Thursday, March 31, 2011

Take time...

Anyone who has lived or visited Liberia knows the saying "take time".  It refers to slowing down, take time before you hurt yourself, or just rest a little.  For example-If one of my sons is running to fast in the house I may say, "Felix, take time you are going to break something!"  Another example, if you have been working at full tilt for a while someone may say to you, "you need to take time and rest small".  For the past month all of us here at SP Liberia have been going full tilt, running around getting visitors to where they need to be, getting prepared for the festival and still doing our regular SP work!  Sunday night was the last night of the festival and throughout this week all of our guests have left Liberia.  For us still here, we are taking time to reflect on the past month, taking time to rest, and taking time to re-focus ourselves for the work we are here to do.

On my run this morning, I was taking time to reflect on the past month.  Being up country with all the media teams-(by the way, I really hope some of you saw the web cast and the SP projects including CLP student Therese and CLP manager Joni!), having a chance to spend a lot of time in communities where we are working-what an encouragement!  Being part of a huge event like the festival-sitting 20 feet away from the President and Vice President of Liberia!  It was good for me to slow down (my pace didn't slow down..;) and take time to reflect. 
The President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (hand on her chin) and the VP sitting to her left.

Training-  With the crazy month of March over I woke up realizing that I have 17 days until the London Marathon...17 days-mercy! This morning as I was 'taking time' to reflect I found myself once again motivated for this huge undertaking-I found myself re-focusing on why I am running.  It is good to 'take time' to reflect, slow down and re-focus it is amazing how it can re-energize you...

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Big day...

Today is a big day for all of us here at SP Liberia.  If you have been following the SP website, my blog, joni's blog, or my facebook-you know that tonight is the first night of a 3 day Festival-with our CEO Franklin Graham speaking to thousands of Liberians and expats-about the amazing love and grace of Jesus.  What is really, really cool-is that you can watch not only him speaking, but the web cast will also be showing SP projects-including WASH and CLP!!  Here is the link to watch the webcast on Tuesday:

Watch Tuesday, March 29th at 7:30pm EDT.

During the webcast, there will be "fillers" or commercials-that will show our awesome staff and highlight not only the SP projects we are doing here in Liberia-but also interviews with many of our beneficiaries -like Therese and Rebecaa from the CLP program.  I really hope that ALL of you will tune in to watch it-and see firsthand the WASH and CLP projects that I have been blogging about.  These are the projects that I will be running for!!!

I am super excited for today-to be part of a great team-a team that wants every Liberian to know the amazing love of and grace of God.  I will give an update on Sunday or Monday along with some pictures!

Training-it's going well-missed Wed. run due to complete crazy business from 545am until 7pm...but this weekend has 10 miles and 12 miles-after last week's 16 miler these runs seem small!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Above and Beyond!

This week we will be hosting the "All Liberia Festival"-Franklin Graham our CEO (Billy Graham's son) will be speaking on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night at the soccer stadium-it is going to be great!  Words cannot describe the busy hum of our office-and all the work that has been done and still needs to be done!  It has been amazing to see all of our staff going above and beyond the call of duty to get things done-simply amazing.  We have our WASH program manager, Taya, and our intern, Danielle, overseeing the decoration of the stage-Joni is busy with broadcast teams and will be photographing the festival-and has made numerous trips to the airport with me-Suzie, Justin and others are going to be clowns for the children's festival on Saturday morning-and the list goes on... 

When I was up country earlier this month, we stayed over night in Sorlumba to visit the CLP program and meet some of the inspirational women of the program. These ladies go above and beyond EVERYDAY. Seriously, every hot, humid, rainy day-even when they are sick-even when there is kids to take care of. They are some of the strongest women I have met! The CLP classes in Sorlumba have organized themselves into two soccer teams-the day we came we had an opportunity to play with them!  WOOOHOO-I hadn't played soccer since Grade 10-Shuswap Ramettes!  The media crew rigged me up with the go pro camera...(all pcitures from Joni;)

Ready to play with my Gopro camera!

The game went great and it was so much fun!  Many of ladies play in their bare feet...yes you read that right-and if you look at the above picture you can see that the soccer field is not exactly green, even grass!  I had shoes on-I know, I am a wimp-I will be posting a highlight of the game soon, let's just say it was legendary!

After the game everyone took a bucket bath-cleaned up-including yours truly, and headed to the CLP classes. As I sat in the back listening to the teacher-I scanned the room and noticed how many young women had their little babies with them-on a bundle on their back or had their babies sleeping on a mat next to them.  They are mothers-they are also students-being a mom is a full time job-all you mom's know that!  Being a CLP student is a great opportunity for these mom's to learn so that they can help their little ones in the future.

Mom/student-studying hard with babe on her back!

This past month and this week the SP staff are going above and beyond their normal job description and responsibilities.  But sometimes to achieve something bigger we have the CLP soccer mom's in Sorlumba.  Even after a long day on the farm, cooking for their family, getting water, playing soccer with us guests, they head to CLP classes (at night) with their babies on their back-to achieve their goal of learning to read, write, numeracy and business skills-all which will help them and their family.  I love being part of something bigger than me-even if it means going above and beyond my comfort zone or scope of responsibilities.

Training-well, I went above and beyond any mileage I have ever done here in Liberia.  With sore legs from some tough week day work outs-a fun kids running club on Friday-I hunkered down for some long weekend runs.  It was time to go above and beyond my normal long runs-it wasn't that the 8 miler was long on Saturday -but the 16 miler on Sunday was the toughy.  Earlier that Sunday morning at 3am Joni and I had to go pick up the first of our guests (thank you air Morocc for your crazy flight times)-I was up at 230am and back in bed-guest dropped off-by 430am.  Two hours later I got up and ran my 16 miles.  I want to do well at the marathon, (that is just a mere 26 days away!) and many of you may read those last sentences and think I was nuts to get up two hours later and run 16 miles in 2:35, but sometimes to achieve something bigger than us we have to go above and beyond.  The mom's of Sorlumba do everyday - no reason why I can't either.

Friday, March 18, 2011

running water...

This past month has been busy, amazing and tiring all at once.  Busy-well, because life here just is!  Amazing-I have had some amazing experiences seeing and hearing about our projects. And tiring, lots of travel up country, up early, and of course training-I am up to about 50-55 miles a week (I usually run 5-6 days a week).  Let's focus on the AMAZING though-and I have a great water story from this last month, from the village of Faifaidu (Fa-fa-doo).

Faifaidu is located approximately 1 hour north-east of our SP base in Foya.  Taya and her WASH team have worked in this area for the past couple of years -installing BioSand filters, building latrines and conducting health and hygiene education.  Finda Siah lives in Faifaido with her family-little Tomba (see previous blog "EPIC" to see his picture) is her son.  I mentioned in that blog entry of the sickness that Finda and her family experienced before getting a BSF.  Here are some pictures of her BSF! (all pictures were taken by awesome professional photographer Joni Byker :)
Finda has had her filter for just over a year.

Pouring dirty water from a nearby open well into the filter.

Clean water coming out of the filter! (via the filtration process:)

Bev (me!) explaining some of the maintenance procedures.

I have worked with the BSF technology for all of my 12 years at SP.  In a place like Liberia where there is a lot of water and people don't have to walk very far to find water, the BSF is an appropriate, simple technology that can really change lives.  The thing I love about the BSF is that it is a household water treatment technology - meaning the household, as in Finda, owns it-she is responsible for it-when Taya or her staff or even me come to install a BSF we get to sit with Finda, one-on-one, and form a relationship that goes beyond just the clean water.  We get to know about her family, her experiences during the war, how she earns a living, play with her kids and just get to know her as a Liberian woman-I love that!!! I learn so much about Liberia and Liberian women just in the time it takes to install a filter or a filter follow-up session.  Although I don't get out as much as Taya and her staff do-I am pretty sure it's their favorite part too.  (Right Tay-tay?)

The other thing I love about the filter is that it as long as people like Finda, maintain it and use it-the filter will keep providing clean water for them for a very long time.  It just sits there doing it's thing over and over again-gotta love a steady-eddie water filter!

Training-well, not sure if I am steady-eddie...but I do feel like I am doing the same thing over and over again!  They (the running experts, not me...) say that the last month of your marathon training is the most important-it's when you do your long runs and the miles pile up more and more.  Your body becomes this running machine as it prepares for the epic 26.2 miles (Which is ONE month away agh!). This past week I hit the track for a speed work out and stadium stairs...ugh.  Joni came and did some video coverage-which may makes it way to this blog in the near future (not sure I like how I look when I run!)-but man, those stairs were not easy!  Later that same day I peeled off 3.5 miles as a "stay loose' run-Matt Swenson (our Deputy Country Director) joined me for a lap which helped as always.  This weekend is much of the same-8 miles tomorrow and another attempt at 16miles on Sunday.  I wish I was like a BSF- it just keeps going and going-it never gets tired or wants to quit!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Triumph over adversity...

There are moments in our lives that we can look back and say "I triumphed over adversity" -all of us, no matter how little or big the adversity was-overcame it and triumphed! Here is a little story about triumphing over adversity from one of our CLP communities. 

Little Augustine is 9 months old-and he has,without him really even knowing it, triumphed over great adversity.  Augustine is from Sorlumba and his mom was a member of the SP CLP (Literacy and Livelihood program).    She was not a participant for very long, as giving birth to little Augustine she passed away.  Augstine's first taste of adversity-he has no mother.  Not only did he not have a mother, but his second taste of adversity- he has TB. 

Joni with little 9month old Augstine...

Augustine was not only sick with TB but was also not getting the nourishment he needed to grow.  Joni (CLP manager) was able to get some protein powder to help him out-at 6 months he could not sit up-after the protein mixture for a couple of months he can sit up and is trying hard to stand up and lean on things.  Adversity-Augstine is going to overcome it and we pray that he will triumph into the little boy his mom wanted him to be and who God wants him to be.  I really hope that the family that cares for Augustine will tell him about his mom-and how she was triumphing over adversity by being part of the CLP program-learning to read, do math and learn business skills to help her family.

A recently heard a quote-by Katherine Switzer, the first woman to enter and finish the Boston Marathon. 

"The triumph over the adversity, that's what the marathon is all about; and therefore, you know that there isn't anything in life that you can't triumph over after that."

During training this past weekend I thought a lot about these words. I agree with Katherine Switzer, because I have run and trianed for a marathon- I can say that there are not a lot of things I feel like I can't triumph over. But, I thought about this little boy, Augustine, and all the Liberians who are part of our programs-and the adversity they have overcome.  They have no idea what a marathon even is-but they have more strength and will-than I, this marathon runner, need to finish that grueling 26 miles and 385 yards. They are stronger.  They have a stronger will to persevere through adversity. I ran 8 miles on Saturday and 13 on Sunday-it was hot, muggy (38C/100F 85% humidity) and I was tired.  But my struggle to run is nowhere near Augustine's or what his mom went through-it is nowhere near the tragedy, adversity and suffering we see everyday.  That is what pushed me through every mile-that is what will continue to push me through every training mile and every mile on April 17th. This is why I run.

Friday, March 11, 2011

ready, steady, GOALS!

I like to set goals.  I don't know why-I just do.  The title of this blog entry will bring a smile to some of my friends who used to tease me about my goal setting (you know who you are ahhem-Jody;HA!).  I guess if you are one who runs marathons you are someone who sets goals!  For a marathon- that goal may be to finish or to beat a certain time.  I have been asked if I have set a 'goal' for this marathon-since I have a thing for numbers and time.  I haven't.  I haven't set a 'goal' time to finish the London marathon-shocking I know...Last Dec. I ran a half marathon and my goal was to do it in under 2 hours.  I did it in...wait for it...2:01:03-yep, you read that right- 63 painful seconds short of my goal-I can't even BEGIN to tell you how those 63 seconds kept me up the nights following the race.  A lot of "If I just woulda..." thoughts racing through my head.  So I don't have a time goal for this marathon (at least not yet)...but I do have a different goal.

My goal for this marathon is to raise 6250.00 British Pounds -which equates to around $10, 000USD.  That would be 5000 for CLP programs and 5000 for WASH.  Right now I sit at just over 1000Pounds-so yeah my goal is big but in faith I am setting it.  I know first hand how far that money can go for these projects. Like-gas for the generator to have lights during evening CLP classes, adding another class to the Literacy program for a village, water filters, a well, latrines!!! the list goes on!  When I told Joni and Taya my goal they were excited and I know every penny would be used for the Rebecca's and Therese's -and communities like Wasunga...
CLP class                                             BSF filtered water...

Setting a goal can be scary. You leave yourself vulnerable to failure-two words I am not very comfortable with!  However, I know that every Liberian woman, child and man that these projects impact are worth every mile I run and every penny I raise. 

Training-I am back on my training schedule after a couple of weeks of sporadic training runs due to the busy work schedule the past 2 weeks (but had so much fun!).  I have a weekend of long runs- one shorter 8 mile run and then the big 16 mile run.  I watched the documentary "Spirit of the Marathon" recently and was sooooo inspired-if you get a chance to watch it -do-I am sure I will watch it numerous times again before April 17th!!!  I will be posting something a little different soon-I had the chance to wear a "gopro"camera around my chest as I ran in Foya last week-the footage is funny but it will give you a good indication of the terrain and how tired and thirsty I got!

Monday, March 7, 2011


Have you ever been so thirsty that all you could think about was quenching that thirst with anything-water, juice, pop, sports drink-anything wet!!  Have you ever been so dehydrated and thirsty that your ears feel plugged (ok maybe this is just me...) or you can barely muster up enough spit to swallow?  Living in Liberia where the dry season temps are high and so is the humidity-being thirsty is an everyday occurrence.  Running and training for a marathon in Liberia-thirst is ever present and if not quenched I can start feeling dizzy, my skin gets cold and my legs feel like jello.  BUT I can stop at my house and get a cool drink of clean water-or a sports drink made with clean water-but that wasn't the case last Saturday morning as I ran to Karpie-a village about 6 miles outside of Foya...

I found myself 30 min. in feeling very thirsty-it could be that it was 7am and I had not had anything to drink when I first got up-or the fact that I had not been keeping track of my hydration during the past couple of days of being very busy.  By the time Alisa and I reached Karpie (60 min. of hills!) I was so thirsty that my ears felt plugged and I couldn't hear clearly-weird...I was sweating profusely-more than I usually do which is a lot-and all I could think about was WATER.

I knew the truck with our guests was coming behind us so I turned around and started running back towards Foya in hopes of meeting them soon to get some water.  I went down the first hill-at the bottom was a palm log bridge stretching over a murky, brown stream...I stopped-looked at the water-wishing so badly it was clear and drinkable!  I crossed the bridge and continued running praying that the truck was coming soon with my H2O!  At the bottom of a HUGE hill I stopped for two reasons: 1) I did not want to run up the hill and 2) there was a small bridge going over another stream-this stream was a little clearer...could I drink it?  My mind wandered to thoughts of "what if I just had a little drink?"  "It can't be that bad, it's clear!"  I have no doubt that at this moment Patty Hutton and other WASH interns of mine that have received my lecture on NOT DRINKING any water that is not treated-are shaking their heads wondering how the queen of WASH could even consider taking a drink of the forbidden stream...that's how thirsty I was.

I stopped and started to think about people running away from rebels during the war-through this very jungle I was now running in...what did they do when they got thirsty?  Or sick?  This water that I knew would make me very ill was their only option...I knew that at any minute the SP land cruiser would waddle over the hill and my thirst would be quenched.  But imagine if you lived in a village where quenching your thirst meant getting sick-or worse that the very water that relieved your thirst could kill you.  I couldn't even imagine it-having no other option but to drink contaminated water-no other option.

Soon I heard the deep groan of the disel engine of the SP landcruiser-I made the motion with my hand even before they stopped that I need my water bottle.  Out jumped Joni with a cold water bottle-I couldn't open it fast enough I tell you!  I drank and drank it felt amazing...for the next two hours I was constantly drinking-drinking clean cool water-I had an option-most rural Liberians don't. I had an option and I still almost chose the wrong one...

Our WASH programs here at SP Liberia give rural Liberians an option.  They don't have to drink dirty water-they can drink clean water from a hand pump or a filter.  When they are thirsty from working out on their farm they can come home and drink clean water from a filter-or from their community handpump. Yes, our WASH programs give people that option.  That is why I am running, to give people an option-an option that I have always had and thanks to last Saturday's run -am so thankful for.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


"Epic" is the word we have been using to descripe the adventures we have experienced and stories we have heard the past ten days. This past week and weekend we have hosted a social media team from SPUS led by Cissie Graham Lynch-it has been a lot of fun having Cissie and the media team (Hope, Matt and Ryan) here as we tromp through the Liberian jungle seeing some of our projects. I am just going to give you a little taste of our epic time and I will post more soon-but here a couple pictures of the times spent with the CLP ladies at Sorlumba and a little "Tomba" whose mom has a BioSand water filter!

Joni presenting a soccer ball to the CLP women's soccer team.

In Sorlumba the CLP women's literacy classes have formed two soccer teams.  We had the opportunity to play with them and had a BLAST!!!  There will be some highlights from the game in future-let's just say Wayne Rooney would have been proud of me!  :)

The next morning we visited a village that has had BSF water filters for the past year.  We interviewed Tomba's mom-she explained to us that runny tummy has decreased in her family and in the village since the introduction of the BSF.  Her son Tomba was a little fireball and he and I had a lot fun playing and being silly!
Tomba and I goof'n around!!

I will post more about our trip.  But I want to say that in the last 10 days we have hosted two media/broadcast teams from our SP USA office.  Going to the different projects in and around Foya- listening to the stories, seeing our staff in action and talking with our beneficiaries-has been inspiring, emotional, fun, and once again I am so proud of our staff and all they do.  Most of all, I am amazed at how God has used SP these past 6 years to spread His love.  Our projects have and are saving lives.  I am not trying to be dramatic-they really are.  I have seen it firsthand these past 10 days-but it is happening everyday as our staff go out and meet the physical and spiritual needs of Liberians.  What an honour to be part of all of it!!

Training-I had some good runs-including a very intense soccer game!  I ran to a village we work in, Karpie, it was a long run with LOTS of hills!  Mercy!!!  However, no snakes which is always a plus-but lots of motorbikes coming way to close for my liking!  It was great to have a running partner on my run today, as Alisa (who had malaria last week!) ran with me-ok, we had to walk a couple of times after huge hills and Bev got a stitch...ouch!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Therese and Rebecca

Since I am going back up to Foya tomorrow and will be a little crazy busy I thought "Bev do another blog entry TODAY!"  So I want to share with you about Rebecca and Therese, two ladies who are part of the CLP women's literacy program.  They are such sweet ladies!  Here is a picture of Joni (CLP manager extraordinaire!) with Rebecca on the left (jo's right) and Therese on the right...

With the SP film crew here, Joni was able to interview these two ladies for the camera.  Some of the high lites of the interviews was hearing the excitement in their voices about the opportunity they have to learn.  Both came from families that were very poor and couldn't afford to send these girls to school.  Therese stated that due to the civil war with schools not open she was not able to go and learn even if her family did have funds to send her. 

Me and Therese

When Joni asked them how the classes have changed their lives-both responded by stating that when it came to register to vote for this years election-the election people handed them a stamp pad to put press their thumb into to sign their name.  With great pride they said "I told the man -no give me pen, I can sign my name!"

I know this is sideways but I can't figure out how to flip it right now
just focus on the fact that Therese can write her name!

I was very encouraged as I talked to these women-showing off their rabbits (the livelihoods part of the project) which they can raise to sell or eat.  They said that now that they are helping provide for their families their husbands are much more supportive about them going to school.  Many times women are not encouraged to go to school because men may feel threatened or that it will keep his wife from doing things that need to be done-like cooking, getting water, washing clothes (by hand)-the list goes on and on for Liberian women!  I really hope that through my running this marathon I can continue to help women like Rebecca and Therese.  If you are going to donate (see link below) or already have-I want to thank you-Rebecca and Therese want to thank you-for making their life a little easier but most of all for making them feel loved and empowered!

Training- I am back in Monrovia where it is hot and humid!  My run this morning was short but good-gave me a chance to run out my nervousness for this new team coming in today :)  I will be running up in Foya again and look forward to running in the cooler air through the little villages.  It is starting to hit home that I am really going to run 26.2 miles in 45 days-wow...but I know that whenever the pain sets in (I am guessing around mile 17ish) I can think about Therese and Rebecca and be able to push on.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I have seen many stages of a well being built. The digging, stopping due to flat hard rock, digging (by hand) again, setting up the tripod at the top with a pully to life the dirt out of the hole, dropping the cement rings to keep the walls of the well from collapsing and I have seen a final product-a nice gated, functioning well.  The stage I have missed was that very first pump -when the pump head has been put on along with the handle - one of our technicians starts pumping up and down and beautiful, clear, water starts coming out of the pump.  Well that changed on Monday...and it was AWESOME!

Wasanga village clinic is the proud new owner of a fully functioning hand pump.  In early Novemeber our well constructrution team started digging near the clinic.  They got about 50 feet and hit rock so hard that they had to close the hole and find a new location.  These guys dig by hand, pick and's not easy!!!

Me in the well hole last November-the workers put the little bucket down fill it full of dirt then a team of guys pulls it back up-this fisrt well had to be left due to hitting rock.

Now jump forward to Monday- Morris our tough guy well builder, is putting the hand pump head on the new well hole-and getting ready to pump- a lady sees what he is doing and gets her bucket-she will be the first one to get the fresh water out of this well!

The first bucket of water from this pump!

Being the water geek that I am-I once again was a little emotional (it's been a long week ok!) as I watched this lady take her clean water back to her house.  What was even better was knowing that this well would be used for the nearby clinic-it would make a huge difference for them!  I would now like to thank Emily Yost-she was our former health coordinator who oversaw this project-she finished with SP in January and we miss her! Em-you would have been so proud!

Now I have seen all the stages of a well being built-but this part, watching the first pump and the clean water flow into a ladies bucket-this part, was the best... in the villages and on the dirt roads of Foya has been an adventure!!! I will post more about this in the future as I am heading back up to Foya on Thursday.  Let's just say the cool weather was a welcomed change-seeing the snake trail on the road-not so welcoming...