Tuesday, April 18, 2006

What Are We Doing Here? Part 4

Hello folks. We are told the rainy season is just around the corner, and we know its true, but the weather has been great. Relatively cooler weather, sunny days and best of all, relatively low humidity. We got a gully washer last night, but the plants needed it. If it was like this all year round we’d feel guilty being here.

Our work has taken definite shape. When we say “our work”, we are not including than home life—which includes important activities like home schooling, fixing things, and all chore-type duties. Home life work is important, but the main beneficiaries are the Reeds. “Our Work” is the work we do with and for the people of Liberia—the reason we came. Here is an update, just so you know we are not merely soaking up the sunshine, basking in the ocean breezes, and munching ripe mangoes off the tree.

We divide our work into three categories: 1) Business and entrepreneurial development, 2) Education/curriculum development and 3) Community development.

Business Development— This is Renita’s work. She is the consultant to LEAD, Inc. which offers business training and matching loans to Liberians with view to creating new jobs. Lead has just successfully completed its very first class, with about 22 business men and women in attendance. The most successful students will receive three-to-one matching loans, thanks in part to Partners Worldwide and the Nehemiah-Liberia Group, in order to expand their businesses. With the Liberia economy hobbled by 85% unemployment, LEAD’s efforts to get Liberians back to work are a great gift to this nation. Class number two begins in May, so Renita and her Liberian co-worker are out, meeting business people throughout the greater Monrovia area.
Education/curriculum development— This is my work. Liberia has very few professionals trained in social work or mental health, yet the foundational structure of the culture, the Liberian family, has experienced significant trauma because of the war and because of the clash of traditional and Western values. I am a consultant and guest instructor at Mother Patern College of Health Sciences. It is my honor to be working with MPCHS to develop Liberia’s first professional Social Work program, which we hope to launch fall 2007. The exciting recent development is that faculty members from two US colleges—Calvin College and Kuyper College, will be visiting MPCHS in July to help with curriculum development and consider ways to partner in the future. International NGOs, National NGOs, and the Liberian Government are making psychosocial support of families a high priority for strategic planning. Future social work graduates of MPCHS will be the leaders of these efforts. I feel privileged to be a part of this effort.
Community development-- For a long time now, Renita and I have believed in helping communities organize themselves to meet their needs and realize their dreams. In this community, we have started as slow as we could, getting to know people and first simply trying to be good neighbors. Over the nine months we have been here, we have seen two Liberian elementary schools embark on partnerships with two American schools, worked with a local school in getting tuition waivers for about fifty area children so they could attend classes, and been active in offering some training to a few area churches. Also, a few weeks ago we hosted a community meeting with a few folks which has developed into a Liberian led series of large meetings. Last week, about sixty neighbors were in attendance, and this week, they expect to elect a “community leader” and officers to further organize activities. Some of the dreams in the works are a marketplace and a playground.

So there you have it as of today. I brought along a few photos of us at work and a map of where we are.

No comments: