Thursday, February 23, 2012

Decisions-from ME to WE..

Decisions have to be made...everyday.  Back in the day when I was ripp'n around on my dirt bike the only decisions I had to make was what trail to take or when I should ask Dad for some more gas for my bike!  But as we get older we are faced with more decision's-what school do I go to? What job should I take?  Should I really date that guy/girl?  Should I save this money or spend it?  Short hair or long hair?  Ok, the last one isn't life changing-but it could be!

Making decisions are not always easy-but usually when we make them we are making them for ourselves.  What should I do in this situation or how will this impact ME?  I think if we are honest with ourselves we rarely make a decision based on others-maybe based on our families-but rarely on other people that are not related to us.  Recently, as I sat in on a CMP/HOPE training-I listened to our awesome facilitator, Cedric, teaching local pastors on how to best help their communities.  They were talking about farming-and the work that goes with it-Cedric asked "why don't we work at our farm to help others?" One of the pastors replied "Because we are lazy!"  I had to snicker a little at his honest and yet sad answer!  How many of us could say the same thing?  Yes, I could replace the toilet roll for the next person-but I am too lazy -so they can do it!  (A point of tension in the Kauffeldt household...:).  After we all had a little chuckle, Cedric continued to teach-empowering these pastors with knowledge on not only how to make a good decision for others but why we want to make good decisions for our communities-to be the hands and feet of Jesus!

These pastors along with community leaders, will decide how best to address their communities water issues or how best to use unused land for agriculture.  They will hopefully make decisions based on what is best for their community not what is best for them as an individual.  The process evolves from "What should I do for me?"  to "What should WE do for all of US?"  I love how as the training goes on the mindset of the trainees starts to shift-taking their eyes of themselves and looking at their communities needs instead.

Facilitator Exekiel-teaching some local pastors and community leaders

Listening closely...

Our Executive Director of SP UK, Simon Barrington, has been visiting us recently-and I got to take him up to Foya where he could see first hand the CMP projects that we are doing. We got to see the cassava farm mentioned last week, latrines and a new protected spring that a community is working on. He also was in this training and had an opportunity to greet and encourage the pastors in the work that they are doing.

Simon greeting and encouraging our group

It has been great having Simon here-his wife and daughter came to Liberia in 2008, and the last time Simon was here was in 2005 (we think:).  So a lot has changed at our office and in Liberia.  The SPUK office has been a vital support to our office-assisting in many of our WASH projects, CLP/literacy and now with our CMP program.  We love the SPUK office, not just because they bring us cadbury's chocolate and treats, but for all the work they do on our behalf (like organizing me being in the marathon!) so we can continue our work here in Liberia.

Last summer I was faced with a decision when I was asked to run the London marathon again.  It took me all of a few seconds and thoughts of why I run to say-"Yes".  Every training day I have to decide whether to run or not-trust me some days this is a painful decision.  Last year in a blog entry I talked about the '3 D's' of exercise-determination, diet and discipline.  I would add to that list decision-in fact I would make it the first 'D'.  Because before anything you have to decide whether or not to start exercising, then you can be determined, and watch your diet and be discipline to put the work in.  The first step is the decision. 

For me, the decision was easy-because it wasn't about me or for me-it was for others. For the amazing people I get to meet, hug, shake hands with and talk with everyday.  When we look past ourselves-it's amazing how much easier making decisions can be.  This is what the CMP program is about-making a decision to move a community from ME to WE!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Building Up...

When you train for a race, especially a marathon, you don't start your first training day with a 14 mile run.  No, you start with a 2-3 mile run, 3 times a week-and begin to build up your mileage.  I started my training in January and have been building up my mileage every week-this week I have had a 4, 5 and 8 mile run and will cap the week off with a weekend long run of 10miles.  Building up mileage works all the way up to a long run of 22 miles a few weeks before the marathon. Building up in training helps me gain strength, not get injured and gain confidence that I can eventually run 26.2 miles!

I was reminded of this "building up" strategy last week when I was up seeing some of our projects.  Many of us have experienced some set-backs, some of these set-backs have been devastating and some-well, maybe they just de-railed us for a short time.  But we all had to re-build-and I am certain that all of us had help.  It is very difficult to build yourself or something back up if you don't have people or a faith to help you.  I am sure all of us can think of specific friends or family that helped us build up or re-build our lives after a set-back.

Now imagine a whole country, society, people-who have had a HUGE set-back.  Welcome to Liberia.  Many sources say that the war was so devastating to Liberia it set it back over 50 years...this doesn't even cover the personal set-backs of loss, pain and emotional scaring that may never be fully measured.  But, Liberia is building back up-one small step at a time-just like training for a marathon!

I see the projects that we are doing as part of the building up of this nation.  Our community/church mobilization program (or HOPE) is a perfect example of this.  We don't jump in with a lot of "stuff" and demands-instead we build up the community and church leaders so that they can be the catalyst for re-building.  Here are some examples:

Anyone who has travelled on the bad roads here -especially in Foya-can appreciate this first example.  On the way to Foya Teinga-one of our CMP training communities, the road is horrific...the hills are steep and laden with rocks jutting out and deep ravines that have been cut by run-off during the heavy rainy season.  It takes about 80 min to go 30km...There is one specific hill that EVERYONE knows about-it was the worst of the worst to drive on.  After conducting our community envisioning training the community decided to take matters into their own hands (literally) and fix the hill...they dug out drainage side ditches, they filled in the pot holes, they cut into the side of the road to make it wider...they built up this road to be better-all by hand.  As a result another NGO saw their commitment and helped them actually cement the worst section so that it was easier to travel on. 
I wish I had a before picture!  But more importantly here is the AFTER picture of this section of road.

Now, in the middle of this jungle road to Foya Teinga there is a small strip of 'paved' road on this hill to help truck and motorbikes travel to markets and clinics.  The people of Foya Tienga are in the business of building up there community!

The CMP project also has done community training in sustainable agriculture.  Some churches just outside of Foya got together and were able to purchase a small piece of land to begin growing cassava.  Cassava is a staple here just as much as rice is.  The leaves can be eaten-and of course the root can be prepared many different ways for food consumption.  Right now on the CMP farm, the cassava is just tiny!  But it is building up and soon (after the rains come) it will be ready for harvesting.  The church community can then use it to sell or for food for many of the vulnerable in there community.

Tiny little cassava pushing its way through the dry soil...

Projects like these are building up the people of Liberia.  I hope you noticed throughout these stories a couple of things: 1) We just didn't give them a cement truck or paving equipment and do the paving ourselves or a bunch of freshly harvested cassava-all we did was provide a little training on what assets the community had and how they could be used and the community did the rest.  2) Building up takes time!  I am very proud of our CMP staff for taking time to build up each community and see the fruits of their labour!

Just as a little follow-up and keeping with the building up theme-many of you may remember the story about when we were travelling and came across a house burning down.  Well, I was so happy to see (as we were returning from Foya Tienga) the progress the community has made on re-building:

Building up the walls!

This house is in a CMP community so we have been able to follow -up on its progress.  It was so great to see the community together building bricks to help build up this house again.  I am glad SP was able to assist-as we will help with the roofing when the walls are done. 

Building up something that has been broken takes time and commitment.  You can't just rush into it-there is no 'quick fix' and you have to commit to it.  There are so many similarities to our work in our projects and to marathon training-it really amazes me when I think about it! You make sure you get good information before training, you start to train slowly, you have a team helping you and slowly-step by step you build up to your goal.  For many Liberians that goal is-to build up their family, their community and this nation.  What a building project to be a part of!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Teams and Toes...

I am sure as you read the title of this blog you are thinking "teams and toes?"  Huh?  Well, on my nice long 9 our drive down from Foya yesterday I had A LOT of time to think (dangerous) and as I thought about what I wanted to post this week-the importance of a team-a certain story from lesson from the Bible came to my mind...just stay with me here and trust me on this!

There is a passage in the Bible (1 Corinthians 12:14-21) that talks about the body and how each part of the body is needed to make the whole. You can't be just one big arm-how would you eat? How would you hear?  How would you live without a heart or brain? This is where the 'toes' from my title comes in...the toes can't say to the eyes-"We don't need you"-if it does and the eyes say "ok fine!"  The toes won't be be able to see where they are going and soon be lost or in pain after a  good stubbing!

This principle is the same for us here in our projects.  WASH can't say "Literacy-we don't need you!"  How will the WASH beneficiaries know how to read their hygiene lesson?  Our projects need logistics and HR to help keep our supplies moving and the hiring our staff.  Finance keeps on track-on being good stewards with what we have been given-trust me we have no choice but to work together as a team here!  Recently, we had two guests from our SPUK office come-and they said it best-every SP projects work together with one another-there is no sharp stop and start-everything flows together working as one.

Gordon and Roger from our SPUK office visiting a CMP Cassava farm-with the CMP TEAM!

Taya (red shirt) and WASH TEAM introducing Gordon and Roger to the community.

Gordon and Roger play a vital role in our SP body.  They oversee many volunteers in the UK -mobilizing them to assist with shoe boxes and in some cases projects.  We need Gordon and Roger to tell people in the UK what they have seen here in Liberia so that people can understand our projects better and then become a member of the SP team.

But there are more parts to our team...actual TEAMS!  As many of you know (and some have been a part of) we have teams that come and bless us in many different ways.  Part of my job is over seeing the hosting and planning of teams who come and visit.  This past month we had a team from Salmon Arm, B.C. come out.  4 guys, Casey, Matthew, Murray and Richard came and for 10 days helped build a new school.  Without them, the school would not be ready for next year.  Not only that, they were such an encouragement to our staff-it is such a blessing for us to have people come and teach new skills or just spend time with our staff and beneficiaries.  This team played a role in the bigger picture of what SP is doing here-they too are needed by the bigger SP Liberia body!

Team helping with laying bricks for the school

Playing team sports my whole life - I have been familiar with the team concept.  However, working with SP in projects here in Liberia made me realize how important and dependant I am on our team-that includes you by the way! In my training-even if I run alone I have a team behind me.  Someone watching my boys, making sure I am getting my fluids-or the staff that are implementing the projects that I am running for.  We all need a team to do what we do-so don't be a stubborn toe who thinks the body doesn't need eyes-you will just end up lost and sore!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sad News...

Today as I sat in a meeting-Eleanor pasted me a small post-it with a message: 

"  Did you know that little baby Eveleen in K&K died.  Sad."

Devastated, sad, mad, frustrated, shocked...I felt all of these things-even more so after talking to Alisa on the phone right after my meeting. It was my hope that Alisa would tell me that she was just sick...As soon as I called her and she answered I asked her, "Is it true?" She replied with a sigh "Yes."

Alisa had told me that last week she was a little bit sick but that the family had gotten some medicine from the hospital.  What she was sick with she did not know.  She had seen her and she was eating still and seemed to be doing fine-so the news of her passing was a shock to Alisa.  Maybe her little immune system was so weak she couldn't fight whatever was making her sick...I don't know.  All I know is it that this is the reality of life for many and after all of these years here I still struggle with this reality.

Like I said in last week's blog I don't share these stories to make you feel guilty-all of you know that these types of stories are the reality of the world we live in.  But let me stress something to you-this is why we are here.  No we were not able to save little Eveleen's life-trust me I wish I could of-even Alisa stated -she wished she could have done more.  However, the work that we do in health, in community development, in WASH, in Literacy, in child protection-all of our projects work towards preventing things like this happening.  Often on this blog you hear the stories where projects HAVE prevented sickness, oppression and hopelessness-but there are also these stories. 

I am sad.  I know that where little Eveleen is - is a much better place-but that does not make me feel better right now.  That is my reality.  I feel that my run today will take on a deeper meaning than just putting the miles needed for training.  Once again I am reminded on why I run. To help prevent losing another little "Eveleen" again.

" Let the children come to me. For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these..." Mark 10:14