Life in Liberia: there’s a lizard in my room

As Liberia celebrates Independence Day, our Communications Officer Andy shares his latest update from the country.

Andy Goss
Andy Goss
Communications Officer

Back to all stories | Posted on 07 Aug 2015 in Life in Liberia

There’s a lizard in my room, an ant in my coffee… a millipede in my soup! Life remains ‘interesting’ in Liberia. The locals smile, even laugh at such trivialities. A while back there was a snake (a curious green mamba) in the kitchen, calmly dispatched by our security man with a heavy shovel. And a smile.

Here we have just celebrated Independence Day which commemorates Liberia gaining independence in 1847. It was an excuse for more smiles and jubilation, if ever one is needed.  Liberia is a country unique among African nations, established by freed American slaves who settled in the country. And Liberians still mark the arrival in 1822 of that first ship from across the Atlantic, and those who waded ashore, falling to their knees to kiss the land of their forefathers.

However, real freedom – certainly as I know it – has, perhaps, remained elusive. Life here for the vast majority of people remains hard. Freedom from poverty and hunger is the stuff of dreams. Here we have children without enough food to eat. And those in the isolated bush communities are hardest hit.

At Mary’s Meals in Liberia, Independence Day effectively marks the beginning of the school holidays this year, when our school feeding programme takes a break. But there is no time to rest. It is an opportunity to consolidate, take stock and prepare to expand our programme.

And there have been celebrations on the streets across the country. Liberians like to march and wave the flag on Independence Day. The dream is still remembered. 

Despite the celebrations, there is – in fact – an elephant in the room: Poverty and hunger. I believe it’s a scandal that today, in this world of plenty, there are still children who are hungry, still children who can’t go to school because of poverty.

We can all play a part in supporting those children in their bid for education by allowing them to learn without the gnawing pang of hunger – and make it our aim to help them break that terrible cycle of poverty through knowledge and empowerment. 

Little Penny Johnson has no doubt about her aspirations since Mary’s Meals came to her school. The eight-year-old is no longer hungry for food in the classroom, but she is hungry for knowledge. Penny told me: “I want to know about the world. I want to be educated. And I want to travel.” Ambitions such as these are reflected by many of the school children I have met here. 

Also typical is their curiosity about those people in faraway countries, like chilly Scotland, who help make the food appear in Liberian schools.

“Is it really cold like an icebox where the Mary’s Meals chiefs live, like my Papa says?” Penny asks me.

“And, and…” Another excitedly curious youngster is bursting to ask me something more. “What about snow that comes falling from the sky like frozen white feathers I heard about?” She fixes her wide brown eyes on me. “All true,” I say. “And if you study hard, you might get to see it one day. It’s a miracle.” 

And she breaks into the broadest, most beautiful smile, imagining the miracle and – for a moment – forgetting the harshness of her everyday life. Yes, the dream is still alive here. And miracles do happen.

For those of you who already support the work of Mary’s Meals, thank you. You are having a real impact on changing lives and bringing hope. Happy Independence Day!

Andy

Find out what's going on at Mary's Meals.