Pictures of me
Living with Refugees
15th June 2006
Some snippets of conversations I've had with people:
- This is Jessica*. Her father was killed in the
war and her mother abandoned her. She is doing very well in school though. Have a look at her report card.
Jessica is about ten years old and is a student at the school I
- They first killed my uncle and do you see these scars? That
is where the rebels beat me with their rifle butts. I couldn't
get any medical attention for three days. I can only walk for
about 100 meters before the pain is too much.
This guy was about twenty-two years and has been in the camp for
about fifteen years. So he must of been beaten when he was
- I witnessed wickedness in the most extreme. People being
taken for no reason and their houses burnt down. I assume they
were later killed. They had no
political persuasion and were not soldiers. They were just
trying to survive the war.
This was from a lady at a Peace Cell I attended. A Peace Cell
involves a group of Liberians talking about their experiences in the
war and how to rebuild Liberia.
- Why would I want to go back to Liberia? I having nothing to
go back to and armed rebel groups still have a presence. The
only way the U.N. will get me to leave would involve batons and me
kicking and screaming.
Opinion seems to be divided on whether or not Liberia is safe.
There are still U.N. peacekeepers present in Liberia.
The U.N. is trying to disband the camp. They have a target of
returning 12,000 refugees this year. Word on the street is
that they will lucky to get 2,000. There are a total of 42,000
people in this camp.
The current UN deal will get you:
- $US 5
It would cost the UN $US210,000 if everybody went back. It
seems like an absurdly small amount of money. I pay my
washing lady a little under $US 5 to do my laundry...
- Free Cooking Utensils.
- A 20kg baggage allowance.
- A pat on the bum as you head off into a shattered country.
- You look just like my Uncle Jerry (huh?) who was murdered
by the rebels.
Hmm. Scary stuff. Everyone in the camp has stories like
this. Some much worse. Some a little better.
It's hard to know how to react when someone tells you their harrowing
story. I try to look them in the eye and somehow share their
pain. Even that seems a little pathetic though. Their world
is so foreign from my own.
When I return from Africa, I'll have no money, no job and no assets
of note. But what I do have is options as I am a well educated white guy. The job options are many and my country has a social
welfare system if all else fails. I have no intention of getting a
normal job by the way. I plan to earn money as a teacher in South
Korea so that I can fund another volunteer stint somewhere else.
Just hearing one harrowing story is enough to make you cry.
Multiplying this by 42,000 is more than anybody could handle. So
you do what the Liberians do. You laugh.
You have fun. You try not to think about
But what can you do about the pain and misery that surrounds you?
Every one of the seventeen international volunteers at CBW (Children
Better Way) is trying to do the same thing. Make a difference in
the peoples' lives. Volunteer programs include:
When I went to a Peace Cell meeting the other day, the question was
asked about what needs to happen to make Liberia a better
place. The word "Education" was mentioned over and
educational classes at the Pre-Primary and Primary levels.
This is where I am focusing my attention.
- Water and Sanitation
Camp is a dirty place. Carrie
recently related a story about an early morning walk. She was
headed back from the local fee (football field). She had to
keep her eye on the feet of the person in front of her. She
felt that failure to do so would induce vomiting at the sight of the
human waste that was scattered along either side of the path.
Volunteers regularly empty the rubbish bins around camp, participate
in education campaigns and clean out the clogged drains. It's
a hard and dirty job that makes a big difference
Small loans are made to worthy participants in order to make
their businesses sustainable. I had some clothes
tailored by a micro-loan recipient.
HIV/AIDS is a huge problem in Africa. Last year, between three
and four million people died from AIDS - most of these in
Africa. About 5% of the people on camp have HIV.
Volunteers headed out everyday and walk up to people on the street
and talk to them about HIV/AIDS and give them the legendary condom
Prostitution and drug use both exist on camp. The young girls
seldom use condoms as they will get more money this way.
Underage prostitution is a big problem. We were regularly
visited by a fifteen year old prostitute. She has been banned
from the house for two weeks for misbehaving.
The mistaken beliefs about HIV/AIDS is mind-numbing at times.
- AIDS stands for an American Idea to Discourage
- AIDS can't be real as it only exits in Africa.
- You get AIDS by wearing a condom.
Apparently the Americans are trying to wipe out the African
people by putting the HIV virus in the lubricant of the
- It is the women's responsibility as they are the ones who are
always looking for sex.
It is true that some women seek sex in exchange for food and the
- Fund Raising
The fees that CBW receives from GVN (Global
Volunteer Network) make up just about all of its income.
If GVN were ever to pull out of the camp, then CBW would collapse.
Efforts are being made to make CBW a sustainable entity.
Seminars are being held to show the local volunteers how to raise
money for CBW.
- IT Center
CBW owns a computer lab with about twelve computers in it.
Regular classes are held to help the locals with their computer
Regular recreational activities are organized for the kids.
*No real names were used on this page.
Questions? Comments? Try contacting
Wanna receive an email whenever this site gets updated? Click here.
2005 and 2006 Malcolm Trevena.
All the stuff on this site is written by me, Malcolm Trevena. Feel free to
link to this page. Heck, you can even copy stuff from here if you
want. Just make sure you sight me as a reference.