Monday, February 04, 2008

LEADing the Market Women

Weather: After a week of very nice conditions, the heat is back on. Harmattan returned for a week, and we saw cool morning temps—the coolest, actually, in the 30 months since we’ve been here. One morning it got down to a record 60F (15C). Once again, however, morning temps are in the low 80s with high humidity. My glasses actually fogged up this morning just sitting on the porch. Daytime highs in the 90sF. Steady, light ocean breeze, and not a drop o’ rain since early December.

February promises to be one of those months where we just hold our breath and rush to the end. Both Renita and I are juggling activities. I’m teaching a conflict transformation and peacebuilding class for the Mother Patern social work students beginning on the 11th, and on the 17th I’ll traveling to Dakar, Senegal for a week of meetings with the CRWRC West Africa Ministry Team. The agenda includes discussing the future of CRWRC’s work in Liberia, and also next steps for the Reeds. Renita has her hands full as LEAD prepares a business class in Monrovia, Buchanan and the new branch in Gbarnga while at the same times gets ready for a LEAD conference on the 23rd—which, I’m happy to report, will feature a keynote address by none other than Liberia’s President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Add to that an upcoming weeklong visit by representatives from our home church, and we find ourselves with overflowing plates.

If that wasn’t enough for her, today Renita is right here with the LEAD team in Foster Town. The women of the FACT Community Market are among the first to participate in LEADs brand new empowerment initiative for microbusinesses. Until now LEAD has been targeting midsized businesses that could conceivably grow and employ more people. LEAD will continue to serve midsized businesses with loans and business education, but this new initiative will assist very small businesses, like those run by the women at the market. So today and tomorrow (Monday and Tuesday) the women will receive a 15 hour business skills seminar, and after saving for two weeks will receive a US$100 microloan to invest into their efforts. If these loans are repaid, the women can apply for larger loans and perhaps eventually apply to be part of LEAD’s midsized business initiative.

It is not only exciting, but satisfying to see this LEAD/FACT partnership come about. We know these women—they are our neighbors. The market was built by members of this community through FACT, the new community development group working collaboratively with friends from North America. Likewise, LEAD is a product our efforts, along with our partners and friends. LEAD has “come home” to join FACT in serving our very own neighbors. It is as if two of our children, after going out and doing good things on their own, have for the first time found reason to join forces and for a time do their good work together. It makes a parent proud.

Next week: The Continuing Saga of Enoch the Indomitable.

First, proof of coolness in Liberia.

The women of the FACT market listening to James Hilary-- LEAD's veteran. He's been with LEAD almost from the beginning.

Renita, looking serene and contemplative at the same workshop, shares pearls of wisdom gleened from living with Yers Trooly lo' these many years.

And finally, who is this kid spending hours in the mango tree peering into our yard and singing day after day? Give ya a hint... tune in next week.