Life in Liberia — Up Close at the Orphanage

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There is no glamour in Liberia. Electricity runs on generators, which turn on automatically at 7 pm and shut off at 7:30am, along with the running water (yes, that means no toilet flushing during the day). We bathed by splashing water onto our bodies from a bucket in the bathtub. We popped a malaria pill every day. But we hadn't come to Liberia looking for luxury.

What Liberia lacks in resources it makes up for in the children's gratitude, which is off the charts. As soon as we arrived at the Children's Rescue Mission Orphanage, a group of kids ran over to give MacDella and I hugs.

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We visited this orphanage twice. The first time, we traced the kids' bare feet on sheets of notebook paper, to figure out their sizes for a large shoe donation MacDella had received.

The second time we visited, the kids gave Genevieve and I a tour of their orphanage. A couple of the older girls were preparing lunch, rice with a soup sauce, while the boys showed us the newest arrivals at the orphanage — three little puppies.

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They also took us to the pig pens in the back. I didn't ask, but I assume they're raised for food. On the other side of the orphanage, we found two girls out in the field, cutting the grass with a blade they swung back and forth.

Come to think of it, I didn't see any boys working. I'm sure they do work hard, but at that particular moment, what I saw at the orphanage wasn't too different from what I was seeing around the city.

As we drove around Monrovia, I remember seeing countless women balancing boxes or buckets on their heads as they walked through the streets. The women primarily run the outdoor markets. My most vivid memory of the men is of them camping outside the supermarkets, waiting for Westerners like MacDella, Genevieve and I to come out. They'd follow us to the car, begging for money, tapping on the car doors and windows. Or, I think of the very creepy policemen who came over and asked Genevieve and I for our phone numbers. I definitely did not feel safe around them. I don't mean to disrespect the very hard-working males in Liberian society, because there are plenty of respectable men. But overall, I sensed this is a country whose revival will be spearheaded by the women — after all, if it wasn't for the women's political support, President Johnson Sirleaf might not have defeated her opponent, soccer star George Weah, in the election.



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