Sunday, April 13, 2008

Volunteeers Explore Monrovia and its Culture

This weekend, volunteers took advantage of an opportunity to see Liberia beyond the several block section they have been working and living in for the past week. On Saturday, we packed into four taxi cabs for a Liberian-style ride to the U.S. Embassy and shopping market. My cab had a windshield busted in two places and absolutely no shocks. As we bounced and swerved down the unmarked chaotic streets inhaling diesel fumes and other undesirable odors through our open windows, we finally got a look at the real city of Monrovia. Like our little corner at the Urban Villa hotel, the city of Monrovia was bustling with energy, yet signs of the war were evident everywhere. High Rise buildings which must have once been part of a thriving city were gutted to concrete, and five years after the war has ended still remain dark and empty.

Still mothers in brightly colored dresses carried their babies on their backs while balancing food and other items on their heads. Kids played near streets and people sold and bought fruits, vegetables, toiletries and other items at make shift markets set up along the busy busy streets. And everyone seemed to be hailing a taxi or walking rapidly to get somewhere.

The pristine tropical and quiet grounds of the U.S. Embassy in Liberia were quite a contrast to the city of Monrovia. Unfortunately we could not photograph the campus. Our cameras were taken from us and passports checked at the gate.

After lunch at the Embassy we shopped in a market set up on the Embassy grounds. Dianne Bennett and Amy Bream, ever the caring nurses made instant friends with the children of the village after buying them lollipops.

With a police escort, we braved the streets of Monrovia on foot for a quick tour of Providence Island. The only historic site in Monrovia, Providence Island marks the spot were freed slaves from the United States landed in Liberia to form their own city, Monrovia, named after U.S. president James Monroe. Before the civil war in the country, the park on Providence Island had been preserved and boasted a restaurant, small hotel and game building as well as the original well used by the freed slaves who landed on the island. Today the buildings are concrete shells. With so much other rebuilding to do in the country, I am sure the historic Providence Island is way down on the list of priorities.

On Sunday, we traveled through Monrovia to Ce Ce Beach, a beautiful Atlantic coast beach somehow affiliated with the United Nations. The UN has a very visible presence in post-war Liberia and it is difficult to walk down the streets more than a block or two before you see a UN vehicle. On the way to the beach, we passed more rural villages, a huge open air market and a few tiny military posts complete with soldiers manning their posts with serious looking guns.

After a much needed weekend of rest, the volunteers are ready for another productive and very busy week at the JFK Hospital. This week, they will turn their focus to specific health education topics that have been designed to meet the needs of the JFK staff. Two congruent sessions will be held each morning with a critical care tract and a nursing tract. In the afternoon , less formal workshops will include one-on-one training with individual staff members to help reinforce the lessons taught in the morning sessions.

Enjoy the photos of Project HOPE volunteers in and around Liberia.

--Melanie Mullinax

1 comment:

  1. Mellanie, great blog. I spent my Sunday afternoon at Caldwell, watching the Caldwell Community League Soccer Championship. The Dusty Road team won, 1-0. Some excitement ensued, as a man with a broken beer bottle threatened several by standers...but the community took matters into their own hands.