Chickens, sun-cream and hope: my first year in Liberia

A lot can happen in 12 months. Gerry Naughton, our communications officer in Liberia, looks back on his first year in the post.

Gerry Naughton
Gerry Naughton
Communications officer, Liberia

Back to all stories | Posted on 23 Jun 2017 in Life in Liberia

In April 2016, I was telling everyone I knew about the job I just had accepted for Mary’s Meals in Liberia. One year on it is almost impossible to select my highlights, but here are just a few:

One of my major achievements this year has been to receive two live chickens (it would have been three, but I saw the gift coming and managed to suggest the chicken was more valuable to the person giving it than to me).

I got the first one within a month of reaching Liberia – thrust into my hands on a school visit as a gesture of welcome. I grasped it by the legs and prayed it wouldn’t peck me. Someone managed to get a photo. We (both me and the chicken) look a bit flustered but I was impressed by the generosity as I know how valuable the gift is.

I’ve planted corn, watched it grow and eaten the golden cobs a few months later. I’ve planted tomatoes and watched them wither in the sun… and cabbage... and watermelon. Victims of the giant African snail.

I’ve got up in the middle of night to record the sound of lashing rain.

I’ve got used to plastering my head, neck and face with factor 50+ sun-cream every morning.

Open quote mark I went with the plan of learning everyone’s name and found that everyone knows mine. Close quote mark
Gerry Naughton, communications officer, Liberia

It started with the littlest kids running up and calling me John, the name of the previous Geordie to work for Mary’s Meals in Tubmanburg. Then I adopted a local football team and got to know the older kids too. Now, while the little ones run up to shake my hand, rub my arm hair or even whack my leg, most of their parents and grandparents also give me a ‘Hello Gerry’ as I’m passing.

I’m still surprised by the sound of the Muslim call to prayer at 5.30am and 5.30pm every day.

I’ve put my feet in the Atlantic Ocean and swum in the Blue Lake.

I’ve taken photos of hundreds of children and interviewed almost as many, and found every one of them to be full of personality and character. Sometimes, the photos have even done them justice.

I’ve seen the value a daily school meal in a place of education gives to a child. I’ve seen lots of changes and signs of development in Liberia in just 12 months.

Our founder Magnus talks of hope in his latest blog; how it is winning against despair in East Africa. Mary’s Meals is helping to build hope in Liberia. I know, because I’ve seen it over this wonderful year. My hope is that it all continues – with your support.