During the past eight weeks it has been a privilege to learn about and then share with you a variety of subjects about Liberia and its challenges regarding Ebola.
Throughout our time here, a number of you have asked us to elaborate on how our time in Liberia unfolded – where did you stay, what did you do, what is Liberia like?
Our accommodation had been booked at the Lutheran Guest House. Because of the Ebola outbreak and the resultant absence of visitors, it had been closed for almost a year. We were their first guests after they re-opened! As on previous assignments, we adjusted quickly to the erratic water supply, a water pail for bucket baths, a rusty two-burner hot-plate for cooking our meals, a leaky electric kettle, and restricted hours of operation for the generator to provide electricity…… with accompanying AC in our bedroom!
We were blessed with a flat (bedroom and sitting room) – wonderful when you bring along 3 large suitcases of “just in-case items”. Going on our fourth assignment, we are still surprised at how many and which of these items we end up using. Our favorite item this trip was our roll of duct tape and the least needed was the fly swatter – bug free accommodation! While we always debate whether to take on the extra weight for our small battery operated printer, in spite of trying to go paperless, it has been helpful to have it with us.
We were sent out with very flexible Terms of Reference (our TOR). CHAL had requested a team of World Renew International Relief Managers (IRMs) to help build their staff’s capacity and enable them to be even more effective players in their fight against Ebola as well as in their other health related work. Specifically, they had cited the need for assistance in improving their human resources, financial and procurement policies, as well as assistance in warehousing of items donated for their Ebola response work. After arriving here, Patricia Kamara, the Executive Director of CHAL, soon zeroed in on Annie’s CV and also asked that she do some maternal-child related work.
During our first week, Patricia and the World Renew Project Director, Elijah Crusoe, thought it would be helpful for us to visit the five triage units built with funding provided by World Renew. Although Annie’s newly healed back (surgery in June) was not thrilled with the deeply rutted roads, it did give her the opportunity to observe the poorly equipped delivery rooms at these clinics and interview a few of the midwives.
"We have been incredibly enriched in our understanding of this country...These wonderful people have become our friends and patiently answered our many questions. They taught us so much!"
Thus was born the idea of a feasible project – a questionnaire assessing material needs of these clinics. An example of the questions asked is: “What is your light source for night deliveries?” – this after one midwife had shown Annie the flashlight she uses when a woman delivers in thedark. It is the hope that once these questionnaires are returned and analyzed, an organization with a heart for maternal-child issues will want to sponsor a project to supply these needs.
Apart from these specific assignments, we have made ourselves available for assistance or insights as required. We were surprised to be separated into two different office buildings. Harry was in a room with the Logistics/Procurement Officer and the Warehouse person where it was a natural fit to help with MOUs, set up an inventory system and organize the building of some shelves for a planned rotating pharmacy.
Annie was placed in an office with Elijah Crusoe. This led to working with him to coordinate the present World Renew project and help design the next one – not sure which one of us learned the most! Annie’s role also included a few days in the warehouse packing World Renew donated drugs for a number of facilities. It was a fun environment and they were happy to invite her back for the next day – especially since she treated them to lunch!
On every one of our assignments, we go home feeling that we have learned more than we taught, and were blessed more that we blessed. Nevertheless, it was encouraging to see how we could be of assistance to the CHAL organization in a variety of ways. We have been able to use our many years of career-related work and life experience to help serve in this manner. We felt God-led to agree to take on this assignment and it was amazing to see how He helped us find the right niches to make the best use of our time and talent.
We have been incredibly enriched in our understanding of this country. We have heard much about the horrible effects of a civil war that dragged on for fifteen years. We have been surrounded by evidence of the extreme poverty in this country. We have been impressed with the depth of Bible knowledge and spirituality of our colleagues at CHAL and amazed at the hearts they have to share with their communities. These wonderful people have become our friends and patiently answered our many questions. They taught us so much!
Serving in Liberia – what an experience this has been!
We thank and praise God for allowing us to have such a “touching” experience on this “no touch” assignment!
International Relief Managers