Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Where do we go from here?

It's been 6 days since the Mineke Foundation team returned home to the Netherlands from their working visit to Dabwe Town, Liberia. Six days that have flown by so fast I haven't had a chance to reflect on the intense, emotional, inspiring and productive week spent in Liberia from  February 29th through March 7th. Looking back, what were the highlights for me?
The resilience of the Liberian people, who are also my people. Especially as embodied by the youth. The steadfast belief that the future can only be better than the present is the basis for the optimism and hope that drive people forward.

The speed with which things can, at times, progress. Our team in Liberia has accomplished more than we expected, and has plans to do so much more. The youth are eager to take their place on the world's stage. That optimism and hope leave me determined not to disappoint. But at the same time, they instill in me a sense of caution. Will our donors and beneficiaries enable us to match that speed with funding? Also, how do you strike a balance between an untarnished belief in a better future and the realities of life?  

The renovation of the Damiefa School auditorium. This project is moving faster than we expected six months ago. I'm thrilled, but also clearly recognize the need to attract more funding to continue in the way we've dreamed. We need funding for the renovation of the classrooms and office (27 000 euros) and for solar panels on the roof of the auditorium (7 500 euros) to provide lighting. Also, the pleas so many mothers made to me to see to it that the school is once again running, have touched me deeply. 

Our pastry and soap making training (which include basic business skill training) could lead to increased economic activities in Dabwe Town. That would be wonderful! Looking ahead, I believe that MF needs to start thinking about how to connect these small businesses to markets, how to help them grow (those that want to grow). Wouldn't it be wonderful to establish links with businesses in the Netherlands or elsewhere that then import products from Liberia, including those "Made in Dabwe Town"?  

The lack of a social structure. Holland is said to be a place where it's common that you don't know your neighbours, but post-war Liberia is hardly different. Obviously, you know the faces of your neighbours, but do you actually know them? No. Our team has launched the idea of a social club for women to provide mutual support. This idea has been widely embraced and will be one of our next projects.  

My time in Liberia has strengthened my belief that the philosophy I laid down for MF at the beginning is the right one: we focus on and work with those who are willing to take responsibility for making a difference in their lives, while helping others to make a decision about being willing or not to take that responsibility. We do not and will not coerce anyone to join our projects, but seek to strengthen those who run into obstacles while trying to move forward. But that doesn't mean it's easy to do.

On a personal note, I visited the place where the story has it my mother was shot and left to die on November 2, 1992. I heard the story again for the 2nd time since 1993, and stood on the ground where it is said to have happened. I felt again the pain of losing a most beloved parent, the terrible unfairness of it all, and the powerless anger against those unnamed NPFL rebels who decided that her life should end there. As I write this future oriented blog post, I do so with that loss resounding within me, with the pain of not knowing where, if at all, she is buried, and with a deep wound which I believe can only be understood by those who have never been able to say goodbye to a loved one lost in a violent death. It is, however, also the place where I make my stand. Mineke Foundation, though built on the pain of the past, will continue with the work and the good that my parents started so long ago. Evil will not prevail.
~ tonia ~

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