Seriously. No time! That’s what Henry, our program manager, says 27 times throughout the day: “But, Pen! No time!” And then he laughs his head off. It cracks me up.
The last 10 days or so, we have been running around Monrovia meeting as many people as we can, making sure events don’t fall through, keeping programs and staff on track…. Or at least, we’re attempting to do all these things, more or less successfully. Given the constraints (Christmas season madness, bumper-to-bumper traffic jams), I think Henry and I are faring pretty well. Among other completely random things I have been doing, I had to explain the difference between 1.5 and 0.25 to one of the cooks for the School Nutrition Initiative today. She thought that “1 1/2” meant “half of a half” – oh boy. It’s not easy, especially when you have “no time.”
Last Friday was the official launch of HapFam, the Center for children with disabilities. It was really wonderful to see the children wearing their uniforms for the first time, looking so happy and proud. Attendance was good, and even though not as many NGOs and agencies showed up as I would have liked, I was glad to see that many parents came. The director of the rehabilitation division at the Ministry of Health and the president of the National Commission on Disability both spoke during the event, and highlighted the fact that in spite of the challenges people living with disabilities face, they are still full of potential and can contribute in the home, in the community, in the workplace. Because of the stigma associated with disability (“crippled”, as they often say here), these children are often rejected by even their own families, and I think that for these parents to hear from these two gentlemen – themselves physically disabled – was a step towards creating more acceptance.
Today, thanks to the super efficient and friendly Arwin at Journalists for Human Rights, a TV crew from Love TV (a Liberian media org) came to do a piece on HapFam – I’m particularly excited about the recent media coverage they’ve gotten and happy that people across Liberia (well, those with access to a television) will be able to see the incredible passion, enthusiasm and hard work that the staff at HapFam are putting into making their Center a model. If you haven’t yet seen my recent photos of the HapFam children in their own school, wearing their new uniforms, you can view them here.
I’m off for a final upcountry trip tomorrow morning, which I’m really looking forward to. It’ll be great to get away from the hustle and bustle of Monrovia and learn more about what’s happening in these often overlooked parts of Liberia. Unfortunately, neither of my awesome Guinean drivers will be joining me on this trip. A new guy, James, is who we’ve been assigned by the car rental guy – let’s hope he is even half as cool as his French speaking, gentle counterparts. Better, less frenzied updates upon my return to Christopolis this weekend (Christopolis, according to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s autobiography, was the other potential name that settlers were considering for what became Monrovia. If you had to chose between naming your capital city after J.C. or after U.S. President James Monroe, what would you pick?)