Saturday, February 26, 2011

adventures in the country

I love my job.  It is not a job-it is my life-I love my life.  However, there are some days that my life here is hard.  I can take the rough roads, the corruption, the cultural stress, the long hours of work-what I have a hard time with is seeing people suffer-people who have already suffered so much.

The other day we took our SP film crew to the Foya hospital to visit donors who had donated their blood for free.  In Liberia-people have to pay for blood and of course many people who are sick don't have the money to pay the 20USD for a pint of blood.  SP has recently help a campaign to encourage people to donate blood for free.  One of the blood recipients that we visited was very sick-very thin and if he didn't get blood within that hour he was probably going to pass away-it was not easy to see.  He did receive blood-and from what we know he is getting better.  How does this relate to Literacy?  Well-the caretaker (a young girl) of the man who was sick had to sign a form for us-giving us permission to use the story of the blood donation.  She couldn't read.  She didn't have the confidence to even sign her name.  So we took her thumb print.  But that wasn't good enough for her, she wanted to try and sign her name for us...

At first she just gave a thumb print but...
then she wanted to try and sign her name-and she did a great job!

It reminded me again of how powerful the simple act of being able to sign our name is.  It's our name.  What we are called.  For this girl-her name represented not only her but her dying relative.  Try and go throughout the day without signing your name-it's almost impossible!

That evening when I ventured out for my run-I thought about the scenes of the day.  A dying man with a caregiver who couldn't read, a mom who could not read and had to make an hour and a half trip to get to the hospital after giving birth-she also was a recipient of free blood, two ladies blind- one blind due to sickness and then her husband left her. The other older lady blinded by flying debris from a bomb that landed during some of the intense fighting during the war-but before losing her sight she saw her husband shot by rebels.  The tears mixed with the sweat-for those who know me-I am not a crier but some days are hard. Running helps me process stuff like this-if I couldn't 'run it out' I think I would just want to go home.  But I run and I love my life...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

planes, trains and automobiles? not so much...

I am heading up country.  Travel will be chopper, truck, motorbike-not planes, trains or automoblies!  I am very, VERY thankful for the SP chopper that has been here for almost 2 years. Pre-chopper days were long (sometimes 18hours) in a land cruiser along bumpy, dusty roads and in the rainy season (Liberia gets close to 20 FEET of rain in 5-6 months) the mud bogs that would be sooooo deep the land cruiser could not be seen. 

SP Chopper fly'n over the jungle!

We are heading to Foya with a SP film crew to film the projects that SP is doing-it will be long days but I love the bush!  Maybe it is because I was brought up in the Yukon and spent most of my summers in the Yukon bush on my motorbike (a sweeeet Honda XR 80)-but I love going up country, getting on a bike and going to see the different communities that we are working in-it's my happy place.

I know I look like a geek-but I love riding the AG100 throughout the Liberian countryside!

I am really excited that I will be able to spend time with the communities that have been directly impacted by WASH/CLP projects.  We will be visiting some CLP classes and interviewing some of the women in the program.  We will also be visiting communities that have participated in SP WASH programs and talking with them on how these projects have changed them and their community.

I love being able to walk through a CLP class and see what the women are learning-to look at their copy books and help them when I can.  It is so humbling and inspiring...

It is always comforting to see our SP latrines being used-and also because I know if I have to go-there is a PLACE to go!!! mercy...

I will try and post entries when I am in Foya-I can't wait for you to read more about these amazing projects and more importantly, the amazing people we work with.  If you haven't been inspired yet-you will be!  For me, personally, just thinking about it makes me want to train harder, run faster and longer-for every person these projects touch-running with a purpose-this is what it's all about.

Training-Things are going ok.  I am curious to see how training goes when I am up country-but I am committed to do as much as I can.  Please pray I stay healthy and don't get injured -I am around 53 days away and really don't want to be hindered by sickness or injury-I want to perform my best for everyone.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

a dedication...

I would like to dedicate this little blog entry to my little seesta, Yeiko Jennifer Menzies (nee:Mayes).  It was her birthday yesterday (19th) it just seems like yesterday my brother and I were playing street hockey and we got the phone call that we had a little sister-and then we got back to our street hockey game! So what does my sister have to do with CLP/WASH?  Let me tell you!

One of the highlights of being in Liberia these past 6 years is when family has come to visit.  I have been blessed that my whole family has visited-Yeiko -(named after my Japanese grandma) was the last Mayes member to come and see what her big sister has been up to for all these years!  So I put her to work ;)

First-Yeiko helped out with doing some BioSand Water fitler (BSF) follow up with a family.  This is the only picture that I had of the two of us doing BSF follow up with a great lady who has had a BSF for the past couple of years. She is still faithfully using the filter for drinking for her and her children.

Yeiko also helped teach part of a CLP class along with my sister-in-law Jenn Kauffeldt.  It was so much fun to have them see and particiapte in these two great programs.

Notice how we both "talk" withour hands...

It was great to have Yeiko (pronounced like the watch seiko) come out and see these WASH/CLP programs first hand and to talk to the ladies and families that have been impacted by them. However, more importantly was how the trip impacted her.  It really brought to life the needs of these women-for simple things like water and literacy-my little sister has become an advocate!!! She often talks about how grateful she is for everything she has and how people need to know about the needs of the ladies and families she met in Liberia. Although I am the sister overseas, she is doing more than her part raising awareness and support for our SP projects here in Liberia.  That makes her big sister very, very proud of her!!  Happy Birthday Yeiko!!!
In Foya after a hard days work!

Training-I had a good couple of runs this past weekend-it was very hot and I was very tired-my times were not that great. So why were they good runs? Because of the amazing friends that I have that helped me through each run.  On Saturday I had a 6 mile run-Seren and Joni had water ready for me every time I passed the staff house-and they were yelling out encouraging words (or commenting on my super cool compression knee socks!).  On Sunday I had a longer 13 mile run...I wanted to go off of ELWA (the compound we live on) and on the road and needed someone to take our truck to follow me with water and my vanilla gu.  Seren and Danielle got up early on their weekend, 7:30am, to drive and make sure I got my 'fuel' when I needed it.  Seren even ran 4km with me, which makes the miles go by faster.  I had to stop at 9am- 8.5 miles into it due to the heat-I ran again this afternoon to try and top off my mileage-but it wasn't the same without my peeps!! Thanks you guys-you rock!!!

That's it for the weekend-I am going up country this week and will post some pictures and stories from our CLP/WASH projects..the reason I am RUNNING!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

introducing the bossladies...

I would now like to introduce you to two amazing, funny, hard working, passionate, big hearted, motorbike riding, jungle treking, sleep in the tent in the rain, Lord love'n women who manage SP Liberia's WASH and CLP programs.  From WASH we have the one and only-straight from Saska-bush, I mean Saskatchewan,  Taya Raine!  Or as we call her Tay-tay.  CLP is repersented from the Ms. John Deere of 2001 from Ireton Iowa, Ms. Joni Byker-or Jo, jo-jo, jones, byker, bykes...
here is a little photo of us in action...

Let's start with WASH program manager Tay-tay.  Tay come to us in 2008, after yours truly resigned as the WASH PM to become the regional water peep, and has been with us ever since.  Taya is one of the hardest/strongest workers I know-seriously, this prairie girl has walked for days through jungle trails from village to village to make sure that the WASH needs of people are being met.  I had a little talk with Tay-tay today let's get to know her:
Bev:  "Tay-tay what is your favorite part of your job?"
Tay-tay: "I work with great staff! I also love it when a community is engaged and recognizes their WASH needs.  It is exhilarating working with a community that helps with a project!  I also love riding motorbike to our projects"
Bev: "What are some of the challenges of your work?"
Tay-tay: "Getting people to make behavioral changes towards WASH-like using the latrine all the time or washing your hands-it takes a lot of education and time.

We will be hearing more from Tay-tay in the future-this is just our introduction for now.  Taya also likes to snack on green olives, capers, Sajj chicken pizza and Bev's cake.

Joni, like Tay, came to join the SP Liberia team in March of 2008.  However, she was no stranger to West Africa, after spending nearly 2 years with SIM serving as their photojournalist (Jo is also a professional photographer and our communications manager-she's busy) in Ghana, Liberia (where she met me) and Niger.  Jo is a farm girl from Iowa-and is also an incredible hard worker-she is inundated with work request and she always serves with a smile!  Here is my little chat with jo-jo:

Bev: "Jo, what is your favorite part of your job?"
Joni:  " Seeing women's self-esteem totally change just from what they are learning-like the simplest thing like writing their name for the first time.  I also like to get out for a ride on the motorbike whenever I can!"
Bev:  "What is the greatest challenge to you in your work?"
Joni:"  The need for literacy is so great in Liberia, and we can only do so much with the resources we have"
We will be hearing more from Joni too as she shares with us inspirational stories of women who are attending the CLP classes.  Joni likes to eat mashed potatoes, CORN, nacho's and really anything I make for her!

Here is a picture of Joni helping one of the CLP beginners student with printing letter.  Most of the ladies in the beginners class don't even know how to hold a pencil properly.

Tay and Jo are some of the best program managers I have worked with in my time with SP.  They are so committed to their work and the people of Liberia-it is a privilege to run for their programs!  They are great friends and co-workers that are doing amazing work!!!  They will be mentioned in future blog entries along with some of the people they are helping.

That's it for now...I hope you are inspired by these two programs and their managers-give a holla out to Tay-tay and Jo!!!! is hot. Really hot.  Pray that I don't melt or get sunstroke!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

in the numbers...

My family-yes, you Mayes lot, have a 'thing' for numbers...seriously-my brother is an accountant/financial planner (need I say more?), my dad (out loud) can figure out the number of square feet of siding a wall needs just by looking at it.  Counting things (Mom and sister), timing things, percentages, you name it we do it-we see it as a gift :)  As for me-well yes, I will admit I time every run, time every trip into town, and used to time how long it would take to fill up a halluk (tray to hold raspberries) with berries-back in the day. I also have been known to count waves as they crash the shore in front of my house- in some places, as soon as I walk in the door if a ceiling has square panels I start counting them-and don't even get me started on finding patterns within equations...don't shake your head-it's a gift!

But let's get serious about some numbers concerning WASH and Literacy in Liberia.  However, don't see them as just 'stats' or 'numbers' see them as people...
  • 6 out of 10 Women in Liberia CANNOT read/write
  • 70% of Liberians DO NOT have access to safe sanitation facilities
  • Women have access to education only 1/2 as much as men
  • 4 out of 10 rural Liberians lack access to clean water
  • 55% of Liberians CANNOT read/write (Men/Women)
  • 1 out of every 10 deaths in Lofa county (a county in Liberia where we work) is the result of diarrhea.
  • 4% of Women in Liberia can read a full sentence,  Only 4%!!!!!!!!

Chew on those numbers for a bit, and just for kicks look up the country where you live -what is the literacy rate?  What percentage of people die from WASH related diseases?  I don't want this blog to make you feel guilty, that is not my purpose, as I stated before my purpose is to bring awareness and support to the Literacy and WASH projects that SP Liberia is doing.  It will change people's lives-really it will.

Training-keeping with the title, this week I ran 7 miles on Sat. and 8 on Sunday.  Averaging 9-9:45 min/mile.  I am starting to work on my pace-meaning I want to be able to know what it 'feels' like to run consistent 9:30min/miles for 13 miles (I am pretty sure it will FEEL painful!), but also to know when to increase my pace or decrease it as needed throughout 26.2 miles.  I also have a heart monitor I wore for the first time-my watch is synchronized with it-so I can take a quick peek at my heart rate whenever I want...great another number I can obsess with...

Future blog entries:  Interviews with the awesome women who manage these two programs and stories of people impacted by WASH/CLP projects.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

water and poo don't mix...

*DISCLAIMER*. This blog entry talks about water and sanitation issues-it's not pretty-so please accept my apology now if you are offended by the use of the word "poo". 

WASH. Water/Sanitation/Health.  The three sides of the "WASH Triangle".  You can't discuss one without the other and all three impact each other.  I don't need to tell you the number of people (I will-but in a future blog entry) that die each year, month and day from WASH related diseases-trust me it's a lot.  We throw around words such as poo, dysentery, dehydration, open defecation, gardia, cholera and other diseases and their impacts-but have any of you really suffered from these?  I can say that I, along with many of our staff, (you know who you are...) have suffered from gardia-and it was so not pretty!!

I have had the privilege of working in the WASH sector for 12 years.  It has been very rewarding at times- at times a lot of hard work!  I have seen people drinking from open dirty wells, people defecating in the same streams they collect drinking water from,  people with no safe access to proper sanitation and people who have lost children due to both of these issues. I have spent the majority of my adult life learning and working in WASH.  I go ballistic when my kids don't wash their hands after going to the bathroom!  Like I said in my first blog entry, WASH is very near and dear to me.

I hope to introduce you to some of the people suffering with WASH issues through this blog in the future. This is the other program I am running for - to raise awareness and support for the WASH programs that we, here in Liberia, are undertaking-it really is a matter of life and death.

Marathon training-mileage has 'jacked up' this weekend-7 miles yesterday and 8 today.  Yesterday was cloudy but very, very muggy.  Today was sunny and cooler-well, until the sun was completely up and then it was zadonkulously (beyond ridiculous :) hot.  However, after my run I was able to go to a proper bathroom (trust me I really needed to go!) and drink a nice cold glass of water-I couldn't help but be so thankful.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


No, this blog entry is not about the Jackson 5 song- (Kendell and my brother stop trying to sing it-and please stop dancing...).  It is about one of the most inspirational projects that I have seen and been apart of in my 12 years of relief and development work.  It is the Church Livelihoods/Literacy Program for Women.  I love this program.  Like- LOVE.IT.  Why?  Well, let me tell you!

For those who have kids-who have homework- imagine if your child asked you "Mom, can you help me with my reading assignment?"  For many of us-we would sigh, saying, "yes, just hang on I will be right there"-and then sit with our child and help them (sometimes painfully-ok, maybe just me) with their reading.  For many women in rural Liberia-their response is very different.  They look at their child and have to reply, "No, I can't I don't know letter" (letter is sometimes what they call reading here)  They feel embarrassed.  They feel helpless. They feel ashamed.

Now think about when you go grocery shopping.  You buy what you need, the grocery teller tallies it up, you look at the amount you owe, get your money out, pay and you are on your way.  Now imagine you don't know how to add, subtract, or what the number 3, 5, 8 or 9 even look like!  Many times when women in Liberia go to the market they are short changed because they don't know how to add or subtract the amount of goods they have purcahsed or sold.  They are taken advantage of.  They feel embarrassed. They feel helpless. They feel ashamed.

Literacy and numeracy...very powerful tools and yet ones that we probably can't even remember when we first learned them!  Do you remember the first time you knew how to add and subtract?  For me, it was somewhere between grade 1-4, (I guess)-and reading would fall into that same time frame.  However, when you don't know how to read, write your name, recognize numbers, or add and subtract there is a feeling of embarrassment, helplessness and shame.  These women deserve to be empowered with literacy and numeracy skills.  More importantly, they deserve to not feel embarrassed, ashamed, and helpless. They just want to be able to help their kids with their homework.

I will be sharing more CLP stories on my blog-this is just an introduction to one of the programs that I am running 26.2 miles for. I will post pictures of these projects too.  But for now just enjoying reading this blog-because you can.  Stay tuned for an introduction to WASH on the next blog entry. 

Had a good early morning run-and will have a hard speed workout at the track later on under the 2pm Liberian sun...mercy.
ABC-1-2-3 =CLP!!!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Getting started...

This is  my first attempt at blogging-and I am nervous.  To those who know me-this comes as no surprise!  So, let me explain WHY I have decided to embark on a blogging journey...

The title/description of this blog kind of gives it away I guess.  'ybevruns' and 'running with a purpose'.  Why does Bev run?  (yes I am speaking about myself in the third person) I get asked this question a lot.  There are many reasons-God has given me the ability to, my SANITY, to be an example to my boys, my health, the challenge-yeah, I have many reasons.  However, this blog is not about me...and this is where the 'running with a purpose' comes in... 

April 17, 2011.  To you, the reader this date may not mean much to you-but to me- just looking at the date brings a rush of butterflies in my tummy!  It is the date of the London Marathon-THE London Marathon-as in the big city in England...Last year the Samaritan's Purse (SP) UK office asked if I would be interested in running the marathon on behalf of SP to raise support for two programs that I am PASSIONATE about: Water and Sanitation (WASH) and Livelihoods programs.  Of course I said yes (HELLO! running combined with the work that I love!?  no brainer!!!). Being that I have run 1 marathon and 1 half marathon I also knew what I was physically in for...

This blog will serve two purposes-First and most importantly stories about the people that I am running for-I take this very seriously-Liberia is near and dear to my heart and I am running for the families with no access to clean water or sanitation facilities, for women who do not know how to read or write and who want to improve their economic future for their family.  This is why I am running-this is my purpose.  The other purpose is to update you on the ups and down of marathon training in the heat and humidity of Liberia!

Here is the link to my marathon page for more information :

whew...well I survived my first ever blog post-I am sweating...