Another National Holiday in Liberia – Today is the anniversary of the birthday of the first President of Liberia; I am sorry to report that I do not know who he was as other things have so had my attention since returning here. I am exhausted emotionally and physically tonight, but cannot rest without writing… After a good sleep last evening, a welcome workout in the gym this morning, a special breakfast with a hotel friend, a few moments on a chaise lounge by the sea – I showered and prepared for what I thought was going to be a brief conversation with a few Liberians directly affected by this ebola crisis. After almost five hours of “listening to testimony” from a dozen health-care workers and ebola survivors, I am in awe, compete awe…
As I awake in my bed in Villa 1005 at the Kendeja - I stayed curled up under the covers – not wanting to let the light of this day interfere with my conversation with God – my prayers so big – the only conversation and reality I wanted to have, to continue… Then the ting of a text received on my US phone interrupted my total joy and gratitude. Pause. Then the second ting. I reached for my phone to find this message:
Monrovia, Liberia - My great thanks to Diane Bell for sharing my thoughts from Liberia with San Diego, and hopefully beyond in America! Another day of extreme emotion here in Liberia – great joy and celebration and great grief and heartbreak. The film crew and I reviewed our first week for hours today. Powerful. Henry and Armah have captured so much, documented so much. They are my heroes, a gift from God to help me tell the story I am so blessed to share…
Monrovia, Liberia - I have been sitting by the sea – being quiet by the sea – praying by the sea, for the first time in the days I have been here. It rained this afternoon, a brief monsoon passed through, the early evening clouds now plentiful… There is nothing like the African sky. The bigness. The clouds. The wonder…
My emotions are extreme. Such joy to be back in Liberia and to see so many people I treasure alive and well. Such grief at the losses of so many lives marked at the new National Cemetery. And those extremes are present in every conversation I have here – great joy and great grief.
Monrovia, Liberia - Even though I consider myself knowledgeable about Liberia and ebola, I continue to learn so much by being here on the ground. The global effort to combat Ebola has cost $4.3 billion to date, more than twice as much as the $1.58 billion needed to improve healthcare systems in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Crisis reaction instead of prevention wake-up call.
Monrovia, Liberia - This is a day of remembrance, to visit and clean the graves of those departed. And it is a very different Decoration Day after the Ebola crisis. I took a trip to the new National Cemetery early this morning. It is just off the Robertsfield Airport Highway more than an hour from central Monrovia, almost to the airport. It opened December 24, 2014, the day the crematorium closed. The Indian community made their crematorium available to the country during the height of the crisis as traditional burial practices were escalating the infection rates. It is impossible to imagine the impact cremation has had on so many families – so completely opposite their traditions of washing and touching and honoring the dead before burial. All of this impossible now with Ebola. The cremation remains of 3000 of the more than 4,100 people who died of Ebola in Liberia were transferred from the crematorium to the new cemetery last Saturday, in preparation for this Decoration Day.
Monrovia - My first business day in Liberia after the special wedding on Saturday and reunion with dear and special friends yesterday all day. Great joy! Our Foundation for Women Liberia management team met this morning, the first time we had gathered as a team since August of last year. Everyone had a chance to express themselves; I listened intently and my heart broke again and again. And my admiration for the team grew with each sharing. 2014 was beyond challenging for our work in Liberia – beginning with the dismissal of our founding director, financial reality after her dismissal, ebola, beyond awful situation with a temporary director after my departure, the surprising departure of our education loan officer Christmas week after receiving his bonus without a conversation. When I was present for these dear professionals I love and admire more than I can say, my heart burst with sadness and joy at the same time. They have survived; FFWL has survived – all the challenges and crisis of 2014. We all agreed – over – we are starting a new chapter now as survivors and so committed to Liberia and those we are blessed to serve!
My heart is bursting with joy! A Sunday with friends and family in Liberia! A beautiful day by the sea which began with a good night’s rest for the first time in longer than I can remember. Then quiet prayer and meditation and review of my gratitude list, most especially for waking up in my Villa #1005 in Liberia, home here for years.
Monrovia, Liberia - I have just arrived – after seven months of ebola trauma and flight cancellations and hysteria in the world… While the world has been living in fear, Liberia has been taking care of business. Yes, too little to late – but a committed recovery and new way of being is in place. Koffa and Sylvester of our team picked me up at the subdued Roberts International Airport tonight – after more than 32 hours of travel from La Jolla to here. As our COO David experienced in January when he returned, there was not one mention of Ebola on the plane from Brussels. Back to coming via Brussel as I began my first experiences here reminded me of the awful war recovering time when Brussels Air was the only way in and out of this country; once again that is the case. Brutal journey. As with David, silence about Ebola until the plane landed – and then everyone went into “Ebola mode”- no touching, no hugging, washing hands in bleach water before entering the Arrival Hall. Bumping elbows through clothing with people who I have known upon arrive for years, who I so wanted to hug… A very different reality here in Liberia now.
Deborah Lindhom is the Founder and CEO of the Foundation for Women. For over 20 years she has lived and worked in Africa, India and the United States on issues of poverty, education and microcredit.