This Blog serves as two things: a photo-diary of our lives between 2007 and mid 2011, when we saw some incredible things and met some amazing people; and a reflection of our more normal lives since then.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Rags

As we try to keep as many Mercy Ship vehicles on the road as possible, we get through crate loads of rags (which we use for wiping up spilt oil etc). The best rags are undoubtedly old t-shirts, and herein lies the problem: it's a crying shame to cut-up even the grottiest of t-shirts in Liberia, when so many people are only wearing rags themselves. Every time I buy a bundle of spoilt t-shirts, with the intention of cutting them up, they are snatched up by our Liberian mechanics and drivers so they can wear them. I will have to re-direct my search for rags elsewhere. Olly

Body parts for Satan?

There are some Satanic groups in Liberia that are still active and alive, mostly up-country. The ritual of eating your slain enemy's heart during the war years came from these cults. So I am deeply saddened to hear that Satanic practices are becoming more common, even in Monrovia where I have heard of people being abducted as they sleep, and of their bodies being found next morning with missing eyes, fingers and genitals. These body parts are used in Satanic rituals, where those involved get strength from the evil spirits who they worship. Please join us in praying against this. Please pray for the power of the Holy Spirit over the evil spirits. Please pray for more conversions of these Satan worshipers, like the conversion of the warlord known as the Butt Naked General who became the Christian evangelist and preacher Joshua Blahyi, and who was the first man to voluntarily confess to the Truth & Reconciliation Tribunal about what he did whilst under the control of evil spirits. Olly 

Weevils

Q: Do you know what happens when you don't store cereal in cool and dry places, like it says on the packaging? A: The weevil eggs (that are found in most cereals) hatch out, and you find that you are not the first to have been eating your Weetabix. Our cereal comes by container from the USA, and is exposed to warm and humid conditions whilst crossing the Atlantic, so rarely do I get a bowl of Weetabix without a shot of protein in it. (I told Libby that the dead weevils were bits of crunchy chocolate, so she loves them!)...Olly

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Death Penalty to be used in Liberia

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has signed into law an Act making armed robbery, terrorism and hijacking capital offenses. This is a response to the appeal of the majority of the people for a robust response to the increasing level of crime involving robberies that include physical assault, rape and murder by robbers who attack innocent citizens, thereby creating panic and a confidence crisis in the society. The President is committed to revisiting the Act for possible amendment as soon as the situation is brought fully under control and sustainable peace is assured. www.newliberian.com.
This is a shocking response to the increasing number of armed robberies here, and we have no idea how implementing this act will work. Please pray for Liberia; that it will never be necessary to use this Act, and that mistakes won't be made. Olly

Friday, 25 July 2008

Happy 161st, Liberia


Mama Liberia is 161 years old tomorrow. Happy Independence Day, Liberia!
(Yes, I took this banner from the Liberian Analyst Newspaper's website - www.analystliberia.com). Olly

Bottling factory trip


On Wednesday I went with the kids from the Academy to the bottling plant of a company called Aqua Life. They pull water out of a deep well, and filter it several times before bottling it, in a very hi-tech factory the likes of which I had never seen before in Liberia. The building had been imported from France, and some of the machinery from China. Bottles and caps and labels and cardboard boxes all have to be imported too, from all over the world...the operation is massive, and obviously has cost an enormous amount to set up. Thanks to Harish for showing us around (see photo). Olly

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Baby Greg update

Baby Greg died last night. He had been on our hospital ward for about 6 weeks, and was being helped to breath all that time. Please pray for his mother who has been with him on the ship all that time, and his family and community and their reaction to his death - please pray that some good will come out of it. Please also pray for our dedicated nurses who have also been at his side all this time, and who became very close to him. Olly

Happy Birthday to my Dad

It's my Dad's birthday today. He is spending it with my Mum exploring Turkey, so right now I have no idea where they are...they could be in Europe or they could be in Asia...but wherever you are, Dad, have a lovely day. I've been slowly building a blog for you - click on www.peetsofpippincottage.blogspot.com. Olly

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Floods were worst in Monrovia's history

Intense and heavy rainfall in the Liberian capital Monrovia on 20 July caused the worst floods on record in Monrovia and forced nearly 1,000 people out of their houses, Liberian authorities told IRIN (seehttp://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=79364). All day Sunday, residents in eastern areas of the city including in Paynesville, Townhall, King Gray, Fish Market and other communities were seen removing personal belongings like mattresses, clothes and pots from their homes. By the end of the day, flood water had blocked roads to the area, and government rescue workers were using canoes to evacuate the remaining people from the flood areas. "Right now, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Internal Affairs along with the Red Cross has been assisting in evacuating the flood affected residents to safer locations and as a temporary measure the government has relocated those residents to shelter in nearby schools," Liberia's Chief Medical Officer Bernice Dahn told IRIN on 21 July. "With close to 1,000 persons displaced this is the worst flood we have experienced in this city," she said. Meteorologists have warned that the entire West Africa region is likely to receive above average levels of rainfall in 2008. Floods have already been recorded this year in countries including Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, and Burkina Faso. However Liberia's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acting executive director Jerome Nyenka told IRIN that the cause of the Monrovia flood is due to what he called "encroachment of human habitations on wetlands" as much as the level of rainfall. irin.news.org

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Sign-writing in Liberia

Saw this banner sticking out of the floods in one of Monrovia's suburbs today. What a shame the sign-writer didn't spell "Madam" correctly. Olly

The Scouting Association of Liberia

Liberian Scouts display some of the qualities that have been lost in recent years from Scouting in the UK: they are still proud to wear their uniform and stand out in the crowd, and spend one afternoon a week doing good deeds for free, which is entirely admirable in Liberia where I can guarantee that many of them would be grateful to earn a few dollars to buy food. They can regularly be seen around town, helping out...as I said in my previous blog entry, Baden Powell would have been proud of them, and everything they continue to stand for. Olly

Sunday 20th July...more rain

Today we have seen massive rains all day long, the likes of which I've never seen before. We tried to visit our friends Gary & Tammy across town, but had to turn around and head back to the ship because the floods were too deep.

Scouts in the pouring rain at Old Road Junction directing traffic around floods. I tried to give them some money for their labours, but was told "we don't take money: we're Scouts". I was blown away with shock - this is the first time in Liberia (in over three years) that anyone has refused money from me. Had he been alive today, Baden Powell would have been very pleased with them and all they continue to stand for.

The flooded road just before ELWA Campus. The river was pouring over it, as well as going under it through culverts, and getting deeper by the minute. Here we decided to turn around, as we were unsure we would be able to come back this way later. Gangs of young men were earning money pushing stalled cars out of the floods.

Jeety Trading Corporation's newly opened store at ELWA. Whoops. The store was built at least 5 feet above the usual river level, but here the water has risen by at least 9 feet, and is half-way up the front doors. The floodlights of SKD Stadium can be seen in the background, where Noah and I were yesterday. Olly

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Mercy Ships -v- Ministry of Youth & Sports

This afternoon, thirty of the ship's crew including Noah and I travelled to the SKD Stadium outside Monrovia to watch the Mercy Ships football team play the Ministry of Youth and Sport's team (who are semi-professionals, I reckon, and included the Liberian National Team's German coach). The stadium is in magnificent condition after it's recent refurbishment by the Chinese...

...and even has fire-ant free grass!

Our team played well during the first half, and the game was nil-nil at half time. Sadly, the Ministry of Youth & Sports scored three goals during the second half.

It was a great afternoon out anyway. Olly

Anna

Anna (6) is incredible. Today, Sally took her to the local Cheshire Home for the mentally and physically disabled, and Anna took it all in her stride and talked and played with the residents quite happily. I remember going to a hospital for the mentally disabled when I was her age, and I was very unsettled by the visit. But not her! She has been blessed with a caring nature and is full of compassion. We are very proud of her. Olly

No tomatoes

Would you believe, there is not one single tomatoe on sale in the whole of the greater Monrovia area. Not in 4 fruit and vegetable markets or 5 supermarkets. Huh. Olly

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Rain rain rain

Here in Liberia we're at the height of the rainy season. Most days it rains, and yesterday it rained all day without stopping. All of our outdoor work had to stop, and very few patients managed to travel to the ship. By yesterday evening I was so cold and damp that I had to change into long trousers and a jumper. My boots are still wet even now. Fortunately, today has been dry and warm, with only a brief rain shower a few minutes ago (but we've got a fire drill later, when I bet it rains so everyone standing on the dock will get wet whilst I run around on the ship in my fire suit getting hot...). Olly

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Please pray for baby Greg

Six-month old baby Greg arrived on the Africa Mercy on 15th June for surgery to remove a tumour from his neck. After the surgery, he could not breath unaided, and although he has been on a ventilator ever since he does not seem to be improvingng. His mother, Marian, has been living on the ship with him for the last month; before that she was thrown out of her family home by her father, who placed a curse on her that she never bear living children. Her first daughter died at birth, and now she is afraid that she will lose baby Greg as well. Please pray that Greg's little body will grow strong enough to breath again on it's own, and please pray for strength and God's grace for Marian. Thank you. Olly

USA & UK to restructure Liberian Police?

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says the ineffectiveness of the Liberia National Police has given rise to the bad security situation in the country. She said a restructured police force could fight crime if the necessary logistics and better incentives were provided them. The Liberian President disclosed that her government has asked the United States and British Governments to assist in the restructuring of the police to meet international standards. President Sirleaf was speaking on a wide range of issues of national concern, Wednesday at a major press conference in Monrovia. Meanwhile, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has left the country for a weeklong visit to South Africa. While in South Africa, the President will serve as Guest Speaker at the 90th birth Anniversary of Former South African President, Nelson Mandela. President Johnson Sirleaf is also expected to receive the Nelson Mandela Award for 2008. liberiabroadcastingsystem.com

Monday, 14 July 2008

Liberia: American Football Player endorses Mercy Ships

Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has commended Mercy Ships for its continuous support in revamping Liberia's health sector. The President said efforts by Mercy Ships have left an indelible mark on Liberians which can never be forgotten. The President spoke last Tuesday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when she met with officials of Mercy Ships and Malcolm Kelly, an American football star from the United States. Mr Kelly, who plays professional football for the Washington Redskins in America's National Football League, was visiting Liberia to conduct an athletic speed and fitness program with Mercy Ships. The program, which is on-going at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville, includes 40 local athletes from various sporting disciplines. President Johnson Sirleaf commended Kelly for identifying with the Mercy Ships cause. She recalled that Mercy Ships came to Liberia at a time when the country's health services needed to be fully reconstituted. The process, the President noted, began with "giving the young people of Liberia a new lease on life." The Liberian leader further commended Mr Kelly for thinking about Liberia as the country strives to rebuild after a 'difficult past,' challenging him to share his experiences and goals with young Liberian children. For his part, Mr Kelly expressed his pleasure in contributing to the success of Mercy Ships' outreach programs. He promised to return to Liberia to continue the program as well as explore other areas for possible assistance. allafrica.com

Monday, 7 July 2008

Another blogger

My parents (who are on the Mercy Ships UK Speaker Network) did a talk last week to the local Probus Club, and one of the club, David Duff, wrote about it on his blog. His comments are very moving, and a great encouragement to us, on the ship here in Liberia, who need encouragement every so often...click on http://duffandnonsense.typepad.com/duff_nonsense/2008/07/stunned-moved-and-at-a-loss-for-words.html for a jolly good read. Olly

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Bunkering

Every three of four months the Africa Mercy is refuelled by a ship that comes into the port. Today the bunker barge arrived, and as I write we are in the process of receiving, I believe, something in the region of 700 tons of marine diesel fuel at a cost of nearly $700,000 USD. I understand that this breaks down to $2.75/gallon, which is pretty good compared to the cost of buying diesel on the street here in Monrovia at the cost of $4.75. Photo of the bunker barge moored across the dock from us earlier this morning. Olly

Computer games

In the last month, Noah has discovered the excitement of computer games, and at the same time Libby and Anna have discovered on-line childrens games (which even Libby can play)...so my own opportunity for quality time on the computer is getting less and less. So if you receive emails or see blog entries made at unearthly hours, you'll know why. Olly

Saturday, 5 July 2008

If only I had my camera with me (Thank you, Firestone!).

Last night Isaac, one of our Liberian drivers, drove his Nissan straight into swamp land. This morning I went to rescue him, with two hand winches and a selection of towing straps (all of which eventually broke). Isaac's Nissan was axle-deep in thick mud, and every effort he was making to free himself only settled him in deeper. My efforts with my Nissan and 25 local men didn't shift Isaac's Nissan either...so we hired a 12 ton truck, which couldn't pull him out of the bog either...so we visited Firestone's Industrial Relations Manager, Mr Roberts, at the rubber processing plant. He kindly agreed to send a massive tow-truck out to help, which succeeded in effortlessly pulling Isaac's Nissan out of the swamp with it's huge 15 ton winch. God bless Firestone! How I wish I'd had my camera with me. Olly

Friday, 4 July 2008

The nicest engineers...

There are three young commercial engineers on the ship, who are constructing noise reducing enclosures around our huge and very noisy harbour generators. They are the nicest guys I have ever met, and have really fitted well into the community. They chat with the kids and hang out with the crew in the evenings, and even join in the football and frisbie games played in the UN fields nearby. They are most unusual: most contractors are usually very quiet and focused on getting the job done, and not interested in integrating with the ships community...Bless them! Olly

We know a celebrity!

This is our friend Scott Harrison. He was a photo-journalist on the Anastasis with us from 2004 to 2006. He is a remarkable guy who gave up his life as a night-club promoter in New York to volunteere Mercy Ships, and is now the founder of his own charity, which raises money to dig wells across Africa. He is featured in the USA's People Magazine this week as one of the US's most "Hot Batchelors". His website is http://www.charitywater.org./Olly

Sports

Believe it or not, there is very little for the international crew on the Africa Mercy to talk about every day. Often we don't share the same interests, or even watch the same TV shows, and there is a limit to how much we can discuss ship life...So the last few weeks have been great whilst the Euro Cup and now Wimbledon have been on satellite TV on the ship. I am amazed at the interest our international crew-mates have in these sporting events, especially Wimbledon (which is a uniquely British obsession, I thought). All over the ship, small crowds of off-duty nurses, cooks and engineers are huddled around TVs, groaning and cheering as games progress. Its great. Olly

Rainy season again

It's that time of year again, when we see more rain than sun. It rained all day Monday - torrential rain which flooded the decks an inch deep (which the kids loved playing in); and it has rained almost every day since. Liberia is looking very green right now, with plenty of flooded roads and houses. When it rains here it really pours, and visibility is reduced to zero. And it becomes delighfully cool too, which keeps the men who sell thick coats busy. Olly

Fire Drill

We had a great Fire Drill yesterday, on Deck 2 Forward, where our radios didn't work too well and communication was very hard. I had to phone Reception and ask them to relay a message to Fire Control, and the Receptionist couldn't hear a word through my breathing mask and my Darth Vader breathing. We found a victim - the ship's Chief Officer who is a very big guy, and me and 4 other firemen really struggled to carry him out of the smoke to a stairwell, where we couldn't carry him any further...The On-Scene Commander sent a huge Ukrainian engineer down to help us carry the victim up a deck to the awaiting Emergency Medical Team. Today I ache all over from the effort. Olly

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Facebook

Isn't Facebook amazing? I have had nearly 20 birthday greetings via Facebook from people all around the world today. So if you Facebook'd me, thank you!. Olly