Sunday, 30 September 2007

Mary goes home

Today we took Mary home to the one room she shares with her extended family, in the small house they share with several other families. She lives miles off the beaten track, in a community that is mostly inaccessable during the rainy season - it was a miracle that our Land Rover even made it through the deep mud. The whole community gathered around us as we arrived, to welcome Mary home and possibly to see the only vehicle that had driven into their neighbourhood since May. Mary has to continue her hourly jaw excercises for the foreseable future, and will return to the Africa Mercy next Friday for an outpatients check-up. Pictured are Sally, Anna and Mary outside Mary's home. Olly

A party with a difference

Our very good friend Keith had a birthday party with a difference on Saturday, to which he invited his usual friends plus a number of disabled people who beg outside the supermarkets here in Monrovia. What a great gesture of love! Along came several amputees who lost arms and legs in the war, and several blind men with their young sons acting as guides. It was great to chat to them, and heartbraking to hear their terrible stories of injury. Pictured is Sally with a young father who lost his arm and both eyes when a grenade he was holding exploded in his hand. Olly

Saturday, 29 September 2007

65,000 children die every year in Liberia from malaria

Recently published statistics from the Government of Liberia report this terrible figure. Isn't it simply appalling? Olly

Monday, 24 September 2007

Mary's recuperation

Mary is recovering well from her operation to relieve her of a locked jaw. Sally is helping her with her exercises, which involves forcing her back teeth apart with 12 lollipop sticks. Without these exercises her jaw would lock again (in fact it started doing just that over the weekend when Mary was unsupervised for a day). The bleeding has stopped, and she's feeling more human although her face is still very swollen. Today she had her nasal feeding tube removed, and is allowed to drink milk. Tomorrow she will be able to start on liquid meals. Thank you for praying for her. Pictured is Mary on the right with 2 of her friends playing cards with Sally and Libby on Promenade Deck yesterday afternoon. Olly

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Mary's Operation

Tonight I sat for a couple of hours with Mary after her surgery to open her locked jaw. She is 15 years old, and yet she was all alone and no member of her family came to visit her. She was in a lot of pain with her mouth held open with a block, many tubes and drips, a nasal trumpet keeping her airway open and far more blood than I care to see normally. There was nothing I could do to make things easier for her - the nurses had all the important stuff covered, so I just held her hand and prayed for her. Can you pray for her too please? Sally

Liberia's President opens Mercy Ships clinic

On Sunday, the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, officially opened the Gayetown Clinic, which has been constructed by the ship's Community Development Services Department. It is a great honour for the ship to be recognised in this manner. Pictured is the President joining in the karaoke after the ceremony. Olly

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Cheshire Home for the Handicapped

Last Saturday I was part of a Mercy Ships team that visited the local Cheshire Home for Handicapped. The resident’s disabilities varied from being profoundly and multiply disabled (unable to move, communicate or do anything for themselves) to what we would think of as mild learning disabilities. Our team from the ship included a physiotherapist, a teacher of the profound and multiply handicapped, and a speech and language therapist (me!), and together we were able to do some stretching and exercising of children and adults who are normally strapped into their wheelchairs. Others on our team poured love into the resident’s lives, by gently touching them, rubbing lotion into their skin, playing with balls and balloons, or gently scratching their backs. Ko, a lady who is blind and just sits curled up on the floor with her thumb in her mouth, literally uncurled, raised her head and swayed in response to the songs we sang. Mama thought it was hysterical to throw a beach ball at each one of us when we weren’t looking – she had good aim! Solomon was taken out of his wheelchair (where his body and arms are strapped down to prevent involuntary movements and sucking and chewing his hands raw), and stretched out on the mat, and his body relaxed so much that his involuntary movements stopped and he fell asleep with his head on my lap. George, an old hand at the stretching, couldn’t wait for his turn and managed to shuffle his way across the floor to make sure he wouldn’t be forgotten. As I left I didn’t know how to process the experience, and I still don’t, other than to pray for each one of them and commit to going back. I know that God cares for them and Jesus provides us with His loving example. I'm going back next Saturday. Sally


15 year old Mary is Sally's new patient. She came to the ship today for surgery to repair her locked jaw. After many years of being unable to open her mouth, Mary will need to strengthen muscles for eating, swallowing, talking and even smiling, and Sally will be able to use her Speech and Language Therapy skills to help her! More later. Olly

M/V Torm Alexandra finally righted

On 25th July 2001, the container ship M/V Torm Alexander, capsized in the Freeport of Monrovia whilst unloading containers. After 6 years, the wreck was righted on Sunday by an underwater salvage team, who had pumped air into the port side ballast tanks and water into the starboard side tanks. Their next job is to pump air into the engine room to float the ship sufficiently to allow the cargo holds to be pumped. We have been following the wreck’s progress with excitement and interest, and I will post another photo when it is fully floating. Olly

Land Rover break-in

Just before dawn this morning, and not more than 50 metres from the ship, two swimmers armed with razor-sharp machetes climbed onto our dock and broke into our Land Rover by pushing in a window. They then tried to steal boxes of soap that were inside, which were destined for distribution to prisoners in Monrovia Central Prison, but were disturbed and swam away empty handed. Ironically, if they get caught and survive local vigilante justice, they will end up in prison using the very soap they tried to steel. Olly

Friday, 14 September 2007

Team Leader, Fire Team 4...

I have been promoted to the dizzy heights of Team Leader of Fire Team 4, responsible for a team of five consisting of two men in fire suits with breathing apparatus and three assistants for setting up hoses, assisting with gear and controlling our air. Yesterday we had one of our regular drills. Picured is me in orange and my second in command Lawrence Adjei (ship's bosun) in brown. Olly


This evening we had a Ceilidh on the dock (a traditional Scottish Dance like a Barn Dance or Square Dance). Hundreds of the crew attended and we had a great time in the relative cool of the Liberian evening. During the dancing and in a rare moment of clarity I looked away from the floodlit dock and the dancing people, across the sunken ships and the damaged port towards the ruined and darkened city of Monrovia, and wandered what the Liberians must think of us. I guess they must be a bit puzzled that we have the energy and inclination to dance to strange Scottish music in the warm African evening. This was further reinforced on our way back into the ship, when we met two Ghanaian soldiers with guns who were guarding us, who I had not seen earlier – they looked a little puzzled too, but were enjoying the atmosphere. Olly

Friday, 7 September 2007

UN scaling down

The flagship of the Ghanaian Navy, GNS Anzone, arrived in Monrovia early this week to supply Ghanaian peacekeepers. It swapped its load of trucks for tanks, which will be taken back to Ghana. The fragile peace of 2003 is slowly becoming more concrete, and whilst violent crime continues to rise (and is handled by the police) the threat of action by combatants continues to decrease, and most UN checkpoints have been removed. The UN is scheduled to begin reducing its force here from 15,000 peacekeepers to 9,000 during 2008, and the removal of the tanks and heavy armour is already well under way. Olly

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Projects YOU support:

So far, your money has contributed to the Liberian people as follows:
£100 from the UK bought 700 bars of soap and 350 tubes of toothpaste for prisoners;
$1066 from Holland bought emergency aid for orphans living on garbage dumps and in abandoned buildings;
£50 from the UK paid for a hernia operation on an 8 year old boy;
$60 from the USA paid school fees for a year for 3 children in a family;
$40 from the USA bought roofing materials for a family of 8 whose house was damaged by bad weather;
$46 from the USA bought two sacks of rice to set up a family in business as rice sellers;
$30 from the UK (and a donation of tools) bought a wheelbarrow for a father to set up business as a tool seller;
£200 from the UK bought two bales of second hand clothes for a father to set up in business as a clothes seller.
Please keep these donations coming. We are happy to forward your money to projects you specify. Olly

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Kids photo

Here's a recent photo of the kids in their party gear. Olly

Running Club reunion

Today I laughed more than I have for months and months - Mr Blackburn organised a Running Club reunion on the dock, and the kids played some silly games which were followed by a parents running relay - which was hilarious. The men won, or course. Olly

Anna's party

Anna had her sixth birthday party yesterday - a week early because Granny & Grandpa are here. Sally made a wonderful castle birthday cake and the party had a Princess theme with games to match. 13 of Anna's friends attended. Olly