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Liberia 2010 -International Development in Microcosm

Liberia

Liberia 2009 - 
Growing and Learning Liberia 2008 -
How it all began The Photography Project (2008)

International Development in Microcosm

I think we will look back on the project we have set up in Liberia in years to come and marvel at our ambition, shaking our heads at the same time and breath a sigh of relief that it worked well without damage to life and limb.

Women4Resources is a small band of determined women in Swansea.  In Liberia, CWFP4L is an equally determined group of women living from hand to mouth, thanking God for everyday they wake that illness hasn’t struck their families.  They try hard to grasp the opportunity being offered of training for a better life in the future, while trying to maintain their families in the here and now.



Our task has been to provide training in marketable skills and in running systems of financial accountability.  Training too in lateral thinking to see gaps in the market for income generation for themselves and now for the future of the training centre. All this, from the basis of an education which is strong on learning facts but where problem solving is absent.  We are now asking the group to prepare for a future with decreasing funding from us, when the whole country is struggling to escape from the last 20 years of hand-out thinking, the unforeseen effect of the UN and USA supporting them through the aftermath of the dreadful civil war.  

It is only on this, my 4th visit that some people began to speak without prompting of details of the war.  When I commented on the stench from deep puddles of standing water in the centre of Monrovia, one woman said “the rebels used to make us lie down in the mud and said  ‘swim for your life’ and watch us struggle through this”  They may or may not have been shot while doing so.  They told me stories of their survival while seeing death within inches of their children.


A usually ready source of bread today is at hand from “bustin’ rocks”. However, I learned that the building industry is slowing as the Chinese road programme nears completion and a more suitable source of harder rocks has been found and is being quarried and broken mechanically some distance away.  


They can see that the laborious process of becoming a competent tailor, baker, hair dresser and now, literate computer user is where they need to go, but the privations of life, demands of the family and frequent illness inevitably get in the way. The temptations presented by funds from the North, are all too real.  (I could be describing Social Regenerations programmes in the UK)

The Achievements are thrilling

With our help, the group is still going strong after 4 years.  100 women have probably taken part in the training (which means also influencing 500+ children) and gone on to do other things, or in some cases, are still there, now teaching, advising, encouraging new members.  Women who barely looked at us on our first visit now stand up and speak in the group, cajole the reluctant and argue with me.  

Women greeted me with excitement telling me about their businesses:




                                                                                  




                                                                  
































Rebecca

hugged me warmly when we met in the road.  She struggled most to become a tailor and still comes to class to continue learning.  She also bakes to provide for her family and sells basic food stuffs such as oil and pepper.  She has been going to literacy classes every evening for the past year, after working all morning and coming to class every afternoon, as has her friend Hannah.

Victoria

I described after my last visit as the saddest woman I met. Now with a tiny loan of $25, she makes simple rice and sauce in her house, serving only 10 – 15 people at a time, but is happy and prospering and aiming to open a small restaurant.  Her son has been in hospital for 2 months after a football accident, but fortunately her family in the interior have stepped in to look after him (the essential value of family support)


Hannah

Started with nothing 3 years ago, paid back a $600 loan from selling fabric and increased it to $1000 within a year, bought a car in year 2 and now is on the point of opening a double shop selling fabric and groceries.

Oretha

is the group Finance Officer, despite having had no schooling whatsoever.  Her mother was blind and she was the one to lead her around.  She now feeds and educates 8 children, looks after a disabled husband, all from an income from making donuts at weekends, rising at 2 in the morning to start the process.  She learned how to do this in the baking class.  She regularly came to me on her way to the market at 7.30 am for a maths lesson and a bit of simplified double entry book-keeping.                                  

Sarah

at 25 is in her final year of school, has been in the group from the start.  In 6 months she has bought her own sewing machine with the proceeds from making school skirts for her class mates.  She has taken change of the agricultural project we have just started next to the centre, which will mean getting others to help her carry water from a creek 20 minutes away in the dry season.


Marian

18 months ago Marian could not thread a needle and now makes the most beautiful elaborate tailored traditional clothes.  She also runs a market stall selling second hand clothes and described how she started with the profits from selling children’s clothes she had made with us, and then bought bigger and better quality bundles of used clothes until her goods are excellent quality and commands good prices.  She is a huge asset to the group and has an instinctive business sense.  She now teaches hair design which is big business – you see hair being plaited and woven on the roadside, near houses and in a growing number of beauty parlours.  Marian readily sees to the heart of the matter and expresses her opinion freely.  She often has a hard time for this but is passionate about the group and I value her honesty and staying power.

These are the headlines.  The other women can see these successes and take courage.  The next group of tailoring apprentices will start in January 2011. It was a huge pleasure to see the now experienced trainees, teaching new group members.  

The Challenges

The group accepts that it must:


This is the sort of learning we do in Community Development in the UK.  It is barely more difficult there than here.  Poverty and trauma are not conducive to new thinking and taking risks – we cling to what we know. T he fact that some can do it, encourages the rest.  The dedication of the small leaders group in Rockhill Village is remarkable and their growing ability to face change gives me great hope.


Nonn Vaughan  -  December 2010