It is a very reflective time here in Liberia. The monsoon rains are heavy and the rainy season has just started; months more of rain to come. Nearly everyone I know is suffering from a cold or malaria or worse – the heavy rains caused dear friend Korto to have a motorbike accident. Transport is always an issue here; the rains make it an extreme challenge.
The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) officially turned over security in this country to the Liberian people on July 1. For the first time since peace came in 2003, Liberians are in charge of their own security. It is a tentative time. The Liberian security budget is US$90M/year, about one-fourth the UN’s previous annual security budget. Despite the budget allotment, the Liberian National Police guarding the hotel I call home have not been paid for three months. With an average salary of US$160/month, no pay for several months makes buying rice impossible.
The recent Global Witness report documenting corruption by senior officials in Liberia is causing much conversation. A UK mining company apparently paid nearly US$1M to officials in exchange for mining rights without going through an open bidding process. Those charged have been released from custody on bail, but have not stepped aside from their roles in government pending the investigation, even though urged to do so; one person charged is the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The second and final term of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is coming to an end in 16 months. What has changed? For many, complete and utter disappointment. Korto says, “She is really hated.” And of the 22 candidates preparing to run for office, what will change with the next administration? As the Vice President said to me not so long ago, “Deborah, my country is 168 years old. When are we going to get it right?”
Despite all this, I remain – the Foundation for Women remains – because every moment we are making a difference. I just had a meeting with son Moses and his mentor Pastor Williams. We came together to discuss Moses’ 10th grade report card, plans for computer school beginning tomorrow, and plans for the 11th grade starting in September. I cannot change the lives of all the children in this country, but I am committed to educating Moses – and namesake Deborah and her sister Florence. Pastor Williams asked me if after 10 years I can see a significant difference in the lives of the women we have funded with our microfinance work? It is a very reflective question. There is a difference – 15,000+ loans positively affecting perhaps a quarter of a million people. Now more than 100 school partners affecting tens of thousands of students. My answer to the question: I cannot imagine life for all of these people without the Foundation for Women. I cannot imagine seeing such great need and not doing anything about it. And I cannot imagine my life, after ten years here, without Liberia.
A special thank you to my La Jolla Sunrise Rotary Club for beginning the funding that made it possible for us to purchase a desperately needed new vehicle this week. And thanks to our education partner Edify, donor Jack Holzman, and the Insels for adding funding to the Rotary gift – and to all the Rotary Clubs still considering support… We are so grateful!
As we all know here, “It takes a village.” Thank you all for being part of the Foundation for Women Global Village which has had tremendous impact for more than two decades now. With love and appreciation from Liberia,
“Faith is our assurance that there is a Divine plan of infinite love at work even in the most challenging moments, and that we are a part of that plan. Faith gives us the confidence to move ahead with vast visions in the face of enormous odds; it is an invitation to work in active partnership with the Divine in service of a better world.” - Women, Spirituality and Transformative Leadership