Started the day at 4am…we drove 3 hours out to the jungle (Bong Mines is the name of the area), and met with Chinese Mine officials that are supposed to be renovating a school, but aren’t getting it done (they got mining rights in exchange for fixing a road, a school and a hospital…none of which are done). We negotiated to get a town hall meeting next week and to have Lifting Liberia help direct the project.
We went to the Bong Mines High School and met with two girls on scholarship with Lifting Liberia. One of them, Roselane, had been taken advantage of by an older man who promised to pay her school fees in exchange for sex (she never got them paid, but she did get two babies…and no way to feed them). The other girl, Fatu, had been making charcoal in the jungle (cut down a tree, chop it into pieces, wrap it in leaves and grass, dig a hole, start a fire in it and drop the tree parts in it…burn for a few days until it’s charcoal…oh, and sleep next to it on the ground all the time so nobody steals it).
We then drove another 1 1/2 hours further into the jungle and were paddled in two canoes across a river and hiked another hour to a primitive and isolated part of the jungle called Budwala where people give their children away to city dwellers in hopes that they can get an education (most of the children end up just selling in the streets to make money for the family that took them rather than going to school). We stood in a mud-hut-K-through-3rd-grade school there and met dozens of children and discussed with local leaders what we could do to help.
Budwala literally has diamonds on the ground and gold-laced sand in the streams but they’re so primitive they don’t know what to do with it and in the meanwhile their children have to live off the jungle and start jungle-farming from the day they’re born…most become illiterate and live a life of manual labor.
On the way back to Monrovia we met Nathan, a 12 year old boy who sells on the street from morning to night to pay for his father’s drinking addiction and to get food for the family. He was selling this morning as we drove to Bong Mines and on the way out (about 8pm) we saw him again. Tonight he was selling cooked dog head meat (yes, you read that right). His eye was nearly swollen shut because a man took some food from him and didn’t pay…when Nathan tried to get the money the man beat him up. When Nathan’s father lets him keep some of the day’s earnings he saves it up. He is hoping to get enough to buy a notebook so that if he goes to school someday he can write with the other children. We asked him to take us to his house and he did. His mother is crippled and can’t walk. His sisters are uneducated (his older sister doesn’t even know how old she is). And sure enough, his father is a drunk. We got his information and committed to send someone back to help.
We then drove the remaining two hours back to our apartment.
These are just some of the things that happened today.
I have to say, I’m beat and overwhelmed. I don’t know how we’re going to be able to help all the people I’ve talked to, but I think God has a solution in mind…at least I pray that’s the case.
This is a shot of the canoe that we are on. They go out into the bush to find a large enough tree and hollow it out. The process takes about a month when doing it without modern tools. The canoes themselves last for 4 years (with good weather.) These were three years old.
As we were in Bong County we heard about two towns that were across the St. Paul River. This area is called Budwala. They are living in a primitive state and have to send their children into the city if they want to get an education. Most of the children end up just selling on the street and not getting an education. In order to get to town, they have to take canoes and paddle across the St Paul river. We went across it twice. —
While in Bong County we meet Isaac. Every time I tried to ask him about himself he would give me this little grin. This is a great representation that I think the Liberian people feel. They are happy and have so much hope even though they are in the slums and have had such a painful life and history. It makes me want to do anything I can to help them.
Because of the rough conditions of the roads, it took us 3 hours to drive through the jungle to the Bong Mines. What an experience to go through the jungle of Africa and talk to people and what they need- to see what they have and what we take for granted
Jay: Some of what happened today:
Although we woke up at 4am, it wasn’t until 6am that we were on the road (this is how it works in Liberia, everything is slower). On our way out to Bong Mines I saw a dead body in the street, the individual got hit by a car, the police set up 3 orange cones so no one else would run the body over, there were no ambulances or medical staff to help, just cars and people zipping by.
We met many people but the highlight of the day was seeing these cute kids, in the picture below, who live in a small village on a very primitive island across the St. Paul river (a river where many fall prey to drowning as they try to cross to get home from the larger towns, something that is a common occurrence).
The best thing about this was after I shot the photo I showed the girl the picture on my camera…she was shocked at first as she realized she had no idea she looked that way, then she giggled and her smile grew wider. This is one of my favorite shots!