Friday, May 1, 2009

Story #5-March for Rights

As we have gone out to tell about our experience in Liberia, we have realized that we can only give a glimpse of what we experienced; a 20 minute summary of an amazing 10 week stay. There are some stories that we are not able to tell during our presentations, but that have impacted our lives. One such story is the march to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights and Dignity of People with Disabilities.

Like most of our time in Liberia, our involvement in the march was happenstance. All of a sudden a van pulled up to load up students to go to the march. Naturally, the van became packed, so we opted to come on the next round. When we arrived downtown, the beginning of the march, we joined hundreds of other marchers. There were representatives of the blind organization, persons with physical disabilities, deaf students from several schools, and my husband and I. As far as we could tell, we were the only non-Liberians, and as we walked hand-in hand with our brothers and sisters, onlookers often took a double-take.

After a short discussion with the local police, we were allowed to begin our march. We were led by the president of the National Union of Organizations of the Disabled, Mr. Kota, chanting encouraging words. We walked a few miles through the city, and arrived in front of the legislature building. As a large group, we were met with U.N. guards, and only a select few were allowed to enter the gates to propose the U.N. convention. During this time, I was able to sit and visit with students from various schools.

While it was extremely hot and we were tired, I could not get over the fact that we were able to be a part of this landmark movement. We were able to show our solidarity in the purest form, standing right next to the people who deserve the support of the government and the Liberian people. We didn't go in there telling them they had to do this, we didn't lead just because we were Americans. The Liberian people invited us along, leading us. We simply followed, showing them our support. While the government gave no real response, simply accepting our petition, we were hopeful that this was the beginning of a national movement to accept persons with disabilities, and give them the rights that they truly deserve. We hope to hear about more marches in the future, and will stand by them, hand in hand, in spirit.

As you can see, the students were kind enough to hold an umbrella over me as I husband was not as fortunate. :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sign Language Class and More

It has been a while since I have posted, but I hope that there are still interested people who are passionate about knowing about and improving lives in the world. I have received news from David that the United Methodist University in Monrovia has decided to add a course for their students. They have decided to develop a course on the history of sign language, an introduction to sign as a language and some beginning signs. David and I are collaborating to see what should be included in the course.

Also, David has said that the University is going to admit the Hope teachers into their initial teacher training program. This will provide the teachers with invaluable training and experience that will greatly improve the Hope program and the students' future. Both plans are still in the beginning stages of preparation, but we are very hopeful for the future.

Currently, David, Jeff and other leaders in the Methodist church in Liberia are attending their Annual Conference. David and Jeff will present a report on the progress of their programs. It is our hope and prayer that their mission will continue to be heard, accepted, and supported.

Friday, January 2, 2009

ChildArt Liberia

We have received some exciting news from Hope for the Deaf school in Liberia. David, the director of the school, has told us that they have started a new program called ChildArt Liberia. It is run by UNICEF that establishes programs for children in the hopes of teaching art skills, as well as giving the children a safe outlet of their feelings and experiences, especially concerning the civil war they lived through.

The above picture is from that program. They have classes Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. While I was there, it was apparent that the children needed some kind of creative outlet, and I am so happy to know that they are getting the opportunity to use their imagination and their spirit to create something of their own.

If you would like to know more about the ChildArt Liberia program, please read this article, it is a little old but gives good detail about the program. Hopefully their will be more great news for the school as we enter the new year!