I’ve been in Liberia for eight weeks; I stepped in to the Country Director role with excitement and a little trepidation, having served across Africa in different contexts and countries but never in Liberia and never in this type of role. It’s been quite a steep learning curve; learning the culture and customs while handling operational crises, understanding the working and relational styles of the staff members I’m now overseeing, and entering in to the trajectory of the work we’re doing for the good of mama Liberia and all her children. But with eight weeks under my belt and still plenty to learn, there is one thing I know for sure:
There is so much.
There is so much need.Every day I see children that don’t have enough to eat, sleeping on dirt floors under leaky roofs with little or no parental guidance. I interact with men and women who want to better provide for their growing families but have no means to do so. I go to meetings with partners and it ends up being a long discussion about all the things we don’t have enough of; money, awareness, support, understanding, trust, supplies, food, transportation, personnel, training… the list continues. There’s a set of twins that needs formula, can you help? I need another job, can I come wash your floors? How about your car? My child is sick, can you bring us to the hospital?
There is so much strength. Every one of those meetings is filled with professionals who work with almost no supplies, who make very little money, and who face corruption, greed, poverty, and need every single day; and yet, they still show up, every single day. They’re determined to make this country and their situation better somehow, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. They are determinedto see this country into a better future and willing to do whatever it takes to get there.
There is so much broken.Imagine your childhood stolen by a vicious civil war that tore apart families and closed schools and hospitals and took away basic services like power, water, and communications. A few years later, just as things were starting to look up, your country was devastated again by a catastrophic Ebola epidemic that killed thousands and left the rest in fear of basic human contact. Education, healthcare, national security, infrastructure and roads, child protection services, communications, transportation, training programs for adults, special education and special needs care… on and on, these services are all barely hanging on to the paltry budget they’re allocated because so few people actually pay taxes, and each has its own chorus screaming about the crisis that will happen without more money, more people, and more resources allocated to them. Systems are held together with a prayer and some scotch tape, while many procedures, policies, and systems that should exist for the protection of citizens just simply don’t exist yet.
There is so much hope.The first peaceful transition of power, the successful eradication of Ebola, the strides they’ve made in recent years has infused the people with a special kind of hope. There’s an energy, an excitement for the future of this nation that’s palpable and encouraging and oh, so needed by her people.
There is so much beauty.In the faces of the children, their huge smiles and hugs and songs. In the brilliant fabrics sewn into stunningly creative gowns and headpieces worn throughout the city. In the red dirt and the lush green countryside, in the piles of ripe pineapples, flowering bougainvillea, the wave of the security guards and the peanut sellers and the policemen I pass on the way to the office. It’s also in the hearts and passions of the world changers who find themselves here in this city, putting one foot in front of the other, trying to do the next right thing for this beautiful place and her beautiful people.
There is so much good. I’m so privileged to see it, firsthand, every day. Our dedicated staff, pouring themselves out every day for the benefit of others. The excitement of our university students as they plan for their careers; the hope of our sponsored children as they dream of their futures. The gratitude of our existing partners and the excitement from potential new partners; together we are able to go further in the fight against despair, hopelessness, exploitation, abuse, and other heinous realities faced by children across the globe every day.
There is so much more.I feel it, and I’m excited by it. There is so much positive energy that we can help harness into even more initiatives to protect children. There is so much possibility for bringing more hope and help and joy and abundant life, here and now and in the days and weeks to come. As I learn my way around Monrovia, as I meet another potential partner, as I plan a training, share a meal with another world changer, encourage a university student, work out an expense report, pray with a staff member, or any other of the zillions of things that make up my life and work and calling here in Liberia, I find myself dreaming bigger and bigger dreams for our work here in this nation and on this continent.
Thank you for trusting me with this work. Thank you for joining us in it. Thank you for being a part of my story and theirs. May the fruits of our labor and your generosity be greater than we can ask or imagine!
~Krissy Close, Country Director, Liberia.
You can follow our day-to-day work here in Liberia on Twitter at @voicewithaction