Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Seven farmers in Malamp, two women and five men, have embarked on a new venture, thanks to the initiative of Joseph, community school teacher and farmer. This past week Joseph’s school received their collection of Osu books through Nakamah Kawaleh. Joseph is a very astute teacher and after browsing the books, realized that they would also make excellent teaching tools for adults, as they feature situations and photographs with which all can easily connect. In exchange for daily lessons in reading, the seven farmers will be helping Joseph clear his land in preparation for the April planting…a perfect exchange of knowledge and labour.

Next September AKT turns 18. Last year a student at our junior high school, AKT is now living in the nearby town and studying at the Government Boys’ School, dreaming of eventually reading for law (slight switch from wanting to be an Ambassador for Peace). He is very excited to finally be able to vote, he tells me, and have a say in the how his country is run. AKT is an exceptionally mature, intelligent and thoughtful young man who came back to Mapaki to sympathize with a relative and counsel his younger peers on the importance of sticking to their books. The only one from the Chiefdom accepted into this school this year, AKT is a bit lonely but tells me his book is his constant companion. Not yet able to afford the school clothes needed for school functions, he spends most of him time in the place where he stays. He recognizes the fact that college fees (about $250 a year) are likely out of his reach, so also spends time while in Mapaki, watching and learning from our carpenter, developing the skills and experience that might one day help him earn his way to or through college.

I lost a touch of innocence today, learned a little more about the ways of the world than I want to know and now need a good armful of giggling warm toddlers to put all back in order. But as one dream fades, another sparks. Last night the library management committee met and the dreams and plans that coalesced kept my mind whirling and my soul singing all night. It was Sunday night, but the minute Mabinty opened the door, in flowed a steady stream of children and youth, who went straight to their favourite books, sat down on the floor and either quietly browsed or shared photos and comments with a friend or with me. The committee reviewed main programming areas over the past year (daily use by children and community, outreach, and computer training) and made plans for the coming year (working more intensively with children from outlying villages, connecting with other libraries in Liberia and Ghana and setting up structures for long-term sustainability). With a minimal construction and furnishing budget and a minimal monthly operating budget (for two part-time positions), this library’s success borders on miraculous.

As the work I came to do on this trip is now just about finished, I’ve finally been able to do what I first intended when I moved in three years ago and have spent the last few days in the primary school simply supporting school literacy needs. Today the grades 2, 5, and 6 classes created wonderful books for each other based on the Osu book story lines and the grade 2s in particular had an uproariously fine time doing choral reading at full volume (with other surprised teachers stopping by to see what the heck was going on). I am definitely now in the wrap-up stage of the peace project and have many discussions with friends and family about the future. My women friends in the kitchen still find my new weight hilarious (in a good way…morning greeting has switched to “bodi fine!”) and my friend Aminata and rival Makapr have asked if they can each have one of the triplets I’ve told them I’m carrying. I still visit my old back porch where the toddlers congregate and there is always a posse of friends, young and old, with whom to chat or joke or simply sit in the gathering dusk. The elderly man who has been asking me for three years to bring him a loving oporto wife, was pleased when I told him I’ve acquired two for him and rushed off last evening to get his room ready, he told me. Life in Mapaki feels settled and comfortable and good, despite the heart aches and breaks that drift our way. It’s hard to believe that soon I will be packing bags and heading off to Makeni and Freetown before returning to Canada at the end of the month. Mom, don’t worry, I’ll see you soon….this post is for you.