Liberia: Day 4 in Monrovia
At 8.30 am we all met up for breakfast and piled into the cars to go to meet Banetta, a 15-year-old girl who’s had the most horrific life.
She was taken by rebel soldiers during the civil war with her friends. She said that her friends were used as bush wives [used by the soldiers for sex and to carry out domestic tasks at their camp]. My feeling is that this may have happened to her too, but she understandably didn’t want to share her own personal experiences of it.
Then her mother came and found her and brought her home to Slipway, which is a slum in Monrovia. When she got back she was brutally raped by an older man from the slum. She was only 13 years old. She was pregnant and didn’t want to tell anyone. Her mother found her and Banetta was embarrassed… Imagine feeling guilty for getting raped and becoming pregnant?
Banetta had the baby and, through Save the Children, has been given some money to buy a school uniform, books, pens and a bag so she can go back to school and get an education. Save the Children also helped her learn how to make soap… a way of earning a small income. Gordon and I went to watch the girls making soap, and I spent hours playing “karate moves” with a gang of little boys! They were too cute.
Our last stop was at Save the Children’s office to see the amazing tree that the children had made with the help of an artist, which would be auctioned at the upcoming Festival of Trees. The body of the tree was made of decommissioned AK47s and the leaves were empty bullet shells. The children each wrote a wish on a large sheet to display at Festival of Trees, and then copied it onto a tiny piece of paper that they tucked into the bullet casing.
We watched, Gordon and I, as they wrote out their messages. It was so powerful. It was their call for help and support.
“Please help our parents so they can help us.”
“We want the right to be children and not used as weapons.”
“We are not goods, stop child trafficking.”
“We need a playground and play materials — not guns and ammunition.”
It was amazing and profoundly moving.
And, as we leave, it will be that moment that will remain my strongest memory of Liberia. Please give what you can. Those children need us.