The projects I am running for this year are our 'community development' projects-these projects take time and lead communities through specific training one step at a time. Here is an example/story of two communities that are taking part in this program.
Last Friday I was invited to speak at a Community Health Education graduation in Karpi and Kimbolou. These two villages are very close to each other and share a school (a new one is being built by SP), a well (our WASH peeps did this!) and a small mud thatched church. If you were to visit these two communities today you would be warmly welcomed and see a very harmonious, clean village. But it wasn't always like this...
Just over two years ago-these two villages were very different places. Human and animal feces littered the village-to the extent that people would take bush trails around the two villages due to the stench and filth. People were unwelcoming, no missionary or NGO had lasted very long in Karpi or Kimbolou-all had been chased out or frustrated by the people's lack of desire to help themselves. People in the communities were always fighting sickness and many died. It was just not a very nice place. But, it was the perfect place for us-it was the perfect place to go and see what God could do through us and to love these communities regardless of their reputation. It would take a lot of time-so we started the journey-one step at a time.
So there I was last Friday almost 2 years later-watching the community members of Karpi and Kimbolou walking/dancing, singing, celebrating their recent achievement. These members went through an intensive 9-11 months of training on Community health/development. Led by two of our Liberian staff members James and Joseph (who live in these villages) the community members were led through training - on when and how to wash your hands, how to pen your animals, how to build dish racks to keep clean dishes off the ground-putting up clothes lines (no more drying clean clothes on the dirty ground!), building their own latrines, sweeping their yards, building garbage pits and much more! And guess what? Step by step the people of Karpi and Kimbolou changed...
The CHE grads of Karpi and Kimbolou
As I sat and listened to many of the testimonies by the grads I was incredibly encouraged. One lady said that in the past when the Government sanitation officer would come to assess their villages everyone would be afraid and go out to their farm so they were not around when he came. But this year when he came -he was shocked-he couldn't believe that these were the same villages! He was so impressed to see that the villages were clean, animals were in their pens, houses were fashioned with dish racks and clothes lines...Pride oozed from this women as she told us this story-and once again I was amazed at what God can do when we decide to take one step at a time in His power.
The Cheif from Karpi receiving his certificate
It was not easy to make these changes-James and Joseph have lived and been part of these villages and have worked incredibly hard. They have been an example of God's love, mercy and grace all the while teaching the people the amazing story of God's grace. They believed in the people of Karpi and Kimbolou-we at SP trusted and empowered them to go out take time and do their job. The people saw this. No other NGO or mission organization had done it like this-no one was so willing to just 'be' with them and walk with them one step at a time.
Surrounded by my people! (left) is Joseph (not in a white t-shirt) and James is on the right. The country cloth dress was a gift for me-I know you all want one! :)
Reaching a goal, helping people change for the better, training for a marathon-these things take time. However, we are asked to just take that step of faith, and keep walking one step at a time-reaching little goals along the way, working through the hardships and frustrations (the blog entry "longest day of my life" was on a trip to Karpi and Kimbolou-the road is not easy-oh!), knowing that a bigger reward lays ahead. For the people of Karpi and Kimblou that reward has come in the transformation of their communities-the transformation of their hearts-and you can see it!
A while ago the people of Karpi and Kimbolou gave Taya, Joni, and I village names. Taya is 'Tawa' -Joni is 'Kumba Karpi' (second born girl of Karpi) and I am 'Siah Kimbolou' (First born girl of Kimbolou). I am so proud of these communities, my people, and the steps they took to improve their lives and their community. I, Siah Kimbolou, run for these people, my people, one step at a time.
PS-I want to thank all of those in Salmon Arm who have supported our work in Karpi and Kimbolou and to those who have come to spend time with the people-they still talk about you and the huge blessing you were and are to them. Shout out to the hometown!