Monday, May 26, 2008

ReedNews Update: May Edition

Weather: Partly cloudy and very humid of late, with evening thundershowers and some very heavy rain. Raining about four days out of seven, usually between sundown and sunup, but occasional rain in the day as well. Sunday it rained from 10:00pm until Monday at 3:00am, dropping about 5 inches on us, for a total this week of approximately 8 inches. It will get much wetter. Moderate breezes from the east, mostly in late afternoon, otherwise very light and variable winds providing little relief from the humidity. Daytime temps in the 80sF, low 70s at night.

The global economic downturn is hitting this nation especially hard, and comes at a time when the real gains we’ve seen these last three years are vulnerable. Rice prices have risen by 30% in six months, and the international oil crisis had caused shortages and impacted prices of all imported and transported commodities—which is just about everything. Gas is currently US$4.05 a gallon, and diesel is $4.70 a gallon. Prices of just about everything are up 25-50% since last year. The impact on the people of Liberia—already among the poorest in the world—is difficult to characterize. Liberians are used to living on almost nothing. Almost every Liberian lived on the run, in the bush somewhere as a displaced person more than once during the war. They understand being squeezed in ways most of us cannot imagine. So once again, they are suffering economic oppression, and once again they are at the mercy of forces beyond their control. Here’s more news:

Item-- Vera, our weekday dinner cook and laundry lady, was robbed for the third time since we’ve known her, again in the middle of the night by cowards armed with machetes. They broke her door, beat up a young man staying with the little family, stole the $30.00 or so she had (and that’s all she has), took her food, some clothes and even the mattress she lays on the floor to sleep on with her daughter. A terrifying experience for this single mother of four. Hannah had some money given to her by one of you to use "as she wanted," so she bought Vera a new foam mattress.

Item-- Sunday morning, rogues continued their work, this time at the local church many of you have helped build and supply. They broke in, stole the chairs and electrical wires for the generator.

Item—On a more positive note, last week LEAD graduated its 8th, 9th and 10th business classes, in Monrovia, Buchanan and Gbarnga, respectively. LEAD now runs two business empowerment programs, one for very small businesses that includes a two day workshop and loans of up to $300.00US per participant, the other for larger businesses includes loans of up to $1800.00US and a twelve week, 36 hour business course. It was this larger program that graduated the classes this time. In Gbarnga, the proud grads marched through the city in parade fashion, banging drums and singing in celebration.

Item—The Pros from Dover are returning! The Social Work team from Calvin and Kuyper Colleges will be in Monrovia in June to continue their assistance in the young Mother Patern College BSW (Bachelor of Social Work) program. They’ll be bringing textbooks, tweaking the curriculum, and preparing for their visit in January—they’ll be teaching two courses.

Item-- We are temporally losing our children. Hannah and Noah are traveling today from Liberia to North America for three months. This is by far the longest we’ve been without them, and we are mixed about seeing them gone for so long. But we believe they will have a great time. They will be traveling with a family we’ve come to know and trust, and will be picked up in Chicago by our friend Mary Vermeer.

Vera, on a happier morning. She's doing better today.

The 10th LEAD class marching down the Gbanga main road.

Hundreds of business men and women empowered by LEAD. These are the latest.