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.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Last day for surgery

Today, Friday 28th November, is the last day of surgery aboard the Africa Mercy in this Field Service. On Sunday the exodus begins, as dozens of surgeons, anaethatists and OR nurses start to go home. By the time we sail the number of crew will have gone down by 100 from the height of the Field Service, leaving only 297 people to sail to Tenerife. What a Field Service! I hope to publish some stats soon. Olly

Anna & The President Part II

Some more photos of Anna's 15 seconds of fame on Wednesday during the President of Liberia's final visit to the Mercy Ship Africa Mercy:
Anna shows the lovely bunch of flowers...

The Presient arrives and shakes hand with Ken, our MD...

Anna gives her the flowers...

The President passes the flowers to her aid...

...and waves at Africa Mercy crew standing on Deck 7 (including Libby & me). Olly

A baby with no face

The baby in the photo below is five month old Eddie, who suffered massive burns in August when the mosquito net he was sleeping under caught fire from a candle. Against all odds he survived, and his parents brought him to the Africa Mercy, where he had surgery to release his eyelids to stop him from going blind, and skin grafts to the back of his head. He will need many more surgeries to replace his nose and lips, and even after surgery may never gain his skin pigment. He will remain on the ship as long as possible so our nurses can change his dressings twice daily. Please pray for him. Olly

Mary's Meals

I often see an overloaded white pick-up around town with "Mary's Meals" written on the side, with a white women in the front passenger seat, but until now had no idea what Mary's Meals is, or who Mary is (was it the white lady?). www.telegraph.co.uk has a big article about Mary's Meals in it today - it is a charity set up by a Scottish Catholic guy (hence the name Mary, I guess), which aims to provide food for some of the worlds poorest people...Mary's Meals feeds 15000 children in Liberia today. Fascinating reading - click here for more. The Telegraph has included Mary's Meals in their Christmas Charity Appeal this year. Olly

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Anna and the President

Yesterday, the President of Liberia attended a reception aboard the Africa Mercy to mark the end of Mercy Ships' fourth Field Service in Liberia. Anna was chose to present her with a bunch of flowers as she climbed out of her car, and escorted her up the gangway and into the ship. I managed to get only one photo of the two together - so here it is, of Anna in pink, and the President in the brown & gold dress and headdress, surrounded by bodyguards. More photos to come. Olly

Marcel Eveleens

Many of you will remember our good friend Marcel & Annette Eveleens from Holland - we did our Gateway with them (and their daughter Joyce) in 2003. Marcel was with us on the Anastasis as head plumber, and later as an agriculturalist, and now is on the Africa Mercy teaching agriculture to the community of Tenegar. Here's a couple of photos of him ...

...shaking hands with the President of Liberia last Friday at the Tenegar Clinic opening ceremony... ...and in the chicken house he recently helped the Tenegar Community build.
His agriculture project in partnership with the Tenegar community has hopefully inspired the locals to continue growing food for their own consumption and for the market, after the ship sails away in a couple of weeks. Olly

Cool Liberian house

Here's a photo of one of Liberia's rare old colonial houses. It would originally have been clad in wood, which was replaced with corrugated iron sheets as they started to rot. The whole building was designed for coolness - it stands off the ground to allow cool air to circulate underneath; the many windows provide good ventilation and drafts, and the original wooden walls would have kept the heat out too. Nowadays of course, the iron walls have the opposite effect and the house is unbearably hot most of the time. Each year, the remaining number of these houses grows less as they are pulled down in favour of longer-lasting low maintenance concrete-block alternatives. Such a shame. Olly


Tenegar Town Celebrates Dedication Of New Clinic As Beacon Of Hope

Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf received a traditional gift of two roosters along with the keys to a new health clinic built with Mercy Ships funds and oversight. It was constructed by workers from 10 villages and has been handed over to the Ministry of Health and Welfare. The new clinic will serve the needs of the residents of Tenegar and surrounding villages for many years to come. For full article click here.

Liberia’s Thanksgiving for Mercy Ships

Friday 21st November 2008 - Hundreds of residents and community leaders in the Liberian town of Tenegar, gave thanks for the vital support of Mercy Ships, as Her Excellency Madame President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf cut the ribbon to the area's long-awaited health clinic. During the past 10 months while Mercy Ships surgeons provided free
 
surgeries in the Port of Monrovia, the ship's Community Development volunteers also provided management and expertise to the Tenegar site. Day workers from 10 different villages contributed 12,000 hours to clear and construct the clinic. For full article click here.

Monrovia Gets Additional Ten 75-Seater Transport Buses

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has urged the management of the Monrovia Transit Authority to work towards extending the activities of the Authority to other parts of the country. Speaking Saturday in Gardnersville when Government introduced recently acquired transport buses, the President said the authority must embark on plans that would lead to an extension of its activities throughout the country. She lauded the Canadian charity, the McCall McBain Foundation for supporting Government efforts to ease the transportation burden of citizens. For full article click here.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Noah update

Noah is emotionally a lot stronger this weekend, I am sure because of the prayers for him from people all over the world in response to my blog entry. Thanks for the emails of encouraragement too. God bless. Olly

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Noah needs prayer

Our nine year old son Noah is spending many evenings in tears as he contemplates our departure from Liberia, and the separation from his good friends ashore. Please pray for him. Olly

Ward Cleaning

With less than 2 weeks of surgery left, the number of patients on the Africa Mercy are getting less each day, and our wards are closing one by one in preparation for our sail to Tenerife. Each ward (and Operating Room) is being scrubbed thoroughly from top to bottom with disinfectant, by the same dedicated ladies who were nursing patients only days ago. No super-bugs here, guaranteed! Olly


I can see my face in that!

Monrovia's rainfall statistics

London has 25 inches of rainfall per year; Monrovia has 205 inches. It is the wettest capital city in the world, and the second wettest inhabited place in the world, after a small town in North East India. Olly

World Toilet Day?

With just one in 25 Liberians having access to a toilet, most use the nearest bush or beach, unwittingly committing what the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) calls "the riskiest sanitation practice". Liberia's 3.5 million people share just 19,690 toilets, according to a government water and sanitation sector assessment from October 2008, and fewer than one in three Liberians have access to safe drinking water, according to the head of Liberia's Water and Sewer Corporation, Hun-Bu Tulay. For full article click here.


A Liberian toilet. No wonder people prefer to use the bush or the beach.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Emmanuel

Ten year old Emmanuel has got to be the luckiest boy in West Africa. Last Thursday he swallowed the little thing that makes a whizzing noise from the end of one of those things you blow to make an irritating noise at parties, and it went deep into one of his lungs. When he breathed out, he made a whizzing sound. Without a procedure to remove the thing, it would fester and cause infection, and he would most probably die after a long sickness. His parents carried him around Monrovia's hospitals for 3 days, but there was no-one able to remove the device. And then a miracle happened - they brought him to the Africa Mercy's dockside clinic late on Sunday afternoon, when it should have been closed - but my friend Rosie, an Admissions Nurse, just happened to be finishing off her work late for the day. She listened to Emmanuel's chest, and then went and found Paediatric Surgeon Dr Hose from Gran Canaria, who was the only guy in Liberia with the knowledge and tools to remove the whizzer. Emmanuel was admitted on Sunday night and a one-hour procedure removed the thing on Monday. Today he is going home, slightly bruised but none the worst for the accident. Praise God! Olly

Sunday, 16 November 2008

4 weeks from now...

4 weeks from now we will be at sea, having left Liberia for the final time (for a long time anyway) en route to Tenerife, before sailing to the Republic of Benin for the next ten month Field Service. Olly

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Mercy Ships ensures that Liberian technicians can "fix it"

Monrovia, Liberia November 12, 2008 - One of the biggest challenges to providing increased access to health care for Liberia's citizens is the availability of functional medical equipment. Although Liberia is in the process of rebuilding, much of the country's infrastructure is still in ruins, including many health care facilities. Medical and support personnel are severely lacking. Many who lived in the country before the war were displaced and most have not returned. In addition, donor organizations have supplied new or used medical equipment, but often no one is trained to repair or install it. Add the difficulty in getting spare parts, separation of service manuals from equipment and instability of a power supply that causes frequent equipment failure, and you have an African hospital's biggest headache. In an effort to address this issue and at the request of the Liberian Ministry of Health & Social Welfare, six Liberian hospital technicians have recently completed Mercy Ships' first Mentoring Biomedical Technicians program. The technicians were chosen by five of the nation's hospitals and equipped with additional skills to install, maintain, and repair various complex medical equipment. The training will ensure that donations of essential equipment will be well used when the ship departs in December. Developed and led by Africa Mercy crew member Carlos Amaral of Brazil who recently completed his PhD in biomedical engineering in Germany, the program ran from March through October. It included courses in computer training, electricity, electronics and medical equipment. Funding was provided by German foundation PRANA-Stiftung and matched by Mercy Ships volunteer hours. For full article click here.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

UN troops in Liberia step up patrols on Ivory Coast border

MONROVIA, Nov 7, 2008 (AFP) - UN peacekeeping troops in Liberia said Friday that they have stepped up patrols on the border with Ivory Coast after media reports of rebel incursions. "As a precaution we have increased our vigilance to intensive foot patrol, dismounted patrol and air patrol in the area," the new commander of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) Lieutenant General Abu Tayeb Muhammad Zahirul Alam told AFP. A newspaper reported in late October that Liberian rebels who want to overthrow the government, had crossed into the country from Ivory Coast and caused unrest. The reports did not specify who the rebels were. Many Liberians are still traumatized by the 14 year civil war up to 2003 which left more than 250,000 people dead. That war started when rebels led by Charles Taylor crossed into Liberia from Ivory Coast. UNMIL took the reports and the population's concern seriously, Alam said, but had not yet found "anything substantial" to back up the reports. UNMIL maintains security in Liberia. Set up in 2003, it was for several years was the largest UN force in Africa with more than 13,000 peacekeepers. Last year the UN started reducing troop numbers as disarmament was completed and security improved. There are now about 11,000 peacekeepers and it will be further reduced to 10,000 next year, the commander said. The UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has 16,000 soldiers while the missions in Ivory Coast and Darfur have about 8,000 peacekeepers each. For original article click here.

Utterly Insane

Whilst Charles Taylor* stands trial for war crimes in The Hague, his misguided supporters** continue to maintain his innocence. This is their latest advertising poster - "God willing, I will be back". Their previous poster "Charles Taylor is innocent" was defaced surprisingly quickly. These are the same people that recently had a three hour long prayer vigil in Congo Town Baptist Church praying for Taylor's release (and their own freedom, I suspect). Olly


* the world's second most evil person after Osama Bin Laden, in my opinion!

** many of whom are also guilty of war crimes and theft of Liberian funds on a massive scale, and are terrified of eventual prosecution also.

A nice taxi-biker

Here in Liberia there are more and more young men offering rides on their motorbikes for money, as an alternative to waiting for a hot and cramped taxi. Many of these young men are ex-combatants, and often charge a white man like me far too much for a ride...so imagine my surprise today when a young man said "I can't charge you" as he dropped me off at the Mercy Ships gate in the port. I was so surprised I nearly fell off the bike. Bless him! Olly

Happy Libby Day

Three years ago today (11th November 2005), we brought the baby girl we were hoping to adopt onto the Anastasis for blood tests...and she never left us again! Rioting in the city meant that shore leave was cancelled, so she had to stay with us prematurely instead of waiting for the adoption paperwork to come through (which did, one month later). So 11th November is LIBBY DAY! Praise God for our beautiful Liberian girl. Olly

Sunday, 9 November 2008

General Butt Naked

Joshua Milton Blahyi spoke at our Sunday evening service tonight. He spoke about being a "priest" for the Krahn tribe since he was young, and regularly making human sacrifices. During the war he fought naked - hence the name he was given, "General Butt Naked". He sacrificed a child before every battle and distributed pieces of its heart to be eaten by him and the child soldiers he had recruited. In 1996, whilst his Krahn tribe were surrounded by Charles Taylor's army, he had just sacrificed another child when a voice coming from a bright light told him to come out of slavery. It was the voice of Jesus, telling him to stop being a slave to the Devil - and he did just that! He turned his back on his evil ways and terrible practices. Since then he has become an evangelist, and is working with ex-combatants, and has brought over 50 to the Lord. He is a very powerful speaker, and is a perfect example of how God can use someone who was utterly evil, for good. Olly

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Africa Mercy's Climbing Frame Opens

Yesterday we opened the Africa Mercy's children's climbing frame on Deck 8. It will give joy to thousands of children over the expected 30 years life of the ship. The whole project was financed by the good folk of Silencio Christian Fellowship, Tenerife, and South Tenerife Christian Fellowship. Thanks guys. We will be back with you before Christmas. Olly

Friday, 7 November 2008

Private Richard Pabai

I first met Liberian refugee Richard Pabai in Benin in 2004, when he worked on the Anastasis as a day-worker in the Deck Department. He sailed with us to Liberia in 2005, and left the ship's employment in early 2006, when I tried to help him set up in business selling firstly tools and then clothes from a wheelbarrow. In 2007 he got quite sick with typhoid, and then I didn't hear from him for over a year...until this week when he visited the ship in army uniform. Yes, Richard Pabai is now one of the American trained new Armed Forces of Liberia! I am very happy for him! He has five sets of uniform, three meals a day, clean water to drink, enough current to charge his mobile phone, and a doctor to treat his malaria and reoccurring typhoid...what more can a young Liberian need? Olly

Libby, me and Private Pabai.

Liberian Thanksgiving

Yesterday was Liberia's Thanksgiving Day (a tradition we really like, and will try to continue once we return to the UK). As an international crew from 33 different nations, we celebrated the day with the Liberians instead of waiting for the American Thanksgiving Day (like we used to on the Anastasis), and the event also included aspects of the traditional Harvest Festival we celebrate in the UK at this time of year. The Academy's school kids were dressed as fruit or vegetables...

...Libby came dressed as a tomato...

...Noah as a bunch of grapes...

...and Anna (left) as a bunch of bananas with her friends Fride (centre) and Joyce (right).

And there was a lovely display of fruit and veg from Liberia and beyond.
Crew from all 33 countries took it in turns to pray in their mother tongue, and then we finished with ice cream and chocolate cake! Olly

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Security

Our security has always been an issue in Liberia,much so than in any other West African country I have ever visited. There are many desperate young ex-combatants who will do literally anything to earn a few dollars, even if it means swimming through the filthy waters of the port and dodging UN soldiers and Freeport Police, just to climb onto our dock to try to steal things. Mostly they get disturbed by our patrols and end up swimming away empty handed into the darkness. But in the small hours of Monday morning, swimmers managed to get onto our ship! And so "Swimmer Watch" starts once again, until we leave Liberia in December - crew will sign-up to man the decks all night long equipped with searchlights and two-way radios to ensure swimmers get no-where near our dock or our ship. Please pray for our safety and security, and for these desperate young men who are just trying to survive. Olly

Monday, 3 November 2008

Water shortage

For unknown reasons, the water currently leaving Monrovia's water plant isn't reaching the ship in the quantity we require. We have been under strict water rationing for nearly 2 weeks now, which involves 2 minute showers, closed laundry and even eating off disposable plates. And since we can't use the ship's water for cleaning our Land Rovers and Nissans, we are buying swamp water from down Somalia Drive ($10 US for 1000 litres)...Please pray that water starts to flow freely soon, so that we can build up our non-existent reserves before we sail in just over a months time. Olly

Black Gold

The dredger Orwell is pumping two or three loads of thick black river silt into the processing ponds near our ship, where it solidifies into piles of mud almost as soon as it leaves the pipe. How Subsea Resources are going to process the hundreds of tons of mud to find the diamonds is a mystery to me. Today a new security company arrived to manage the site, in preparation for the unearthing of diamonds - the men in red t-shirts were replaced by a more alert looking bunch of men in smart blue uniforms. Olly



Saturday, 1 November 2008

Hole in One

Last weekend near ELWA, a car drove right into a hole recently dug in the road for new drains. Ironically, it was probably the best signposted and most visible roadworks hole I have ever seen in Liberia. My Mum took these photos as they drove past. Olly

Whoops!