Liberia: Day 3 in Kingsville
We woke and had an early breakfast. The setting was so beautiful. Rural Liberia is something to behold: lush, green vegetation, birds and insects calling good morning to each other. I got a frisson of excitement…
Barack Obama might become President today. Am hoping and praying…but not totally confident…
Anyway, I had lots of work to get through before I could start thinking about that.
Our first stop was the school. We went to Kingsville’s school, a long building, which wasn’t very big with 447 pupils. I spoke to the headmaster and he told me some of the problems the school was facing. They only have a few trained teachers, there is no play area for the kids at break time, no books, not enough chairs, none of the teachers are being paid, and lots of the kids can’t afford the school uniform.
Even with all these problems I looked in each class and saw the children’s eager faces looking at the board, listening intently because they really want to learn. Some of them walk miles to get to school.
I met Doyee. A typical 13-year-old boy, in many ways. He’s very shy. All his mates were teasing him about being filmed and wearing an Arsenal shirt under his school shirt. But he’s also tragically different from most British teenagers — he had lost both his parents in the civil war. He wants to be an electrician. You know, I think it’s kids like Doyee who are going to rebuild Liberia.
We left the school and went to the market. It was a big rural market, where suddenly all of us with our camera became the main attraction. It was the first time since I’d got here that I felt a little afraid. We did our filming and said goodbye to everyone and went to the clinic that Save the Children had built and pays for.
It was basic, but brilliant — a vital lifeline for the local community offering medicine and a place for women to see the midwife and also to give birth. I don’t know how they stored their medicine because they didn’t have a fridge, or any electricity for that matter!
I watched as mothers and babies had injections and check-ups, and just generally sat around chatting to mums and playing with kids. I could have stayed there for hours, but we had a curfew to honour and we had to head back to Monrovia.
The drive back took an hour and a half, which gave me time to reflect on things. As a mother it is in-built in me to cherish and care for my children. How horrific would it be to not be able to do that? Or to have to walk for hours to get help? Some of those children need help immediately — not in hours — and doctors told me that the rate of children dying before they reach their first month is very high.
We got back to our hotel, did a quick change and had a delicious dinner at Susan’s house [the country director for Save the Children Liberia]. We were blessed with the most awesome team this trip. It’s been an honour sharing the huge highs and lows with them — they’ve made the trip even more special.
Then a friend of ours, Alisa, invited us to the US embassy to watch the American election unfold. We jumped at the chance and hung out there for a couple of hours.
The only problem was that I got hooked and, back at my hotel room, turned CNN on and stayed up till 1am! Then I went to sleep with the telly on but the sound turned down…at five something I awoke with a jolt. I looked at the TV. Barack was about to speak and I took a sharp intake of breath… Had he won? Had he lost? He started to speak and I just sat there transfixed. HE WON — the man who could change and heal the world with our help was the President of USA! I couldn’t get back to sleep. I just couldn’t get enough of the Barack mania. As the sun rose it felt like the dawning of a new era.