Monday 12.6 – Talks with Firestone and GBF’s Advisory Board
On our agenda, one of the most important to-do’s was to meet with a representative of Firestone Natural Rubber Company in Liberia. Firestone has been an important facet in the Liberian commnunity pre and post the civil war. As manufacturers and producers of rubber, their most important input (latex) is abundant in Liberia. Many rubber plantations were able to provide for their own families (like my own) and the families of those that worked for them through long term contracts with Firestone. I met with Carlos W. Smith, Communication Manager for Firestone Liberia, with whom I discussed plausible donated cargo shipping space and also radio airtime on their station “Voice of Firestone Liberia” to be launched in the earlier half of 2011.
Sonponrina and I also met with Lee Mason, the County development officer for Bomi County and Assistant Minister for Planning. One of Lee Mason’s many hats also includes sitting on the Advisory Board for GBF as of recently. We talked about where we are currently as a nonprofit and strategy development. Within the following year, we will be re-evaluating the effectiveness of our current projects and looking at room for improvement.
Tuesday 12.7 – Office almost space complete
We spent most of the day transporting barrels of Maternal Care Packages from storage to our new office and setting up our new space. Tomorrow, the administrators at the Liberian Government will be hosting a ceremony to spread the word about the opening of our office that will be managed by our Liberia Correspondent, Paul Kangar.
We tweeted about the sign that we made for the office. However, the internet cafe was out of ink when we arrived to print. Nonetheless, the staff at the Liberian Government Hospital came to our rescue with local sign that could do the job for our big day tomorrow!
Wednesday 12.8 – The big Ceremony!
I live for more days like today!
Women poured in from the surrounding communities in Bomi County for the ceremony – women from the Gola Women Association, the Klay Town, Tubmanburg, etc. It was certainly heartfelt for the women to show how important it was for us to be there. They presented me with this blue head tie as a token of their appreciation. Dr. Rhonda Peters and the administrator and staff presented a gift, again for their appreciation – for “not forgetting about us” (a popular Liberian phrase). Let it be known that word of mouth from a “dedication” or “ceremony” in Liberia is the fastest way to spread information as 51.75% of the population is illiterate. However, the effectiveness of this ceremony can only be measured within the upcoming months…how many mothers will inquire about the “mama baby packages” and come to receive them at out new office? How many will come to the Liberian Government Hospital based on the recommendations of the elderly women who were here today? How many will come on their own? Can we then quantify how effective these kits are and then replicate this in other counties?
See footage from the ceremony here, soon!
Thursday and Friday 12.9-10 – Wrapping up our trip
We used these last two days day to tie up loose ends and finalize what’s left to handled by Paul upon Sonporina and my departure.
As always, visiting my first home country is a whirlwind of emotions – it’s exciting, scary, sad, and joyous at the same time. Juxtaposed to my second home country, it always seems soo farfetched though. A little surreal…the way women and children live here. But I’m excited for what the future holds for Liberia and the part that GBF can play in the recovery. A girl should not grow up motherless only to fear that when she has children someday her fate will be the same – looming death. The cycle can end or at least be mitigated so that children and mothers can live up to their fullest potential.
USA bound in two days!
Editors note: Gbomai and Sonponrina returned to the United States on December 12th, 2010