Saturday, 29 March 2008

High of the week

On Thursday evening I was part of a group from the Africa Mercy who attended a formal reception aboard the US Navy high-speed catamaran Swift, where we were given drinks on the helicopter deck and the opportunity to talk to officers from all four of the US Navy ships currently operating out of Monrovia. My friend Josh and I got talking to a very friendly and unassuming guy who turned out to be the Commodore of the whole group, and he invited us to tour the command ship, Fort McHenry...which we did as a family on Saturday. It was a great morning, and we were treated like royalty and were even invited to join the Captain and Commodore in the Officers Mess for brunch. Swift has already left Monrovia for Tema, Ghana, for more humanitarian supply work, whilst the rest of the task force are heading to Senegal tomorrow, to continue the program there. They will return to Monrovia in September, where I hope we will make more contacts and visit more US Navy ships. First photo of Fort McHenry as we approached her in a small launch. Second photo of Noah in the landing craft that was taking us back to the Africa Mercy. Olly

Low of the week

Another week has flown by. My lowest part was on Thursday, when I parked outside the Port gates and was beseiged by people needing medical attention. There was a man with a broken leg, and I explained that we had no spaces left for orthopedic surgery; there was a deaf man with a bad back, and I explained that we had no ear/nose/throat doctors or back doctors; and there was a man with a massive hernia in his groin - he couldn't even walk, and had paid every last penny he owned on transport to the ship, only to be told that we had no surgeons onboard who could repair his hernia. He begged me for the taxi fare home, which I gave him (it was only 20 pence). After three years in Liberia, I'm still affected by the utter dispair of the sick and injured. These people are too sick to earn a living, and will live off the support of their extended family until they get medical attention. Some of them will live in agony for years, and some will die. I can see the fear in their eyes as they think what is ahead of them. What to do? (as they say in Liberia). Olly

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Supplies from the Americans

All day today, small US Navy boats have been bringing supplies into the Port from the big US Navy ships anchored out at sea. The supplies are quickly whisked away by big vans from the US Embassy. Click on image to enlarge. (Is that Heineken poking out of one of the bags? Again?). Olly

Special Court underway in Liberia for Sexual Violence

The Liberian government has created a special court to deal with not only rising rape cases, but also other forms of violence against women. During Liberia's 14 year civil conflict 850,000 people fled their homes and at least 270,000 were killed. During the war the rape of girls and women was widespread. Since peace was sealed in 2003, sex crimes - and impunity for them - have persisted throughout the country. Although a rape law was enacted in December 2005 which made rape a crime with a maximum of a life sentence for those found guilty, rape cases have continued to rise according to rights groups. Half of reported rape cases are attacks against teenage girls between the ages of 10 to15 years old according to government statistics.

Liberian refugees don't want to quit Ghana

Hundreds of Liberia's remaining refugees currently in camps in Ghana want to be resettled anywhere but Liberia. Dissatisfied with plans by the United Nations refugee agency to repatriate them, they recently staged daily demonstrations outside the gates of the main Buduburam Refugee Camp, about 30 minutes' drive from Ghana's capital Accra. Under the UN plans, they will be given $100 dollars and sent back to war-torn Liberia to start life all over again. The refugees are demanding $1,000 and resettlement in a third country, either in North America or Europe. Between October 2004 and June 2007, around 105,000 refugees were voluntarily repatriated to Liberia by the UNCHR. Some of them had been in countries such as Guinea, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and Nigeria for up to 20 years. Now, the remainer are reluctant to move from Ghana ("the Jewel in the Crown of West Africa") to Liberia.

Easter Saturday: Egg decoration

This morning the ship's kids decorated hard boiled eggs by dipping them in brightly coloured dye. Unfortunately their hands and clothes got dyed too, so now we have brightly decorated kids. Olly

US Task Force off-shore

USNS 2nd Lt. John P Bobo

USS Fort McHenry
HSV2 - Swift
USNS 2nd Lt. John P. Bobo and USNS LCPL Roy M. Wheat have just arrived off the coast of Monrovia to participate in a "humanitarian aid distribution exercise" in conjunction with the US Embassy in Monrovia, the US Marines and USS Fort McHenry and HSV-2 Swift. Their launches come into the port daily, carrying lots of men in uniform, and before long I expect we'll see them carrying larger amounts of aid, if that is indeed the purpose of them being here. Last night I went on our ship's bridge to identify the four ships but only the two USNS ships were identified; the two warships remained completely unnoticed by our automatic ship identification system, I guess so they can move around the world without being challenged by maritime agencies or being targeted by anyone with hostile intent. Olly

Census time in Liberia

Liberians are being counted for the first time in decades. The Liberian government began its National Housing and Population Census yesterday, the first in 24 years. Nearly 10,000 census field staff have been employed, including enumerators, supervisors, inspectors, coordinators, monitors and trainers, who have been recruited from all over the country to carry out the 2008 national census. The field staff will knock on every door (assuming the houses have doors) of every household nationwide to get information from the residents. They will be asked to provide details of births (which could be tricky), deaths, possessions, land ownership (which is often impossible after ownership documents were lost or destroyed in the war, and is the subject of most court cases) and other properties. The field staffs are also required to note the number of residents in every household (again, tricky). Liberia conducted its last national census in 1984 and has depended since then on the statistics gathered by the United Nations agencies and other international organizations. The last census recorded Liberia's population at 2.5 million. It is more like 3 million now. Olly

Friday, 21 March 2008

Liberia: UN Soldiers & Police Raid Monrovia Ghetto

The Inquirer (Monrovia): The Liberia National Police (LNP) along with UN Soldiers has once again raided a notorious ghetto area popularly known as "Gblagba" on Center Street. Yesterday morning's raid on the hardened criminals who had perpetually used the area as a 'sacred hide-out' came as though the place were desecrated by security authorities. A police officer who is in charge of the area, Daniel N. Gueh, told The Inquirer that the criminals, ranging from drug addicts, prostitutes, gamblers, pick-pockets, and cell phone snatchers had inhabited the place for over five years. This latest demolition exercise carried out at Gblagba has left neighbors with mixed feelings, for fear of being attacked by the ferocious criminals who had threatened them on countless occasions before.

"Death threats" to witnesses against Liberia's Taylor

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Witnesses testifying in the war crimes trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor are receiving death threats, deterring them from speaking in open court, officials say. Three individuals once close to Taylor's regime and who will play a key role in linking him to atrocities in Sierra Leone had received threatening phone calls and letters, presumably from Taylor loyalists, chief prosecutor Stephen Rapp told Reuters.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Maundy Thursday

This evening we visited the ship's Queens Lounge which had been transformed into a beautifuly calm and reflective room complete with candles, where we shared communion between our family. Noah and Anna picked up on the mood very quickly and were quiet and well behaved, but Libby didn't quite get it and shouted out "I so hungry" when we ate the communion bread (which spoilt the atmosphere just a bit for the other people deep in prayer and reflection). Another area of focus in the Queens Lounge was footwashing, but we sensibly decided to keep the kids well clear of that. Olly

US manoeuvres continue

The US Navy's manoeuvres, kicked-off by the arrival of the HSV2 Swift earlier this week, continue with the arrival today of a proper-shaped war-ship which remains outside the Freeport but which sent in a launch and a landing-craft to pick up some soldiers (Marines perhaps?) from the dock where they were waiting with US Embassy staff (after some cloak-and-dagger operation ashore perhaps?). (Probably not!). The war-ship remains anchored off the coast tonight - perhaps we will see more of it's tenders tomorrow. It is really quite thrilling seeing these heavily armed boats roaring past our ship: our American crew get very excited (quite rightly) and the US sailors always wave back at us...Olly

UN Ghanaians replaced with Nigerians

The friendly Ghanaian soldiers who have been guarding the Freeport since before we arrived in 2005 have been replaced with Nigerian soldiers (who all seem a lot smaller in my opinion, although they are equally as motivated and well trained I am sure). The cocaine ship Blue Atlantic still lies at berth across the pier from us, and remains guarded by Nigerians and Nepalese. Olly

Photo of the me!

Olly Peet poses with the new Land Rover. Praise God for the generous donation!
Just look at he state of my dirty jeans! Olly

Monday, 17 March 2008

Oh yeah...

...happy St Patricks Day by the way. Olly

How to use a toilet:

Click on image to enlarge. Olly


Yesterday the Port spent hours moving ships around and clearing part of the dock, and building a huge wall of containers two-high, in preparation for the arrival of a visiting US Navy ship...and today who should arrive but HSV2 - the US Navy's High Speed Vessel Swift which we were berthed alongside in Tenerife just after Christmas. Of all the ships in the world, its funny that we keep on bumping into her. Despite all the hours of preparation by the Port here, she stayed for less than an hour and didn't even berth. Photo of HSW2 Swift. Olly

Report time again

Today is the kid's Report Card Day (again). The ship's Academy gives out reports SIX times a year, compared to once a year in UK schools. Olly

"Dock Time" - a poem by Grade 1

People are wiggling on the wiggle cars, giggling.
People are wobbling on rollerblades, falling.
People are riding bikes, talking, hair blowing.
People are running, sweating, zooming in Running Club.
Dizzy hips are spinning around and around with hula hoops.
The chalk is colourful and drawing pictures of yourself is fun.
People are flipping on scateboards, excited!
Robbers are running to get dizzy, smiling at the cops.
Girls are playing with baby dolls, crying, rocking, swinging to them.
Stars are twinkiling, it is time to go to bed.

A poem by Anna, Elijah, Joyce, Kaitlyn, Rick and Miss Elizabeth. Anna wrote the bit in italics. Olly

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Fan belt fun

Today the fan belt broke on the vehicle I was driving. Would you believe it, even though today is a public holiday and all the shops are closed, I stopped outside a workshop that was open and half a dozen men leapt at the possibility of work as I opened to hood to have a look...twenty minutes later they had fitted a brand new fan belt, for $15 including labour. What wonderful service. Photo of a fan belt. Olly

Friday, 14 March 2008

Appalling childbirth statistics

Ladies living in Western Europe face a 1 in 47,600 chance that they will die during childbirth. Ladies living in West Africa face a 1 in 12 chance that they will die in childbirth, and ladies living in Liberia face a 1 in 6 chance. Wow. Olly

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Baby Amunckin Part 5

Today baby Amunckin was discharged from the hospital as his healing is going so well. His nanny Kebe from the orphanage has done a great job of keeping his wounds clean. He will return for out-patient appointments to have his dressings changed twice a week and will hopefully soon be travelling to the States to be united with his parents, who can't wait for the newest addition to their family. William, as he will then be known, will continue his surgeries in the States. The photo is of Kebe with her two Acres of Hope "babies"-Libby and Amunckin. Sally.

I'm a millionaire (or am I?)

I just received this email: "On behalf of the Trustees and Executor of the estate of Late Mr Edwin Gabriel...I wish to notify you that the late Mr Edwin Gabriel made you a beneficiary to his WILL. He left the sum of Five Million One Hundred Thousand Dollars (USD $5,100.000) to you in the codicil and last testament to his will." Of course its utter rubbish. I get this junk almost daily. Does anyone else out there? Olly

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Ex-UN staff demonstrate

Today I received this text message: "All be advised that due to downsizing by UNMIL, ex-workers are demonstrating around Starbase and moving towards the city and have commited acts of violence towards UNMIL property and staff". Sure enough, one of our drivers reported that demonstrators were lining one side of the road outside Starbase (cool name for a logistics base, eh?) and on the other side of the road police in full riot gear with tear-gas, backed up by armed UN troops were standing by. So this is how recently made redundant UN staff hope to get their jobs back, is it? Olly

Decoration Day

Tomorrow is Decoration Day, when Liberians clean and decorate the graves of their ancestors and remember their dead. Last year we lived very close to Back Road Cemetery, where dozens of people were selling whitewash and brushes, plastic flowers and wreathes. Inside the cemetery was a hive of activity, with people painting graves and tombs and clearing undergrowth and garbage. Pictured is a guy who whitewashes tombs for 50 LD (about 50p or $1) each. Olly

Baby Amunckin Part 4

Sally, Noah, Anna and Libby spent some time today with Kebe and baby Amunckin on the ward, 24 hours since his surgery. Sally says he looks great, with only band-aids over his stitches (not heavy bandages) and his face looks fabulous. He was awake and looking around and was quite comfy. Olly

An honest living

Opposite the ship is the remains of a conveyor-belt gantry that was used for loading iron ore pellets into ships in the 1970s and 1980s, but was abandoned in 1990 when the war started. Today I noticed a guy high above the water tying sacks of polystyrene to a steal beam, so that he can then unbolt the beam from the gantry and drop it into the sea, where it will float and his friends will swim with it to shore before selling it. If he fell he would be splattered on the steal pier below for sure. Click on photo to enlarge and see the crazy guy. Olly

Monday, 10 March 2008

Baby Amunckin Part 3

Baby Amunckin had his operation this morning to put his face together. It looks like it was succesful - Dr Gary did a great job and he now has a top lip and gums where they should be. Olly


Libby had her hair braided today by Kebe, baby Amunckin's carer whilst he was having his operation. Olly

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Baby Amunckin Part 2

Baby Amunckin and his carer arrived on the ship today for his first round of corrective surgery tomorrow. Olly

Sunday 9th March

Today we had a most splendid day. We left the ship early, and drove with our friends Paul & Jodie and their daughter Aly (3) for an hour out of town, right past the airport to where the road runs out. Then we climbed into dug-out canoes and were taken down the tidal river to a beautiful beach (6° 08’12.68N 10° 22’ 30.98”W if you’re asking) where we swam and relaxed for an hour before continuing onwards by canoe to visit the chimpanzees of Liberia Institute for Biomedical Research on their remote island. These chimps have a ferocious reputation, but they looked very peaceful as we canoed just off their island and threw them fruit and bread, until one of them threw two fist size rocks with incredible force and accuracy at one of our canoes…we made a hasty retreat back to our beach, where we swam and relaxed again before heading for home. Many of our Lebanese friends have chosen this area for their weekend retreats, and the river has a few fine houses along its banks with patios and boathouses and their motor boats spent the day carrying them out to sea and back for fishing. A great day out. Thank you Paul & Jodie. Olly

Friday, 7 March 2008

Cool photo

Here's a cool photo I found on the ship's Intranet, taken a year ago when the Anastasis arrived in Monrovia from Ghana and we were waiting on the dock. Olly

Tooth number two

Last night Anna lost her second tooth in the Dining Room whilst eating a mango. She did a weird high-pitched squeeking for about two minutes when she saw the tiny amount of blood, but then went quiet at the thought of $1 from the tooth-fairy. Olly

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Preaching at the Ministry of Transport

This morning whilst I was at the Vehicle Licencing Section at the Ministry of Transport offices, a local Pastor came in and started preaching to the staff. None of them stopped what they were doing, but he continued anyway. He read a few Bible versus, sang a song, took up an offering for God's work, blessed the workers and then went on to the next office. Huh. olly

Wednesday, 5 March 2008


This is Lamin Turay from Sierra Leone, who along with his brother Moses are our vehicle mechanics. They do some excellent work of a very high standard. Lovely photo of Lamin taken off the "photo of the day" on the ship's intranet. Olly

Another new Land Rover

Thanks to the generosity of one of Mercy Ships' biggest supporters in the UK, today we took delivery of a brand new 9 seater Land Rover which brings our fleet up to 28, 19 of which are Land Rovers. Just the small task of getting the vehicle registerred here in Liberia remains before we can use it. Olly

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Emmanuel's new eye

During the war, Emmanuel (one of our drivers) lost his eyesight in his left eye when a rebel's bullet sprayed fragments of concrete into his face. Our eye doctors removed the damaged eye last outreach, but Emmanuel has had to wear sunglasses ever since to hide the empty eye socket. Today he was very happy to be given a new artificial eye, which matches his other eye perfectly. Now he can leave his sunglasses at home. This is what Mercy Ships is all about - making people whole again. Olly

Monday, 3 March 2008

Baby Amunckin

Today Sally organised for Patty from Acres of Hope to bring a baby with a bilateral cleft palate to the ship to see if Dr Gary could correct it. Patty showed me the baby on the dock - I have never seen such a massive cleft before, and even Dr Gary has only seen about 20 in his 25 years as a maxfax surgeon. As I drove away I realised that nowadays I take seeing babies with such things in my stride, whereas years ago I would have been traumatised for days after seeing the baby. He has a lovely smile and a very sweet nature too, says Sally. Please pray that we can admit him soon and that his surgery will be succesful. Olly

Who ate our dog?

When we lived ashore in Liberia we had a guard-dog called Yoda, who we gave away when we moved onto the Africa Mercy. A reliable source recently told us that Yoda was killed and eaten by some Liberian security guards, because he didn’t bark. Huh. Olly

Sunday, 2 March 2008

11am at ELWA Campus

Anna and local kids at ELWA Campus this morning. They were shown the kid's version of the Jesus Film, which was a big hit. Olly

10am at ELWA Campus

Walking to church at ELWA with our friends the Dunsheath family. Olly

7am at ELWA Campus

Our good friend Mambu was baptised in the sea at ELWA early this morning, and Sally and Noah went to be part of the event. Here he is seconds before being fully immersed. Olly

John Doe washes up on ELWA Campus

Last Sunday the 8 year old son of our good friends the Dunsheaths stumbled across the body of a man on the beach outside their house on the ELWA Campus, where we spend a great deal of our time each weekend. In true Liberian fashion, no-one panicked and the body was eventually hauled from the beach to the nearest road, where it was left for two days before it was removed. I guess the Liberian people are still familiar with the site of bodies after so many years of war, and even though the war finished in 2003, 2008 is just another year where people still die in Liberia. Olly

Goodbye Captain Jurryan

Since early 2005, Jurryan Schutte from Holland has been our Captain on the Anastasis and Africa Mercy. We have spent three field-services with him in Liberia, and sailed to South Africa, Ghana and Tenerife with him. He is the best Captain we have ever known, has a great sense of humour, and is an amazing man of God. He is leaving the ship tomorrow after serving in Mercy Ships for three years constantly, and we will miss him. Here he is in full dress uniform on the day President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia came to visit the ship. Olly