"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Saturday, June 19, 2004 Wow ... two posts in one day!
Just got back a little bit ago from Buduburam. Traffic was a breeze ... it only took an hour each way.
The camp is not what you picture when you picture a refugee camp. In fact, all in all, it was in a lot better shape than Mallam. Twelve years ago, when the camp began, it WAS what you usually picture ... lots of tents and the like. Today there are no tents, just a fairly permanent settlement of 40,000-45,000 Liberians mixed in with some Ghanians who have either moved in or who were already on the land.
As we arrived, huge busloads of people were leaving for Accra. Turns out its World Refugee Day today and the UN was paying for these buses to truck people to this big event at the stadium in Accra.
We were greeted by Benjamin and Theo, two friends of Bordi's. Ben is his roommate in Accra and Theo lives at the camp. Theo was our main tour guide and knew the answer to just about every question we threw at him.
The camp basically looks like a Ghanian town. In some ways, it's in better shape than many Ghanian towns because, although there is no running water, there is electricity to much of the camp and the U.N. has built some pretty decent buildings ... including a nice school building.
We got a tour of the clinic/hospital, which seemed to be pretty decent. In the labor and delivery room (a room about the size of the larger bedroom at Rockwell House), there were two mothers with their day-old babies ... which were born at the same hour (must have been a hectic time). They were adorable.
We walked by some of the school buildings. The U.N. has helped build many of these but they are managed by the Ghanian education service. There are the same problems here as everywhere ... not everyone goes to school because not everyone can pay the fees. There was a beautiful new school building built by the UN a year ago, but it stands unused because there is a big argument between the Liberian and Ghanian communities. The Liberians say the school was built by the UN for them and so it should be all Liberian. The Ghanians (who make up about 8% of the camp population) say that it is their land and the school should be mixed. No result to the conflict so the building stands empty.
The situation in Liberia has cooled somewhat over the past 6 months, so there has been some voluntary repatriation and OPE is also processing some of the hard-core persecution cases for resettlement in America and elsewhere. But many of the residents are OK with staying. It would be a stretch to say they are "happy" to stay ... but they are safe there, and the prospect of returning home only to have to flee again should things turn bad (and things have had a way of turning bad) is pretty daunting to many.
The highlight of the trip was the walk to All Souls Anglican Church. All Souls has attached to it a "child development center," which is basically nursery school through Grade 3. While we were there, the women's group at the church was just setting up an outdoor picnic/party as a fundraiser for the church and school. The head of the women's group is also the principal of the school, so she and I spent a lot of time together talking about the school, walking around, seeing the classrooms, the church, the whole thing.
The school has about 130 students, and school fees are 240,000 a term or 720,000 a year (roughly $78), but there are still lots of people who can't afford that ... and they can't afford to charge less because they are just scraping by.
The school was impeccably kept. They didn't have a lot, but you could tell what they did they kept good care of. It was very impressive. I took a whole bunch of pictures, which I'll try to post tomorrow.
It was easy to see that the money the senior class gave me for the refugee camp needs to go here, so I will make arrangements for that to happen. Actually, this looks like a great place for ECM to have a relationship with. I could see students coming over here and helping teach. I could see us setting up a scholarship fund for students here. Lots of stuff.
As we were getting the rest of the tour and heading out of the camp, we ran into the junior warden from the church ... who then ran and found the senior warden and the priest and met us at the trotro station just as we were about to board. We had a great conversation and they want to invite me back to preach (probably at a Wednesday evening service the night before Robin gets here since Emmanuel has me pretty booked up on Sundays.). I was thrilled.
Mackinnon and Ann are going to go back several more times, and I might join them on one of those occasions plus the Wednesday evening. They want to do some work with some of the children trying to see how much they actively remember the things that happened to them and their families in Liberia. As a refugee herself, Ann is uniquely qualified to do this -- and it's a really good project for them to take on together.
I'm here at the cafe with a whole gaggle of the Crossroads students -- who were dying to get on the internet. They are pretty amazing. They're all in college or just out and with one exception they've all traveled to different places in the world before. I mean, not just Europe, but SE Asia, Indonesia, Africa, The Carribean, Central and SOuth America. You name it. They're already better adjusted than I am!
That's it from here. TOmorrow is my second crack at Ghanian Anglican liturgy and then I hope to post some photos before internet silence takes over for a week. Love you all!
| Mike at 6/19/2004 12:55:00 PM
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."