Saturday I got to meet with the Pt. Bushrod Island community of “Liberian Returnees Women For Self Empowerment.” They are courageously creating a vocational skill training center with practically no resources – volunteer teachers, little or no equipment or supplies. Sewing with two machines and occasional fabric; soap making with intermittent ingredients that must all be imported; computer skills with one broken and one functioning computer (no internet connection). Today about 20 of these women gathered under the leadership of our core team member, Emma. After leading us through a meditation and paired listening, she asked her boss to tell the story for our facts-feelings-values exercise. It turned out to be a very live and hot story that involved Emma herself, her boss, another core team member as well as another woman who was not present. Many feelings were stirred, so we got to apply Compassionate Listening on the spot as it seemed wise to listen to each of the involved parties. It was challenging, and there is still more healing to do around their challenges – but the circle left feeling inspired, motivated and ready to learn and experience more.
I get to speak to all kinds of interesting people in the bar upstairs during the evening… Last night I learned about a very disturbing situation with large Chinese fishing boats: there are supposed to stay 5 miles off shore, yet come right in to the bay – several boats, with nets cast between them – which of course trumps the local small fishing industry. Indeed, several times the small local boats (more like canoes) have gotten caught in their illegal nets and people have drowned. When taken to court, corrupt judges here just pocket a bribe of $20k and dismiss the case without levying the appropriate multi-million dollar fines. Needless to say, many Liberians feel cynical and helpless with the level of corruption here and the apparent inability or unwillingness of the government to clamp down on it. Still, most people I talk to believe re-electing Ellen Sirleaf Johnson is the best choice at this point…
Today (Sunday) was very packed. In the morning I went to the Muslim community for a baby-naming ceremony. I sat on the floor behind the scrim curtain with all the festively dressed and veiled ladies and their darling, cooperative babies. (Although one toddler burst into tears when he saw me… I hear he just received an injection from a white lady dr. last week.)
Then we went to the Pentecostal church of the Superintendent of Montserrat County (home of Monrovia): she is a remarkable leader and an awesome preacher. I loved her sermon – yup, the nice Jewish girl was enthusiastically yelling out Hallelujah between all the glorifying of Jesus’ name. She talked about how we all have the keys to Heaven and everything we need. It’s up to us to use them. When Emmanuel and I got to meet with her afterwards I explained how LPI is working to teach people the skills so they can use those keys. She was very interested and receptive, especially when we mentioned the Restorative Circles and how we will have some trained facilitators who can help with community conflicts. She invited us to join her to go to a community meeting with a difficult land-ownership issue on Wednesday. And she agreed to come to our Summit – so we are thrilled to be building this strategic relationship.
Later in the afternoon we headed way out of town to the poor community of Rock Crusher outside of Paynesville where there is an orphanage/school with 30 orphans and 90 children from the community that attend the orphanage sponsored school. Today was their K2 graduation and we were treated to song, juggling, spelling bill, samples of homemade jam, demonstration of sign language. It was a very sweet little place filled with loving, devoted teachers and volunteers.
Finally, we crawled out way through horrendous traffic to way other side out of town ‘to meet with another core team member’s womens’ group. Christine did a great job facilitating and demonstrating some introduction to Compassionate Listening… And it has been extremely instructive to see how our group is translating what they learned: I have a clearer idea of what is needed to strengthen their ability. The list is long and a bit daunting… But I know some of the members really get it and will help the others step by step. At one point Christine kept disappearing from the Circle, worrying me a bit – how could she leave the group? Then she returned and said, “Please follow me.” Very mysterious… It turned out she had prepared a fabulous Sunday supper for Emmanuel, PCO staffer Pauline and I. YUM.
Well, dear readers. It’s getting late and I have lots of preparations for tomorrow’s first day of the training! I’ll head up to bar with hopes of an internet connection so I can post this…