Kevin in Liberia

Its Purpose: to raise awareness of current social, political, ethical, and spiritual issues within a relief and development context in Liberia. Its effectiveness is simple: It relies on me, the author, to provide insightful, and often debate-sparking material that will encourage you, the reader to get engaged through comment contributions, emails, and promoting others to read, re-think, and respond to the important issues discussed.

I know not which is most profitable to me, health or sickness, wealth or poverty, nor anything else in the world. That discernment is beyond the power of men or angels, and is hidden among the secrets of your Providence, which I adore, but do not seek to fathom. ~ a prayer by Blaise Pascal

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The 1st Few Days in Liberia - A Shocker

05.21. 2005

After an unbearably long flight I stepped off the plane into just brutal humidity, most likely 30C and close to 100% humidity, definitely not what I’m used to back in Canada. When I arrived at the airport I looked around for either Jonathan or Dave who were supposed to pick me up but they were nowhere to be found. After fighting the crazy Liberians for my place next to the baggage belt I finally saw them making their way towards me. Ok, now I have my bags, now to get out of this zoo. What a joke! I finally made my way outside and onto the curb and borrowed some guy’s cell phone for $4 USD and called Jonathan. They were only 4 minutes away. What a relief! When Jonathan and Dave arrived I went back inside the airport in order to track down our surfboards that I brought over with me for Equip and myself. After paying the customs guy off we escorted the boards out of the airport and preceeded to load them on top of the Land Cruiser. Let me say one thing, in a third world country such as Liberia, a country with such a huge UN presence, every third vehicle it seems tends to be a Land Cruise/Rover.

First impressions about Liberia when flying into the country:

  1. How many of the houses were literally reduced to rubble with trees growing from the inside.
  2. How many IDP (internally displaced persons) camps there are within Liberia. White tent after white tent in a uniform pattern, row after row. Some of these camps held over 100,000 people and some still upwards of 40,000 IDPs.

Well, I’ve been in the war torn country of Liberia for about 3 days now and what a 3 days it has been. I thought I knew what poverty was until I stepped foot into Liberia. Hearing stories of the war stretching 13 years previous were pretty gut wrenching. The office where I’m currently at is a couple blocks down from a church where, during the war, over 1000 people died in a massacre that was plainly beyond my comprehension. Jonathan told me that his mother met a guy who survived the massacre. He was hiding behind the organ and the killers only saw his feet. The only reason that he survived is because when they chopped both his feet off he didn’t say a word, he just kept his mouth shut. This is just one of many stories that just blew my mind.

Thursday the 19th of May started off by trying out the new surfboards. Development work isn’t ALL work, we need to mix in a little fun in there as well! The remainder of the day, probably close to 10 hours of it involved painting the house I’ll be staying in for my stay here. Dave’s philosophy is basically “you’re going to have to build the house you’re staying in.” This house is pretty sweet because of its location to the beach, about 100 yards, but the fact that it is absolutely trashed isn’t too appealing. We’ve gotten it painted now and sprayed with anti-bug spray to keep the malaria-infested mosquitos at bay so things are looking up. Sleeping on 3 inch foam mattresses might take a while getting used to too but its really not too bad at all. What is the worst is when its 30C at 2am, now that is bad.

Friday, May 20 consisted of my first flight on the UN helicopter (Ukrainian MI8) up to the northeastern village of Ganta where Equip has one of their clinics. Stepping off the helicopter made it seem like I was stepping into Vietnam or something during the Vietnam War. UN Military were everywhere with their machine guns ready for any intruder. That division of the UN Military were called BANBATT (Bangladesh Battalion).

I met a couple of other Canadian missionaries named Jody and Sarah who seem like they are extremely cool individuals. They both manage the health project up in Ganta and the overall running of the medical clinic up there. Jody cooked us dinner that evening which was very scrumptious and included pasta sauce with a freshly slaughtered Guinea Foul which I watched lose its battle a couple hours previous. It was pretty nasty if you ask me but very tasty I must admit. A Guinea Foul is pretty much like a turkey for any of you who don’t know what one is, I sure didn’t! While in Ganta I got to visit the clinic where the sights were, again, gut wrenching. This is the stuff you see on TV. Well, lets put it this way, this is the stuff that they don’t want to show you on TV. It would take way too long to describe what I saw but I hope some of my pictures paint a vivid picture in your mind. Also, while in Ganta, we went walking through a rubber forest. Rubber is on of Liberia’s main exports. Firestone has a HUGE plantation here and somebody is capitalizing from it and it is definitely not the people of Liberia. It was either Dave or Jonathan that told me that the income distribution in Liberia is something like 1% of the people in Liberia own 90% of the wealth. It’s a pretty sickening stat if you really thing about it.

Saturday, May 21 consisted of a long bumpy ride back to Monrovia from Ganta which took approximately 4 hours. Its funny to see these kids, no more than 7 or 8 years of age it seemed, setting up these “road blocks” with chopped down trees. Their sole purpose is to charge a toll to people traveling the road. What is even funnier is the pure disregard for these kids and their efforts. As we slowed down approaching one of these stops a car coming the opposite direction just drove right through one and busted it straight down. I guess the kids will just have to build another one! We were almost prepared to bust down our side as well but they moved it in time. People try to make money doing anything over here! We arrived back in Monrovia in the evening and ended up going to a Baptist missionary family’s house for dinner and Napolean Dynamite!

Not to scare anyone or anything but there are a few rumours going around about what is going to happen with the elections in October. One of these rumours is that Charles Taylor, deported dictator, is funding a massive uprising that will go down during election time. We’ll see what happens with that. Anyways, that was one of the things I’ve heard….among other things.

As far as job duties are concerned it is sounding like I’m going to be doing a lot of the duties that Jonathan is doing right now plus a few other things. The major things on the go right now are creating a financial reporting system for these different projects that are on the go right now as well as something for future projects. Another project that is pending is one related to the ex-combatants that were funded by the previous government. These people, sometimes 7 or 8 years old were paid and given weapons to go and kill people. The project that we are writing a proposal for has to do with reintegrating them back into society by providing training to teach them how to make an HONEST living etc. Just imagine what we’ll have to face if we can’t provide their paycheques on time or just something of that nature. This job is going to contain a lot of those sorts of situations and its going to be a challenge for sure.

Well that’s a bit of an update…the main difference here is definitely the level of poverty and the amount of carnage there is here from the war. Earlier today, Sunday the 22nd, I looked on the desk here in the office and saw a couple pictures of dead bodies. This is DEFINITELY not a walk in the park!

Take care and keep praying for me!



  • At 6:37 PM, Blogger Smashing Pumpkin said…

    Kevin, I'm praying for you and thinking about you constantly. I hope you have arrived there safely and will look forward to hearing from you often. I have no clue what I'm gonna do at home now, without you. :( Be safe. I love you!

  • At 7:37 PM, Blogger Gaillie said…

    Hi, Kev-O

    Wow- what stories so far! Let's hope that no one steals that surfboard from you. Don't know what else you would do for fun...

    Praying for you continually and lifting you up before the Lord

    I pray that you might be able to discern a difference that you are making.

    Thanks for setting this up, and I am glad that we can communicate at least like this

    Take care

    Love Mom :)

  • At 8:03 AM, Blogger Gaillie said…

    Hi, Kev

    I'm up tonight with a bit of indigestion, so I thought I would come on to see if I could catch you awake. What do you say, about 10 hours time difference?

    Sometimes I wake up and read or just sit up and think. Sure glad that I don't have TV or else I'd be wasting more time than I do

    I've enjoyed your stories so far. Some folks in this world have it so terribly hard.

    How is it for AIDS where you are? Have they told you yet?

    I have printed out a copy of your blog so far and have asked Russ to take it to school and pin it up on a bulletin board so that the kids and staff can read it

    It's raining now... the other day we got hail so bad that the sound of it hitting my car roof drowned out the sound of the music on the radio

    We went on the Acronix tour last week, to a few public schools. It was in the Victoria area, where Rusty is well known and loved. The team's performances went well and they were received with enthusiasm. I was a bit tired going into the trip, but did all right. Worked the spotlight for them

    We went out today for a bike ride, out along Bateman road and up around where the Penners used to live. Russ got my bike repaired, but the gears still need a bit of a tune up. Still, I had fun although I forgot to bring water with me and got really dry. We both plan to buy water bottles for the two bicycles

    It's a long weekend here. Tomorrow is Victoria Day. We are not planning to do anything but putter around the house

    Well, take care and I hope you enjoy this news

    Love Mom :)

  • At 9:34 AM, Blogger Smashing Pumpkin said…

    Found this while browsing around online... You'll have to climb that one day, when you make it back to Canadaland...

    Miss you Lots!

  • At 1:01 AM, Blogger garett gulash said…

    Howdy Liberia 2005,
    I'm impressed with what you wrote here in your The 1st Few Days in Liberia - A Shocker post. I gave up my search for information and wanted to hang out here on your blog - well done. I might make a blog like yours about , but I wouldn't try to compete with you. You're doing a great job Liberia 2005.
    You got a great thing going... by friend.

  • At 1:28 PM, Blogger peter flauwscey said…

    Hey Liberia 2005...
    How did you get your blog to be so good? Originally I was out trying to locate new surfboards related information, but your post ' The 1st Few Days in Liberia - A Shocker ' got my attention and stopped me in my tracks :) Glad I found you because I'm trying to improve my site about new surfboards and your blog here gave me some excellent ideas. Thanks Liberia 2005 for the good read and I think I'll mention your blog to my cousin (if that's okay...)

    Keep up your effort ~ and good job.

  • At 3:15 PM, Blogger zack powers said…

    Great post Liberia 2005, without blogs like yours I would be miserable and bored. My recent injury has me cooped up at home, so it's always lucky to find a gem like your blog here to keep me amused. My new surf board website is getting better but it's hard to find information on new surf board stuff, so I like learning from quality blogs like yours because it helps me in my web projects. You do a sweat job my friend. I'll be bookmarking your site in a special place. Will probably tell a friend too.

    Nice work ~

  • At 1:39 PM, Blogger jacob jiminhimer said…

    Hi, you almost lost me for one second there... but I'm glad I didn't click away. First, I enjoyed your post, and second, maybe you can help. I don't know how much blog spam you get but I get tons on my blog. Most of the time I'm talking about new surf boards stuff because I have a new surf boards website, and people post all this junk with their links and stuff. As blog owners, I guess we'll always be subject to the unethical and inconsiderate. Well, hopefully it's not driving you to crazy... Good luck partner, enjoy the positives friend.

    Bye ~

  • At 9:59 PM, Blogger zack powers said…

    Howdy Liberia 2005,
    I'm impressed with what you wrote here in your The 1st Few Days in Liberia - A Shocker post. I gave up my search for surf boards information and wanted to hang out here on your blog - well done. I might make a blog like yours about surf boards, but I wouldn't try to compete with you. You're doing a great job Liberia 2005.
    You got a great thing going... by friend.

  • At 2:10 PM, Blogger garett gulash said…

    Liberia 2005, I need a little inspiration... I've read your post 'The 1st Few Days in Liberia - A Shocker', I enjoyed it so I decided to comment. I've been thinking about my blog and how there are all these people posting strange comments there. Maybe you understand, I'm not sure, but it's tiring to read the numbers of comments that don't have much to do with my stuff. My normal new surf board website never suffers this because it just sells new surf board and isn't a blog. Do you have any ideas for how to stop the cluttering of non-relevant comments? Thanks for your great blog. Tips are always welcome...

    good day -


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