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

Friday, January 27, 2006

Ceres Fruit Juice: Are you tired of that dead end job? Does road rage have you ready to blow? This new multi-purpose, behaviour-changing beverage can quench the thirst of the quickest New York City Marathon runners. Here is wannabe base jumper and GQ model Marcel Koppejan demonstrating what Ceres Fruit Juice is all about.
Posted by Kev-o-rama

Monday, January 23, 2006

Its Not All Fun and Games

I thought it was probably appropriate to tell you guys that here in Liberia it isn’t all fun and games. There are times, times which comprise about 95% of my time here, when work does actually get done. To give everyone an idea of the projects that we run I thought it would be insightful for me to share some details about the ongoing projects. I didn’t want everyone to think that my time here is spent primarily cliff jumping, surfing, and climbing large structures because that would be a very unfair picture of what is happening on the ground.

Our main project that has been ongoing for a few years now, at varying sizes and impact levels, is our integrated community health care project currently funded by USAID/OFDA and Tearfund, a project that primarily focus on community health education in an effort to lower levels of disease and death caused by problems such as HIV/AIDS, water-borne diseases, and other prevailing health issues. Currently, we are also responsible for the rehabilitation and repair of various clinics in Nimba County, an area devastated by war and the primary location for our current projects. The current structure of the program is that there are a number of Supervisors who train and supervise our Community Health Ambassadors (CHAs) on the practices of proper health and “wholeness”. The CHAs then spread the news of good health practices throughout their family and community members. Recent external evaluations of our ongoing healthcare projects have been positive.

Also, at this time, we have a UNICEF-funded WATSAN (water & sanitation) project in Nimba County near the border of Cote d’Ivoire. This projects main outputs are to build 15 WATSAN packages - including one well with hand pump, one latrine (also known as an outhouse, port-o-potty, or Port-o-John), and a waste pit as well as eight additional wells at various schools in the region. Construction of all facilities are scheduled to be completed in March.

Another project that ended in December 2005 (we are currently looking to secure funding for the project to continue) was our UNICEF-funded “CEIP” Program, or Community Education Investment Program. It was a very interesting program whereby we reintegrated child fighters or children affected by the fighting factions, or CAFF, into school and back in to society.

We do have a number of smaller projects that include clinic and well building but it seems like an explanation of those projects would only be redundancy of already iterated points above. All projects that we do have the same goal in mind and that is to better the lives of Liberians in every aspect, or “wholistically” as some would call it.

Now what is my function in amongst all these projects? Well, my title is Finance and Reporting Manager but I think there are a lot of people who would agree that my title does not accurately depict a lot of what my job entails. Although I do perform a lot of report writing, both financial and narrative, I do perform various functions from logistics to project management, from proposal writing to systems design; a very all-encompassing position.

The Alpha and the Omega

This day was one that dreams are made of and something Marcel and I had wanted to do for quite some time now. The goal: To climb the Omega Tower – an approximately 1,450ft radio tower originally built by the Americans during World War II and located about 40 min east of Monrovia, just past the market area known as Redlight. For the last eight months that I have been here I have heard that this structure was 1,000ft tall. Today I found out that not only was it a thousand feet tall but it is almost five times the size of the Statue of Liberty and equal height to the Sears Tower, previously the world’s tallest structure until over taken by many other status seeking architects and nations alike. Its hard to really picture how huge this thing really is until you've been right there, first on the bottom and then, on the top of it. Word on the street in Monrovia is that they used to give a prize to people who had the guts enough to climb it all the way to the top. One of my employees told me that they gave someone $500USD and a car way back when for climbing this beast.

We woke up at 5am on a Sunday morning and started the ascent at 5:50am in order to possibly see the sun rise upon the lush landscape of Liberia. There was no sunrise to be seen due to all the cloud and low cast fog encompassing the tower and its surrounding area. Climbing in the dark and the fact that this mammoth structure hasn’t been used for who knows how many years made the first few hundred feet of the climb slow and tentative. With sunlight came confidence as we proceeded platform after platform; metal grate flooring set 100ft apart along the way up the tower. When clouds momentarily cleared, the view on the way up was spectacular; buildings and cars turning into tiny ant-like figures as the minutes passed. Our initial goal was to plant a geocache at the top as well as mount/duct tape a fairly large Canadian flag from one of the support beams at the top. Upon arrival at the top we rigged up/duct taped a geocache to the top and refreshed ourselves with a litre of South African Ceres juice.
What we forgot to do, and we’re kicking ourselves for not doing it, was to duct tape the Canadian flag to the top. It almost feels like a mission unaccomplished but by the signs of fatigue that we had by the time we made it down it doesn’t look like we’ll be going up it again anytime soon. Its one of those things that you’re happy that you’ve done but you’d never do EVER again! I think my hands are permanently shaped to grab ladder rungs, a rather painful experience for sure. If one of those rungs broke off while climbing up or down we would have made quite the pancake on the ground below. What I want to know is how on earth these engineers rigged this structure up. Its just plain massive! Luckily for us we didn’t get arrested and only had a few random spectators looking at us as we made our way down. If the Alpha means “the beginning”, I’m sure glad “the Omega’ didn’t mean the end of us!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Internet Explorer Formatting Problems

I have noticed that while using Internet Explorer sometimes the "Links" and "Archives" on the right hand side of the page tend to shoot down to the bottom of the page. I have been using Firefox as a browser, a much preferable browser with its multi-tab browsing, and am having no problems whatsoever. I am currently trying to fix the problem but in the meantime I have included a link so that you can view my "e-life" in bliss and with no hiccups. I'm just a perfectionist, what can I say!