Despite civil wars and Ebola fever: A nation still rising….
„Did you got infected???“ After the Ebola-OUTBREAK in Western Africa, I had been asked this question quite often after coming back from my last trip to Liberia. Some people from my social environment even forewent contact, hugs and handshakes with me for a couple of days or even gave me a wide berth – just to be on the save side. This anxiety is totally understandable…but fortunately arbitrary: All medical tests came back negative. I returned to Europe save and sound.
That’s one of the privileges that millions of people in Liberia can’t call their own. The Ebola fever, however, is the most current but unfortunately just ONE of MANY dangers and threats to life, with which the people in Western Africa had to learn to live with in the course of their country’s history. One of the most devastating events occurred just a few years ago.
Up to the year 2003, Liberia was torn by a bloody civil war, during which hundreds of thousands of men, women and children lost their lives due to violence and bloodshed or the associated consequences, countless people are traumatized to the day. The inflicted wounds – be it the physical ones or the mental and psychological – need for sure a long time to heal.
Human aid projects are often set up by foreign organizations, but many of those retreat when a menace – like the Ebola fever – becomes too aware. However, a few of them keep the flag flying reliably even in times of crisis – e.g. the SOS Children’s Villages in Liberia. Seekers for help will never find themselves in front of closed doors there. Needless to say, the Liberians can also count on the help of their own people. Fortunately, I got to know quite many of them. Among those, one woman has impressed me particularly: Quendi Appleton.
Quendi lost her parents when she was five years old. She found shelter at the SOS Children’s Village Monrovia. She was all so young and nevertheless still heavily traumatized by the struggles of war, but her SOS mother gave her safety, peace, support and so much power, so she could make her way in life. After graduating, her biggest desire was to help other people. And her dream came true: She passed her training for nurses with distinction and, afterwards, took care of people marked by war at the SOS hospital in Monrovia. Due to her huge and sustainable engagement, Quendi was even honored with the Hermann Gmeiner Award, one of the highest recognitions for adult SOS children. This honoring also motivated her to commit herself even more, to learn more and to do more. Nowadays, she dedicates her work to post-traumatically stressed people and supports them psychologically on their way to a more peaceful life. The 35-year-old woman is happy and proud that she can do what she loves the most: giving people back their hope…
There’s even a documentary about Quendi’s life: „Still We Rise“ tells her life’s story and is representative for so many other brave people in a country that had to start over again and again so often…
At the moment, the present news about the Ebola-outbreak are shocking the country once again. The people in Liberia hope not to be left on their own and appreciate every helping hand from foreign countries, which are not scared off by the fear of getting infected.
When we arrived at the SOS Villages around the infected countries in Western Africa, people there tried to take away a little bit of our fear.
We got into it, because we considered it important to stand by these people and show them: You are not alone – not even in dangerous times. We got YOUR back.
And honestly: This was exactly what made every second of our stay precious.
The moments were inimitable, in which the joy became perceptible at the SOS Children’s Village Monrovia, for instance when the school was finished renovating, new homes for SOS families were ready for occupancy and projects, which are so essential for the hopes and dreams of the local people, were carried further …
….like the campaign GO GREEN. Therefore, flowers and trees are planted and integrated in the everyday life in a manner that not only the environmental awareness of all villagers is trained but also that their eyes are opened again for the bright side and all beautiful things of life.
Because, from time to time, the scent and colors of a flower may have a greater healing effect than every drug.
A few weeks after returning home, after the insecurities I had to deal with that go hand in hand with a trip to countries in which an infection with Ebola is omnipresent, after my comforting medical tests and after writing this blog post, I suddenly realize: I got infected AFTER ALL…
But no – NOT with Ebola fever!
I got infected with the excitement for the energy, the optimism and the power which are summoned up by the Liberians – after every new dramatic challenge that is thrown at this people in the West of Africa. One could say Liberia is a country full of heroes and heroines!!
Liberia – it is not just crises, war traumas and diseases. Liberia – it is also a beaming smile coming straight from the heart to welcome you, it is power and strength in the everyday struggle for a little piece of normality. Over and over again!