefully next week she will get someone to take a pic of her in action in front of the class.

I and Noah are off to the interior, Gbarnga in Bong County, to be exact. I will be attending a three day workshop starting Monday the 23rd with some of Mother Patern College’s partners, and I thought Noah might like to tag along and see some of the country. He’ll have school work and I’ll bring my laptop to keep him occupied on the compound where we are staying while I’m workshopping a few yards away. The purpose of the workshop will be to more clearly define the psychosocial training needs of our partners so that I and others can design programs to meet each organization’s respective needs. I will have images of the landscape and our time upon my return.

Friday, January 13, 2006

ReedNews Update

Well, Julie DeGraw is back in the USA, and we are settling back to normal. Here are some news tidbits:

Item: On Monday the 16th, Liberia will inaugurate its president, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. By now most of you know what an historic event this is for Africa and the world. It’s a big deal, with dignitaries from around the world coming. George Bush’s better half and the Secretary of State will be here, so the security is already tightening. And the entire country is sprucing up. Every where you go, roads are being patched, brush is being cut, junk and trash is being picked up, and buildings are getting a new coat of whitewash. The capitol building looks great. I’ll get you a picture.

Item: The beach orphanage is no more. On Saturday, the children were transferred to a home run by a registered nurse, Esther Wleh. Interestingly, only five children were transferred—the other eight found their way back to their families. This was what we wondered: how many of the beach children actually had family who should be taking care of them, and when mild pressure was applied, the truth came to light. So eight children went back to their families, and the remaining five—truly abandoned or orphaned—joined the Wleh orphanage. Thanks to some of you, a new room was added to the building, a well head repaired, six new bunk beds, mosquito netting for all 38 children, uniforms for school, and there is still enough to provide a few bags of rice each month for a year.

Item: All the recent rogue activity has brought with it increased community activism. Leaders around us have been meeting to discuss ways to join together and form a night-time watch. Even though we have not been the only ones targeted, we sense some of this care is directed toward us. The community folks have been very kind in their words about us and seem to fear that if the rogue activity does not stop, we might leave. This will not happen, but we appreciate them looking out for us.

Item: Despite our desire to not spend time and resources on security that our neighbors can not have, we have come to see the need for what our neighbors are urging us to do. So the wall is now about nine feet high, with glass shards cemented in the top. There are neighbors patrolling our area at night, we have solar powered flood lights around half the house, and today some guys are covering our windows with chicken wire to keep hands from cutting our mosquito screens and reaching in through the bars. Is this too much? Not here, where these kinds of measures are in use in any home that can afford it.

Item: Noting the absolute worthlessness of Nikki as a guard dog, we have added yet another pooch to the family—Pinky. However, this one is a barker and in the most recent rogue event, she woke us all up and warned us of the intruders. We’ve had her about three weeks now, and we think we have a winner.

Item: Renita is busy these days visiting many businesses for LEAD. She is getting to know folks and word is spreading about this organization empowering Liberian businesses to grow. Of course, the Dynamo is also teaching the kids. This semester, in addition to the regular courses, she’s throwing Spanish and typing at the lil’ nubbins.

Item: Plans are underway with the staff of Mother Patern College to have something they’ve never had before—A Bachelor of Social Work program (counseling emphasis). Joseph, the MSW at the school, and I are hammering out the curriculum and will teach many of the courses. But we could use a hand and are thinking of asking a US college with a BSW program to lend us some expertise. Any thoughts from you as to who we might consider?

That’s the news. Here are the images.

The transfer of the five remaining kids has begun. Unpacking at the new facility. Clean water, better food, access to medicine, an RN manager, supervison and night security, and much more support. Not the conditions where most of us grew up in, for sure, but at least no longer life/health threatening.

The new children are welcomed with a song by the current residents.

The five children up front-- the old manager on the left, with Esther in the red patterned dress on the left. A new home and a new level of peace.

The men working on upgrading the security of the our windows. Note the higher wall in the background.

John Loboe and his wife, owners of JAT Soap Making Center. One of the businesses Lead is serving.

Introducing Pinky, our dogs that actually barks. Here she is giving Nikki-- the worthless licker-- what for.

That's the news. Good night!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A friend stops by from Michigan

Tis been a busy week for us, thus blog work is more infrequent. That’s a good indicator of how preoccupied we are: more blogs, more time on our hands to write them. Fewer blogs, we are up to stuff.

Anyway, our dear friend Julie DeGraw visited us from Ann Arbor where she is working on her PhD from the University of Michigan. (we don’t hold that against her.) She joined us just at the right time. Our spirits were a bit on the wane due to recent rogue behavior, and Julie is the kind of person who is always upbeat and optimistic, but completely authentic. Don’t the fake upbeat people drive you nuts?

So, Julie was here to help us celebrate 2006, organize a Birthday Party for Jesus with about thirty neighborhood kids, and deliver some support funds from some of you. The moneys are going to the orphanage we selected to take in the kids from the beach orphanage.

We’ve been having a lot of fun, despite the work involved in upgrading the orphanage and putting on the party. Julie is still here, so things are a bit hectic. The kids are having a riot—Noah just got back from an overnighter with friend on the Mercy Ship docked at the port. Hannah is enjoying teasing the several Liberian boys who seem to have a crush on her. Our wall is being raised a few feet, the crazy season is over, and we are getting ready to get back to work.

Julie Degraw at the new orphanage with the well some of you helped repair. See? Clean water!

A day at the beach. I'm telling Julie how much I hate it when Renita takes shots of me at profile. I look fat enough straight on, but at profile I look like Alfred Hitchcock.

The Christmas party begins-- a great day of fun prizes and clothes for the kids-- supplied by some of you!

Tug o' war with Renita in the middle.

I try my hand at face painting...

... but Hannah is the real artist in the family.

Sack Races!
Noah supervising bobbing for apples.

Acting out the Christmas story: here Mary (pink towel) is visited by Gabriel (White towel)

Oh, and by the way-- HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!