Thursday, May 29, 2008

Alfred & Agnes Memorial Orphanage

I arrived in Liberia on Monday afternoon after a long and uncomfortable flight via Kenya and Ghana. It's very tropical here, beautiful, green and humid in the countryside and Monrovia, the capital, is in poor condition - dirty, chaotic with destroyed buildings, serving as a stark reminder that this country is only just out of a long and brutal civil war.

The orphanage is outside the city in a district called Brewerville, named after the large brewery producing the local 'Club' beer and Guiness.

The orphanage is called 'The Alfred and Agnes memorial' after the founder's parents- today their three great-grandchildren Jerome, Adonis and Evita run the place. Jerome is the main man who is full of wonderful ideas and has so much enthusiasm - the only thing holding him and the orphanage back is lack of money. Adonis is studying Agriculture at the univeristy of Liberia and has a nursery at the orphanage growing chillis and potatoes. They also have a plot of land 3 hours away where they want to grow more vegetables. Evita looks after the children and cooks for us - delicious food! They are a dedicated trio and deserve all the help they can get.

The builders have been working hard and have made 3000 cement blocks. Today (wednesday) they drew out and started digging the foundations of the clinic. The work is progressing fast and we are really pleased with the results so far. The builders are incredible. They work from dawn til dusk in incredibly hot and humid conditions.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Going back to Africa

It's been exactly a year, and i'm going back to Africa, so it made sense to use this blog again.

This time I am heading to Liberia on the West Coast of Africa. I will be in Monrovia with IceAid, a relatively new Independent Icelandic Development and Humanitarian Agency. In 2006 they rehabilitated the Alfred and Agnes Memorial Orphanage, and this trip we will be building a new health clinic. I don't really know what to expect from this trip, but i shall try and write about it as often as possible.

The last few weeks have been crazy, trying to finish exams, and plan things for the trip. I also, with the help of a wonderful boyfriend and friends, planned a couple of fundraising events.

It's now 1am, and i'm thinking about packing. I have to head to the airport in 4 hours. Ouch.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


I'm in Maputo doing some work for ICEIDA, drafting their annual and biannual reports. My decision to come here was partly financial, but also was a way to prevent insanity. I didn't know how i would cope being in Maganja without Stebba, and thought breaking up the last couple of months would ensure i would have something to look forward to if it was difficult.

Although it really isn't the same without Stebba, I have had a nice time. I've made more of an effort to speak to other people (I tried talking to my shortwave radio, but it didn't really work). Subsequently, my portuguese has been improving. That said, it's still shocking - i don't know how to spell anything, and i can only speak in 1st & 3rd person singular.

Having been more sociable, I've finally been able to ask lots of personal questions we had been dying to ask since we arrived. They will need their own post to do them justice.

I've been in Maputo for over 10 days and still haven't begun on the reports as no one in the office has started their sections. Have been keeping myself busy with writing an information booklet on ICEIDA and Iceland to give ICEIDA's partners and journalists here in Mozambique. I don't know whether the locals care about iceland's average annual rainfall, but the fact they (we) supposedly eat hákarl (putrefied shark) and hrútspungar (pickeld ram's testicles) will probably amuse them.

On sunday I went with Jói Þ and his wife Marcelina to their 'summerhouse' in Matola, just outside maputo. This is Jói and his friend Adam (who happens to be the head of the Mozambican secret police and someone you don't want to mess around with.

Marcelina's grandmother lives there. No one knows how old she is, but she remembers the british leaving south africa. My SA history is non-existant, but it could be around 1902 if she was talking about the 2nd Boer War/Anglo Boer War... which makes her well over 100. She's still completely on the ball and has a dirty sense of humour - she told marcelina that jói wasn't coming home as he was going to sleep in her bed. She doesn't speak any portuguese, only shangaan - didn't stop her talking to me though. The picture is of her with her great-great grandaughter.

$1 a day update.

I mentioned back in december that i was planning to do a $1 a day challenge, which is what most people in Mozambique live on.

I did this experiment for 2 weeks. In a way, it wasn't too difficult. It took me a little while to save up a bag of coal ($2) and i was spending an average of 70cents, sometimes as little as 40 cents. However, the important thing to remember is that I have no dependents, i didn't need to go to Quelimane ($8 return) & i coped not eating meat/fish & drinking coke/beer because i knew it was a temporary thing.

Despite being possible, it is not a nice way to live. Fruit is a luxury, you need to fill yourself up on starch (mealie meal... rice is expensive) & clothes are something you can buy on rare occassions. You have no capital to start a small business or to buy seeds... this basically means these people who are living so far below the poverty line have no way to get themselves out of the situation.