Group visits several West Africa Initiative partner villages
April 29, 2017
A Sierra Leone resident recently said that the drive from Kenema to the Liberian border is like riding six hours inside of a concrete mixer. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) delegates visiting the region agreed with this assessment after making the trip on the all-dirt road.
For those who are used to traveling on paved, two- to four-lane roads, driving on unmaintained dirt roads can be a major reality check. But for the people living in the remote villages, this is their daily life. The best way to get from village to village is by motorbike. People walk for miles from village to marketplace and back in daylight and darkness. It’s what they do.
West Africa Initiative (WAI). Currently, 17 groups connected with WAI serve approximately 4,000 direct beneficiaries. WAI, which was established in 2008, is helping communities become self-sufficient through agriculture and business development and work toward common societal goals, not merely individuals or villages.
Wellkerma Village, outside the city of Monrovia, suffered great losses during the country’s war and the recent Ebola crisis. Many men in the village were killed, leaving the women to step up and put their words into actions. “We have done well with your support. The farms here are well managed,” said Pala Beyan, one of the women who is a village leader. “Our source of life here is farming. Through WAI, we have been able to not only organize ourselves but help other villages. For the first time, we have unity among villages.”
“People will come to us, seeking to join, but we may not always have the ability to help them,” said Daniel Nurpah, one of the village leaders. “All we can do at times is encourage them. Many are following in our footprints, observing what we are doing and then putting that into practice in their own villages.”
Wellkerma, like many villages in Liberia, grows corn, peanuts and various fruits and vegetables. Many of the residents, through WAI training, have begun working in beekeeping. Some individuals have begun to profit from the work.
The town of Ganta is believed by many to be the breadbasket of Liberia. The delegation visited a village that has seen growth in many areas thanks to the hard work of both men and women.
“I am a widow with 11 children and I began working on my own garden from what I learned with the WAI training,” said Jannet Kollie. “We are able to eat from the garden and sell some of the vegetables for money.”
“I believe that all of the hope you have given us is changing lives,” said James Gbozee. “I have five children who were not in school. Now, I can send all of them to get an education. Lives are changing and if you come back, you will see the difference.”
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Self-Development of People and the Presbyterian Hunger Program are jointly responsible for WAI in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Representatives from the ministries say they are encouraged by what they saw at all five Liberian villages over the course of the week.
“I am inspired to see how far you’ve come with this program,” said Luke Asikoye, PDA international associate. “You have suffered, but you have strength and have broken through the wall and [have] not only helped improve your situation, but are making strides to improve education.”
Many of the young people in the villages spoke of their desire to pursue an education. Some want to be teachers or farmers, and others want to become mechanical engineers or doctors. One said he wishes to become a senator.
“The young people we visited have dreams just like everyone else, and we’ve told them they can be anything they want to be,” said Valery Nodem, PHP international associate. “They have the ability and determination to do whatever they want to do.”
The Rev. Alonzo Johnson, SDOP coordinator, was making his first trip to the region and said he was deeply moved by what he saw. “It’s inspiring for us to see them doing everything for themselves. They are teaching us in America how to be independent and not depend on the government to fix things. They have taken advantage of their own power.”
Rick Jones, mission communication strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: PC(USA) delegation tours farming communities in Liberia
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Mission Co-workers
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Thank you, Lord, for opportunities to share our gifts and learn from one another. Please give us the strength and courage to remain faithful to you while working hard to care for the rest of your children. We pray all this in your precious Son’s name. Amen.