Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Foster Town Market-- A Dream Realized

Weather: partly sunny and humid most days this week, with heavy, steady rain most nights. Saturday, rain throughout the early morning and morning hours, with wind. Rain cleared by late morning, just in time for the afternoon market dedication. Temps mid 80s during the day, 70s overnight. Winds 10-15 mph, mostly from the west, although shifting and out of the east during the day Saturday. No clue as to weather Sunday.

If you have been keeping up with us, you know our community, Foster Town, is trying to build a market. The attempt is an expression of the desire of the entire community through its new community development organization, FACT. (Formerly FoCDA, FACT stands for Foster Town Association for Community Transformation.) Currently neighborhood women need to travel several miles to the nearest market, and carry back large bundles the entire way or pay for increasingly expensive taxis. There are almost no Liberian car owners in the community. The market would create a much more convenient location for perhaps thousands of community folks saving precious time and money, and provide micro business opportunities for about ninety neighbors who would sell their goods here.

The Foster Town marketplace was first proposed last summer, with groundbreaking taking place in December. We all hoped it would be up by April, but longstanding distrust and control issues emerged, halting construction for March and April. In May, opposing sides began coming together so by the time the Reeds left for North America, the roof was mostly up, and the FACT market committee was taking names and reserving spaces for market tables.

When we arrived back to Liberia, the good news was waiting for us. The market place had its tables, the community would celebrate its dedication July 7 and it would open for business July 9.

As I write this July 7, we just returned from the dedication. Compared to most Americans, Liberians make a huge deal out these things. There were speeches and rallies, and songs and hoopla in a program that lasted hours. I thought I'd try to leave early, but the joy and delight of the women was infectious. I hung around and eventually figured out how to keep myself occupied.

On Monday, the market opens for business. Those are the pictures I’m waiting to take.

In December at the ground breaking, the field was nothing but palm stumps and brush. But we were committed.

In January, some support poles went up, and the women inspected a much more clear field.

In February, the community pulled together to dig up stumps and burn the rest of the brush.

But factions were growing. We spent a lot of time trying to make space for conflict to happen safely and trust to grow.

By March, the work was halted while the conflict played itself out. But by May... resumed. Through hard efforts of all involved work began again and we saw zinc going up. This was how it looked when we left for North America.

And this is how it looked when we returned. Tables up, ready for the dedication. What a moment. What a victory.

Saturday, July 7, under the zinc. Let the Celebration begin! Dancing, singing, speechifying, laughing and praising God.
Renita, a guest of honor, has a few profound words from Ecclesiastes and thanks our American friends, Mary and Ev Vermeer for their generous support in making the market possible.
Local pastor and friend Rev Odashi cuts the ribbon, opening the market.
Afterword, the women dance in celebration. Yers Trooly could not help himself-- to the delight of the crowd he jumped in and showed 'em he had a few moves of his own.