Friday, March 28, 2008

President of Liberia Thanks Project HOPE and U.S. Military

Today was a very exciting day. Even though the GIK donation from Project HOPE was delivered yesterday, this morning we went to a ceremony to thank all of those involved in Africa Partnership Station and Dave, Sharon and I got to go. My function there was to take pictures. As we drove to Redemption Hospital there was a big banner hanging welcoming Ambassador Booth and Madame President Sirleaf to the hospital for the ceremony.
When we walked into the hospital they checked my backpack because of all the high officials that were going to be there. Not only was the Minister of Health, Minister of Defense, and Ambassador Booth going to be there, President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf would be speaking too.

There were a ton of reporters there so I was trying to find a good place to stand so I could get pictures because I knew as soon as the President walked in the door I would be pushed out of the way. While we waited and Dave and Sharon mingled with all the right people we were treated to some music sung by a children's choir from Trinity United Methodist School. All of the children were dressed in yellow shirts with a green and white paisley sash across their chest and navy blue skirts or pants with navy blue socks and black shoes. They sang really well and looked to genuinely be enjoying themselves. Every once in a while I would hear their director yell "smile, smile" and then he would begin to dance as they sang. They sang Christian songs and had only a bongo player to accompany them as they sang.

President Sirleaf and Ambassador Booth finally emerged from the hospital after touring the wards. She came out in a traditional outfit that was black and purple and sat in the center of the first row with Ambassador Booth. As the ceremony began the children's choir group sang a selection and that was followed up by the U.S. Military band playing the Star Spangled Banner and then the Liberian National Anthem. It was really cool to see everyone rise and see all the military men in uniform salute throughout both songs.

Seven people including Sirleaf spoke during the ceremony and the theme seemed to be the same throughout. It was interesting to see that all the American officials read written speeches while only one of the Liberians did. Also every time someone said something funny a trombone would go off as the crowd laughed almost like a drum after a comedian tells a joke. Everyone thanked Project HOPE and APS for all the work they have done and the Minister of Health called for his own people to donate to more of their time for the good of the country.

President Sirleaf also echoed the Ministers remarks and thanked APS for all their services and bringing HOPE. Saying about the Swift "this is a different kind of a vessel. A vessel with soldiers no doubt as we see them all dressed in their attire. But a vessel that brings hope building upon the Project HOPE, a vessel that brings service, a vessel with people who also join our people in sacrificial service to those who need that service most. We want to extend to each and every one of you our hand of friendship and gratitude for what you've done in coming to join us and responding to the needs of our people."

After the ceremony ended she was walking right past me so I extended my hand to say hello and thank you and she shook it. Of course I have no picture because I am the one with the camera and I had no one to take it but I was still wonderful to shake her hand and witness her give a speech within a couple feet of me. She is truly an inspiring woman.

...And Volunteers Conitnue Work at JFK Hospital

When I returned to JFK I was met by the Midwives—Sue and Robin—who were going to present Dr. McDonald and the midwives with 60 textbooks Robin had bought to bring back to JFK as she promised the last time she was here. I went with them over to the school on campus and Robin and Sue both gave something to the school. As I stood in the room, that is actually a library, I noticed a lot of the books are really out of date (some from the 60's) so the books they donated will come in really handy.

After the book donation I went again on my rounds looking for the volunteers in their respective places. I found Christella in the women's clinic in the yellow building. She was working with a really nice doctor. I walked in the door and smelled smoke, cigarette smoke but thought it was coming from outside the hospital but then I was informed by the doctor working with Christella—who was also at this point sniffling from the smoke—that it was coming from the office of a foreign doctor who apparently smokes all the time. I was really disturbed by this because he was seeing pregnant women and he was making the entire clinic reek of cigarette smoke. But there was nothing we could do because we have no authority so I just passed on the word that this was going on and hopefully someone tells him to take it outside.

Later Christella told me that she had actually spent part of the morning trying to find the appropriate place for a seven year old girl to be seen. Apparently the girl's mother had lost a child at birth, and then her 16 year old died gruesomely in the war so she had always been very protective of her daughter. She took her to work with her the other day and a man raped the seven year old. I know I mentioned before most women in this country have been raped but it was still shocking to hear a seven year old had been raped. The little girl was at the clinic but Christella felt she should be seen by pediatrician who specializes in such cases. After taking her to Faye and then back to the women's clinic Christella was so disappointed to find out that there is a rape clinic for women but nothing for children because there are no resources for it.

Tomorrow is our last day working at JFK and we leave Liberia back to the U.S. on Friday night. Hopefully we will be back. I know a few of the volunteers want to come back and hopefully we made a difference.

--Marisol Euceda

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