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Monday, 12 November 2018 09:54

Updates from Liberia

The rainy season continues here with mild to even cool temperatures while you in the USA continue to swelter and sweat. A three-hour trip (normally two hours) to Pleebo this week confirmed why driving is limited during the rainy season. Only four-wheel drive enabled us to stay in the ruts and climb a couple of hills. Evidence was seen of others who had not accomplished this feat and had to dig themselves out of the red clay mud. Thank God we had an uneventful and safe trip.
The routine of daily life in Grand Cess was interrupted last month when a group of miners from Nigeria arrived to set up a gold mining operation along the river banks here. This equipment is now in front of the Mayor’s house and the Nigerian miners have returned home, a definite environmental victory for most of the local people! Rightfully, they were concerned about and knew this operation would contaminate the water and ruin fishing and digging for crayfish, both important foods here.
How did this situation come about? Grand Cess is divided into nine communities plus a tribal community with a long history and tradition here. Each community elects one person to serve on the village council. The tribe has a chief and he is their representative to the council.
It seems the tribal chief decided to sell some of the river bank property (we do not understand property rights here) to the Nigerian company without informing or discussing it with others in the community. The community at large became aware when the equipment arrived and immediately some began informing and encouraging activism by the people. There were demonstrations and a march. Finally, there was the trip to the river banks to drag the forms and equipment (metal and heavy) by hand to leave in front of the Mayor’s home (photo). 
Foto 2 LiberiaOf course, this did not go over well with the tribal chief. There have been conversations and, in the words of the Mayor, “we have reconciled.” Time will reveal if this reconciliation process will keep harmony in this village of 2,000, especially because an upstream neighboring town has allowed the mining company to remain. On the trip from Monrovia, I saw the harmful and ugly environmental damage and contamination from gold mining at two small villages. Thank God, some of the local citizens, young and old, are informed about the damage this mining would cause to the local environment.
Change of topic: The new school year is under way as of Sept. 3. St. Patrick’s school will be home to approximately 350 students in grades K through nine. There are also two government schools here, an elementary school and a middle/secondary school under one roof. A private kindergarten also exists. Sister Therese will be teaching English to Grade 7 and religion to Grades 7 - 9. She also will be forming Girls Clubs for two age groups as an after-school activity to further holistic development via age-appropriate activities. Her hope is to join with the Peace Corps volunteer who teaches at the government middle school in order to open this activity to all the girls in Grand Cess.
Meanwhile, Sister Zita continues work to ready a room for teaching sewing. She is working with some of the women who learned this skill when she was here in the 1980s. They will assist her in bringing interested women to the class and helping her in other ways. A new activity for her (and for the parish) during Sunday Mass will be to meet with the younger children out of church during the homily (often 45 minutes because of interpretation into the Kru language) to guide them in making the Gospel message meaningful for them. She also has begun a garden and planted some trees (palm and fruit) and pineapple bushes.
Enjoy autumn, a non-existent season here.

Sr Therese Wetta, ASC
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