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!