Thursday, October 6, 2016

October 5, 2016 Dr. Carley? Old folks watch out!

2 Marching Bands and a Funeral: Don and I spent the afternoon finalizing the furniture for our apartment in Makeni. We were leaving downtown Freetown in stop-and-go rush-hour traffic Just as we reached an intersection, we were stopped by a motorcycle cop. A marching band, with people in high school graduation cap and gowns, entered the intersection from our left and it was followed by a ton of people who were walking and they were followed by a hearse which was followed by another marching band which was followed by a ton of walking mourners. After all of that turned down the road we needed to proceed on, we followed the end of the funeral procession and all the other non-funeral traffic which was behind us followed us. Then we came to a fork in the road and the police had the road blocked that we needed to go on so we were forced to follow the funeral procession down the other road that seemed to run parallel to the road we wanted to be on. But lo and behold, it only went a short ways and we ended up being forced to go into the cemetery with all the other non-funeral traffic behind us. Turning around on a one lane road was a CHORE and getting out of the cemetery was a nightmare. It took us over an hour to go less than 5 miles. Home never looked so good.

In the movie Fiddler on the Roof the song "Sunrise,Sunset " depicts a life of routine. In Sierra Leone you never have routine. We never know from one day to the next what to expect.

On the way home from the above experience, Don called the American vision Doctor we are working with on a cataract training project for local doctors. The local doctors will be trained on a new surgical procedure of removing cataracts practicing on pig eyes. Don asked the doctor if he would be allowed to be trained and allowed to practice on the eye of a pig. The doctor said, "yes" and chuckled! Oh boy! I sure am glad I had my cataracts removed last November. Whew!  

October 4, 2016

Mom Ward's Birthday.

I visited the mother of the young woman who wanted me to give her 260,000 Leones for books. As I visited the mother, I had the impression that the mother did not know anything about the letter her daughter gave me. So instead of broaching the subject, I just visited with her. Our conversation naturally came around to school and the mother told me she did not have enough money for all the books for her children, but she had made an agreement with the school to pay a little now and the rest later. The school trusts this woman and made the deal to let her children have the books they need now and receive payment as the mother can afford it (which they would not do for everyone). I felt that this woman has done all she can do and she is doing well. I did not bring up her daughter's letter and did not offer to give her money for books. I will speak to this young girl and ask her why she was asking me for money when she has all the books she needs.

October 3, 2016 - beware of the paparazzi

Don received a text from Saidu Conteh a few minutes ago that read: "I'm currently watching evening news on the TV a local TV program called 'We Yus'. They just showed you, Sister Carley and President Clawson on the TV. I was very happy to see you. It was fun showing you on our local TV show of the opening of a well project around the Bellair community." Don texted him back saying "Thank you for the update. I will come prepared to sign autographs tomorrow."

 We have received many letters from individuals requesting financial help. We received another one tonight. At 9:00 a young woman was knocking on the door. She handed me a letter. I read it and told her I would discuss it with Elder Carley and then I would visit with her mother. She needs 260,000 Leones for books. Holy cow! No wonder so many young people do not go to school. Their uniforms are more than 210,000 Leones each depending on the size. Bob is 5 years old and his was 210,000 for one.

October 2, 2016

General Conference weekend. This is the first time in the history of Sierra Leone that the saints here get to hear conference live. There was a lot of excitement. I thoroughly enjoyed it. We only got two sessions. We viewed the Saturday afternoon session on Sunday morning and the Sunday morning session was live at 4:00 p.m. Our time. I can hardly wait to get the printed copy of the Liahona.

October 1, 2016 - Jeanne is just like Hillary Clinton?

A most interesting day. We attended an opening celebration for two 10,000 liter Milla Tanks the Church supplied to the the Bellair Community (in two different parts of the community). It was not well attended by the community, which was a surprise. However, the political leaders were there plus the contractors, workers, the press, some community members, President Clawson, Don (all men) and me. They began the program with a prayer and they asked Don to say it. Then all the political leaders spoke and then they asked Don to Speak. He explained to the people that the members of the church all over the world sacrifice to contribute to the humanitarian fund and this is where we get the funds to help them. He told them they are looking at him, but there are thousands of people standing behind him. He said more than that and it was a very nice speech. After Don spoke, they asked me if I had anything to say. They only asked out of respect. Now keep in mind, women here are considered lower class and are typically not included. However, during the meeting many men and 3 women showed up and were standing behind all the previously mentioned men. When they asked me if I had anything to say, I politely said "yes". I parted the men and went back and hugged the 3 women. I didn't hear what one of them said, but Don told me later when I hugged her she said giddily "just like Hiliary Clinton". REALLY? Then still with my arms around two of the women I spoke to the men about the women, young girls and children being the ones to fetch water and this will help them. I talked about all of us being children of God and helping each other. I don't remember what I said but it was appropriate and it elevated the women. The interesting thing was I had a microphone in my face being held by a reporter. That was a first for me. Don told me later "you stole the show today". I did not know what he was talking about. He said the shining moment of the whole ceremony was when I hugged those 3 women and involved them. I did not plan to do that. I only knew that the women were being left out and they are the ones who do all the fetching, cooking, cleaning, etc. to provide for their families.

 After the whole thing was over there began to be a huge argument. Many men were yelling and screaming at each other and they were all talking at the same time. I kept hearing the word 1,000. The political leaders were yelling at the community men and the community men were yelling at the political leaders. It was getting very heated and I truly thought there was going to be a brawl. Don stood up on the Milla Tank Platform and called everyone to order. When they all shut up, he explained that it was he who demanded from the political leaders they charge "small, small" for a jerry can of water (40 lbs.). The leaders came up with the price of 1,000 leones ($.14). The community thought that was too much to ask. Don explained that if they want to continue to have clean drinking water then they would have to refill the tank. The only way that was going to happen was if they collected a little money for each jerry can. By the time he explained why we are doing what we are doing, they were very understanding. Plus Don put all the blame on himself and took it off of the political leaders. Don is the one with the "purse" and they were not going to fight with him. This is the first time we have tried this water approach. The community leaders are determined to bring clean drinking water to their community and will fight for it. That is exactly how this approach will succeed.

September 28, 2016 - with a follow up on sept 30

Attended a WASH (water and sanitation) meeting today in Kenema. Then we went out with Jonathan Cobinah to see a small bridge badly in need of repair. When it rains, a very large part of their community is flooded. They wanted to know if we can fix it for them. We told them "we don't know - no one has ever asked about a bridge. We will find out". Don attended a priesthood meeting with President Cobinah. Then we went to eat at the restaurant associated with our hotel. There was a man who walked in just behind us and sat alone. Before we got seated, Don looked at him and asked if he was alone. He said "yes". Don invited him to join us. He is a microbiologist/Veternarian specializing in rabies. He was fascinating to visit with. Don contacted Elder Greding in America and asked if we could do a bridge. He said "I don't think so, but you can ask".

Friday, September 30th - Got an E-mail from Brother Buah (our Boss In Accra) saying he would like more information on the bridge. Well, he didn't say NO. We will get back to him on Monday.

September 27, 2016

We came to Kenema today. We stopped in Bo on our way and ate lunch with the Sherwoods and left some subsistence money, some mail and a 4 drawer filer cabinet for one of the branches. Then we came to Kenema and met Jonathan Cobinah. He is a well digger, our site manager, and the district president. He was contacted by the Mayor. Of Kenema wanting to meet with us. So Jonathan called him and told him we were here and wanted to schedule an appointment for tomorrow. He insisted we come over right away. So we went to see him. We met with him and one of the community counsellors. The mayor told us that Kenema does not need any wells or toilets. Don and I were both shocked. He wanted to know if we could supply the schools with books. I told him we could supply the schools with furniture and chalkboards. He was so excited about that. There are a dozen schools in this town and most of them are overcrowded and the students sit on the floor. Yes, we can supply benches and tables. The best part about that is, we can have them made locally and give business to half a dozen or more carpenters. This is a win/win situation.

 We then had dinner with the Corbaleys.

September 25, 2016

The Sister that was annoyed and did not come to church for over a year, but came last week, was not there today.

September 24, 2016 - and a follow up from sept 27

We just had the saddest thing happen. Saidu Thoronka came over very upset because he called his mother who lives in Makeni and learned his 23 year old sister died this morning. She went out into the bush yesterday to collect firewood to sell and was bitten by a snake. His mother was crying "bitterly" when he called her. He came to us asking for money to go to the funeral which is tomorrow morning. He is very concerned for his mother. His sister would go out and collect firewood and then help her mother grind ingredients to make sweet breads to sell on the road. Without her daughter's help, she will not be able to work. Saidu has no money. He has worked for the last 6 years in a government secondary school and has not been paid one cent. School started a couple of weeks ago and Saidu did not go back to teach. He is looking for another job but here in Freetown, you don't get a job unless you have a connection. There are way more men here than there are jobs. Saidu is a polio victim so his choices of jobs are limited. I asked him about his mother's religion and if they would help her. He said his mother is a Muslim and his sister was a Christian. Her Christian church will pay for her burial. The Muslim's will not help with any of the expenses nor will they help take care of his mother. He has a very sad heart.

 Tuesday, September 27th - Saidu came by this morning to tell us his mother has a place to live and the people who took her in is only asking Saidu to provide 1/2 bag of rice a month to feed his mother. That is 100,000 Leones ($14.29) a month. That is a huge amount for someone with no job. He agreed to pay it but is very worried about how he can get that kind of money. A tender mercy: a polio victim that lives in the same PVA compound as Saidu is a principal at one of the local schools. As a matter of fact, we are going to do a project of handicap ramps and a handicap bathroom at this school. Anyway, he contacted Saidu yesterday and asked him to put in an application. He needs another teacher. Saidu has to get his paperwork from the university he graduated from showing he graduated.. He has to pay 30,000 Leones to get the paperwork from the clerk (bribe). He does not have it so he came asking for more money. Don gave it to him. He also told us his grandmother died last night and the funeral is tomorrow. This was his mother's mother. Can you imagine having your mother die one day after you buried your daughter? I can't. Now my heart is heavy.

September 23, 2016 - the blessings of an inspired aid program

President Armstrong passed away today. They do not know for sure what he died from, but they are guessing liver cancer.

A very busy day.

We met this morning with the Bellair Community Development Organisation to receive their deep appreciation for the completion of the project WE16SLE0008 which was for two 10,000 liter Milla Tanks on platforms and basements. There were 10 people in attendance including Don and me. We began with prayer which was given by the Chairman Elect and then we were given a blessing by Bishop Samba, the Chairman of the project. The blessing extended to us came from Psalm 41:1,2 & 3 "Blessed is he that considereth the poor: The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. 2. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive, and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. 3. The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: that will make all his bed in his sickness. (Heal all his infirmities when he is sick.)"

Allusive Kamara, Chairman of Bellair Community Development Organisation, then extended the deep heartfelt appreciation of the community. He re-emphasized their commitment to take care of the Milla Tanks, to have a caretaker who will watch over the tanks and collect a small fee for each liter of water promising the fee will be equal to the economy of the people yet be enough to keep the Milla Tanks full. He made the following statement: "You have let us into your purse and you are testing us." The test is to see if they will take care of the tanks and keep water in them to ease the suffering of the people. If they do, we told them it is possible we will do another project in their area. The other thing he said was "Spiritual Development is the most important part of a person's development. We will let the Latter-Day Saints into our community".

After he spoke a woman representing the women and children of the community thanked us for helping them because they live in an area where there is no water and the young girls have to go more than a mile from their homes to fetch water. They leave their homes at 4:00 a.m. To get to the water then have to wait in line. Sometimes they do not get home before school starts and they do not go to school at all. If they do go to school, they are very tired. When they come home from school they have to fetch water again. She also said that having the girls stay within their own communities will reduce teenage pregnancy.

There was a closing prayer offered by Bishop Samba. We all stood and held hands. This community would like to have an opening ceremony on October first.

September 22, 2016

We started a new project today. We are installing two more 10,000 liter Milla tanks with platforms and basements in New England Ville. We went to see how it was going. There were about 20 men all standing around and only 4 of them were actually working. Two men were using pick axes and were chopping up the ground and two men were following them shoveling out the rocks and dirt. There was a lot of excitement in the air. These people live in a community where there is little water. We made sure the workers all had plenty of water. Unfortunately, we did not have any food. These men either don't have food to bring with them (which is probably the case) or don't think about bringing lunch. We are going to have to be more diligent on making sure the workers have water and food. They will work better and longer if they have some energy to draw on plus they will want to work for us if they know they will be taken care of. All the men that have been hired by our contractors have been hardworking. We are pleased with the quality of work.

Sister Clawson and I went furniture shopping to put into our apartment in Makeni.

September 21, 2016

We met Michael from Willamett International (NGO) at Treeplanting to look at a site for a hand-dug borehole. We met the community chairman, Saidu Conteh, Our site manager Lionel Thomas, and several other people just interested in knowing why these white people were in their community. We walked way down what they call a "road" to the site and Michael determined that it was a good site. We will move forward with this project in December or January when the rains have slowed so they can dig deeper and get a better result. We were just heading back up the mountain when a truck from the other direction came by. The natives called to the driver and he stopped. They arranged for us white people to get a ride up to the top. Oh, how very nice. But it did give us a view of how a vehicle maneuvers the hillside.

September 19, 2016 - the concerned women of treeplanting - this is actually 3 entries

sunday sept 19
Once a year in Freetown, in the month of September, there is a terrible storm that does a huge amount of destruction. That happened today. Oddly, the storm only hit the south side of Freetown (it did not go over the mountain). The damage was huge. Many houses and outdoor kitchens were destroyed, retaining walls fallen over, trees uprooted, and many bodies washed down the mountain and found on the ocean beaches. A sad day for many. The mission home and office were not affected and we live on the back side of the mountain and did not get any rain at all.

Three women came into the office to see me today. They are from a group called "The Concerned Women Association of Treeplanting". We went into President Clawson's office and sat around the round table. They explained to me the purpose of their organization, showed me their constitution and then asked me to be the "mother" of their organization. I asked what the "mother" was suppose to do. They said, "you know, give advice, teach how to grow, be a mother". At this point they handed me an envelope. I opened it and it was an invitation to a huge celebration on the 29th of October launching their organization for another year. The invitation read "The honorable Mr. And Mrs. Carley invite you to the Celebration of the Association of the Concerned Women of Treeplanting, on Saturday, October 29th. . . Keynote Speaker, Mrs. Carley. . ." I had to tell them I am not available on the 29th of October. Our boss from Accra is coming on the 26th and will be working with us for 2 days on humanitarian projects and then on the 29th & 30th we are in training. However, I told them I would read through their constitution and think about it but I was not promising anything. They have a meeting every Sunday night at 5:30 and I want to attend a meeting. They thought that was great. I committed to attending their meeting this next Sunday. I asked them a ton of questions. Basically, they are a Relief Society. They go out and do odd jobs for pay and contribute the money to their organization. Then when they know of someone having a hardship within their community, they use their funds to help. Basically, what they want me to do is help them with business opportunities and help their organization to grow.

Sunday - September 25, 2016 - I went to Treeplanting to attend the Concerned Women of Treeplanting meeting. I met Mrs. Blake at the top of the mountain and walked half way down the mountain to the home of one of the members. I saw a side of the "poor" I have not seen before. This house was made of concrete and was among all the zinc houses. When I walked in there were 25 black women sitting in a dark room that was much too small for that many people. I was the last person to arrive because Mrs. Blake and I have a different definition of a "round-about". When we finally found each other, it was passed the starting time. But when I walked into that dark room with all those dark women, my eyes were not adjusted to the dark yet and I could not see the women. But a round of applause rose up so I turned toward the direction of the noise and curtsied. They laughed. I saw white teeth. My eyes adjusted and I could see their beautiful faces. Each of them was eating something. I learned later they were eating homemade yogurt. I was positioned on a couch facing the women. Mrs. Blake called the meeting to order, briefly introduced me as their "mother" and then had each sister stand and introduce herself to me. Once that was done, Mrs. Blake looked at me and said, "the ball is in your court." I was surprised but prepared. I thanked them for the invitation to attend their meeting and for Mrs. Blake, Mrs. Turay, and Mrs. Conteh coming to my office to visit me. I told them I had read through their constitution and believe their organization is a wonderful asset to their community. I told them that, indeed, the Sisters (Blake, Turay, and Conteh) had invited me to be their "Mother". I told them that I do not feel I can do that. We are moving to Makeni in two weeks and I will not be here to attend their Sunday evening meetings plus I am not available on October 29th. However, instead of being your "mother" I would like to be your Sister. I referred to their constitution that said one of the goals of the organization is to "Be my Sisters Keeper". I explained our humanitarian work which takes in all of Sierra Leone and that I work with many other NGO's (Non-Government Organizations) and if an opportunity arises that I can steer work to their community, I would. There was a round of applause. I do have a job opportunity for them, maybe. We are working with Willamette International, a hand-dug borehole NGO who has a man on their team that is trying a new thought. He drilled a hand-dug borehole , mounted a 5,000 liter Milla Tank above it and built a Kiosk to sell water. He has a water purification system within the Kiosk with a flow meter. He has a man stationed in the Kiosk all day selling water. The man gets a fraction of the sale and the owner gets the rest. Because there is a flow meter, the owner knows exactly how much water was sold and how much money should have been collected. There is no skimming off the top. He has only built one of these as a pilot project, but it is working incredibly well. He is looking for another place to put a kiosk. We have suggested Treeplanting. I put a bug in his ear about using the Concerned Women of Treeplanting to man the Kiosk. There are a lot of "ifs" here, but it just might work out.

 The women were disappointed that I would not be their "mother" but we're quite happy to have me as their "Sister". I sat down and waited for the meeting to continue. Everyone sat there staring at each other. OK, what was this all about? I looked around the room, and there were two fans running on electricity, a big screen TV with a bunch of small boxes with a lot of cords going from the boxes to the TV. Wow! All this among a bunch of zinc houses where no one has water or electricity. The hostess produced a case of cold soft drinks and gave everyone a choice. How could she afford that? Mrs. Blake did not have an agenda and was lost as what to do. Was this normal? After a few awkward moments, Mrs. Blake produced the most beautiful piece of lace I have ever seen. It was a soft shade of pink and gold. For their October 29th celebration they are all going to have "uniforms". Which simply mean they are all going to have dresses made alike out of the same material. The lace was the outer part of the dress and it will have a matching pink underlayment. It will be gorgeous. But, the dress is going to cost every Sister over 200,000. Leones. Yikes! 200,000 Leones for one dress. Most of the people in this community barely have enough food to eat and water is a major issue. How in the world can they afford 200,000 Leones for a dress? Then I learned that each woman pays 10,000 Leones a month to belong to this organization plus if you comets the Sunday evening meeting late you are fined 2,000 Leones and if you don't come at all you are fined 5,000 Leones. This is not an organization for the poor. But where do all these women get their money? And why do they live so poorly? What is it we don't know?

 Monday, September 26 - Saidu Conteh asked me if I attended the Concerned Women of Treeplanting meeting last night. I did. I told him of this woman's house, the dresses, the fees and fines. He was shocked. He could not get over 200,000 Leones for one dress let alone someone with electricity and could offer yogurt and soft drinks to that many people. He asked me the name of the woman who chairs the organization. I told him Mrs. Blake. His eyes got big and he said "Ohhhh". He explained to me that Sierra Leone has a program here called the Diversified Visa Lottery. You can join the lottery as a single person or as a couple. If you win you get to go to America and they will give you a house and a job and help you in you new culture. If you play the lottery as a couple, then you and your spouse have to go together and you have to live together. The trick is, you have to pay for your own passport and transportation to America. Mrs. Blake's husband played the lottery 8 years ago as a couple and won. But they did not have the money to get passports or transportation. So, Mr. Blake found a wealthy woman who would go with him as his wife and pay for his expenses to go to America. He has not come back and has not sent for his wife. But people say (rumors) he sends her money. But that doesn't explain how 34 other women get their money. I am back to wondering what is it we don't know? Are these people as poor as they say they are?