Stan Olsen – April 2014 Trip Report – Kuwaa Mission
MONROVIA ARRIVAL TO KONDESU
Dave and I met at JFK airport and hit it off immediately. We gave each other a brief synopsis of our life histories and boarded the plane. During our 2.5 hr. layover in Acura, Ghana we made initial planes for the next days’ work in order to leave Monrovia ASAP on Friday the 28th.
On Friday Dave inspected the solar system in storage and decided everything was there but that we needed to get some wall anchors, ground wire and a ground rod as well as groceries before we headed upcountry. We started to walk to the store and were met by Sam Zinnah, one of Senator Momo’s assistants. He drove us around town and we stopped on the way back to meet the Senator. He stated he was planning to come up as well as Representative Malai and that he would be sending some rice with us for the dedication ceremony. Sam proved to be of great assistance upcountry during our negotiations with the Health Department. . Late in the afternoon McGill showed up with his pickup and we loaded the solar system and rice in the dark for our 6:00am departure. Dave & I had supper and then it was time for bed.
Surprisingly enough we did leave exactly at 6 making our way thru town in the dark peering thru the grimy, broken windshield and one barely working headlight. By the time we reached the outskirts of town it was light and we made good time to Bopolu. I was hoping to meet Dr. Tucker, the County Health Director, on the road but we didn’t recognize each other’s vehicles. We stopped at the hospital and I met with the County Health Team (CHT). I told them briefly about what we had done, that I was under the impression that in principal there was agreement that the Health Department would take over the clinic and that we just needed to finalize any areas of concern. I also stated that the KM had been paying for a nursing student to attend the nursing school at Curran Hospital and that she and two of her friends were willing to be stationed in Kondesu. They were very pleased to hear that as it’s often difficult to get someone willing to be stationed in such a remote place.
The CHT agreed and asked if the KM would take care of salaries and pay for medicines and I said we didn’t have the resources to pay for that. They then asked if we could provide a motorbike for the health team to make deliveries and help with their programming. I replied that I thought we could but that I would have to take that to our board for discussion / approval. I said that the clinic dedication was set for April 13 and we would turn the building over to them effective May 1 and everyone left satisfied. The health team was to make an inspection of the clinic during the next week.
After loading several boxes of medical supplies for the Fassama clinic into the pickup we left town and arrived in Fassama about 5:30pm. The pickup was unloaded and everything carried to McGill’s house for the night for security reasons. At 7:00am the next morning everything, included the fridge for medicines previously delivered to Fassama, was carried back to the Pentecostal Mission where the helo was to land. Again, right on schedule Samaritans Purse arrived and flew Dave, I and the rice and small items to Kondesu. Two more flights got all the supplies delivered and the fourth flight consisted of Stone and Jesse Yarsiah of Kondesu, another aide to the Senator. He proved to be indispensable during various negotiations in Kondesu and in getting the people of Kondesu to actually do what they said they would do when it needed to be done.
The clinic actually looked just as good up close as it did from the helicopter on arrival. The contractor, Ston, did a wonderful job on the clinic. We met briefly with the townspeople, they again committed to helping when requested, to feed us and to get the site ready for the dedication. We told them we wanted to sleep at the clinic for security for the solar system and to enable us to work more efficiently. It worked well and we had cool quiet evenings with just enough visitors to make it interesting but not overwhelming.
Dave set to work that morning, the 29th, installing the panels on the roof while I reviewed the work and made plans with Stone to finish everything by the 13th. In between helping Ston with the painting, coordinating some last minute items with the carpenter (doors, window shutters and bed frames) I was able to hang the lights and run the wire in the attic.
By the 2nd it was determined that the items Ston bought were not even in Fassama and in fact hadn’t even left Monrovia. I told Ston to go to Monrovia and have everything back in Kondesu by the time I returned from visiting several other villages.
Dave finished the solar system installation on the 31st and that we night we had a special ceremony for the people of Kondesu to thank them and for the official initial turning on of the lights. Most of the ceremony was by the light of the moon. There was plenty of singing, dancing, and prayers. Just before the final prayers and after the lights went on they presented a white chicken to Ston who gave it to me and I in turn gave it to Dave – his first white chicken! He was quite surprised and intrigued by the ceremony. The evening was closed with a prayer by Iman Samuka Duclay.
The next day the County Health Team (CHT) arrived to inspect the clinic; this was their first visit there. They were very impressed. As they walked around they made a few changes to the “names” of the rooms, wanted additional beds, chairs, tables, a medical records cabinet and a latrine for the clinic visitors. The carpenter agreed to make the furniture in time for the dedication and a separate contract was made for the latrine with a man from Kondesu. We borrowed 12 each 1×12’s for the furniture from a local man and another person keeping a few for the senator, it may come back on us later that we need to pay to replace these. The CHT decided that the building serving as the nurse quarter would be insufficient for two nurses. However there is a building close to the clinic that is being constructed by Senator Momo for use as mid-wife clinic. (Never did figure out why he agreed with the town’s request for that with a clinic being constructed next door.) It was determined that this would serve perfectly as housing for two more nurses as the CHT feels that they need a staff of 3, one being a mid-wife. It was agreed that after the dedication ceremony we would all meet with the senator and try to convince him to finish the building and turn it over for housing.
Dave wanted his own “experience” and since the solar system was complete he wanted to work his way back to Monrovia on his own and check out the town. As it worked out Koko was in Kondesu as his crew was finishing the well for the clinic and together they walked 7 hrs. to Fassama. The next day Dave caught a vehicle from Fassama to Monrovia. He made the journey without incident.
On the 6th I left for Fassama and to inspect the wells that Koko had installed last year and this year. I returned on April 11 and we easily finished the final touches to the clinic, the furniture, the latrine and installed the steel doors as required by the health department. The men showed up on the day of the 12th to erect the shelter from the sun for the dedication and the women came afterwards to clean up the grounds.
The people of did a fine job of cleaning the site, getting seating arranged for most of the 200 people and building the structure to provide shade. Senator Momo, Representative Malai, the District Superintendent Nathan Sue, the County Health Team, and various tribal / paramount and sectional chiefs were in attendance. Senator Momo brought with him a person from a radio station in Monrovia who taped the program and interviewed myself and later played these on the radio in Monrovia. The Senator also brought with him Sam Zinnah who had ushered us around Monrovia.
The dedication ceremony scheduled for 10:00am started promptly at 11:00am. The program started with the youth leading a procession around the clinic and the singing of a song of thanks. Following this the program continued as follows:
- Opening invocation – Kuwaa Parish pastor Rev. Paye who substituted for Bishop Seyenkulo as he was not able to be in attendance
- Overview of project – Stan Olsen (see attached comments)
- Cutting of three ribbons – Kuwaa Mission, Rep. Malai, Senator Momo
- Dedication of the clinic – Rev. Paye
o Kondesu Development Chairman
o LOKOGASA – a representative of the organization composed of the four nearest villages for development: Lowoma, Kondesu, Gatema and Sasasu.
o Section IV Chief
o Paramount Chief – Joseph Vallah
o Chief Elder of the Belle District
o District Superintendent – Nathan Sue
- At this point the order was spontaneously changed by the local women/mid-wives who broke into song, presented a white chicken to Rep. Malai who gave it to Senator Momo who gave it to me who saved it for supper.
- Following this was the “Gowning Ceremony” where Ston, Cindy, Bishop Seyenkulo and Stan received a traditional Liberian outfit.
o County Health Team – Bennie Clark
o Rev. Paye – substituting for Bishop Seyenkulo
o Representative Malai
o Senator Momo
- Vote of Thanks – Kuwaa Mission, Stan Olsen (see attached comments)
- Closing song
- Closing prayer – Iman Samuka Duclay
All the speakers followed the same general theme of thanks to the KM for the construction of the clinic and the necessity of the local people to take on the responsibility of caring for the care givers who would be assigned here, to maintaining the road in good condition so that the supplies could be delivered, so that people could drive here which would be necessary for the development to continue, and that the clinic was not for the people of Kondesu or LOWAGASA but for all the people in the area – it is not to be tribalized, as emphasized by the Senator.
Following the dedication everyone was fed cassava and rice. During this time period I met with the CHT, Jesse Yarsiah, the Senator and his aides to discuss the mid-wife building he is constructing. The end result is that he is receptive to the concept of the building being used to house additional nursing staff, as strongly recommended by Jesse Yarsiah and Sam Zinnah. The Senator looked to the KM to take over this responsibility. I stated that we did not have the funds nor the staff to do so but that we would recommend a contractor for the work. He was going to take this recommendation back to the village to get their approval since it was their idea originally. I believe that this will take place but have not received any confirmation as yet
The wells are without a doubt the strongest program we have going. Koko is doing an excellent job of managing the workers, the materials, delivery of the items, working with the peoples in Kondesu, in Konjade and in Fassama. All are located in a spot convenient for the people to use and in a location that is likely to have good water. All the wells were dug to about 40’ in depth and had 5’-7’ of water in the bottom, this at the driest time of the year. I tested the water in all the wells and it was clean and potable. Koko has a very competent, hard-working and enjoyable crew working for him at this time.
Murphy Zadoe guided me from village to village: Fassama to Konjade to Kenata where we spent the second night. The congregation from Trinity Lutheran Church in Park Forest, Illinois funded this well and I installed a plaque on the well noting this.
The third day we walked from Kenata to Teglei where Koko was conducting a well maintenance class over 5 days. There were 18 students in the class and by the end of the 5th day Koko felt that they all had a good handle on how and why the wells need maintenance. Additionally he felt they were all competent to actually perform the maintenance. I signed Certificates of Completion for all in attendance.
In January of this year Cindy conducted our first “Community Led Sanitation” program in Kenata with the assistance of Korpu Barsay, Koko’s wife. I first met Korpu in Fassama as I was beginning my tour of the wells and again in Kenata a couple days later. As I entered Kenata my first impression was that the town was much cleaner, basically free from feces, then it was when I visited it last year at this time. Korpu brought me up to date on what the people were doing as a result of the workshop and we toured the town to make an inspection. They have dug one latrine and had started on a second when their only shovel broke. I made arrangements for them to get another shovel from Saata in Fassama as well as a shovel, pick and digger from Koko’s tools in the Fassama container. The women seem to understand the need to keep the town clean and Korpu said she would be back again to check on them. Hopefully this will be a model village we can use as an example to the other villages to clean up their town. We must keep this program going: clean water and sanitation will do wonders for their overall health.
While in Robertsport I contacted Rev. Amos Bolay of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia (ELCL) to discuss how the KM and the LCL could work together to serve Liberian in general and Lutheran’s specifically. I set up a meeting with Rev. Isaac Dowah, Special Assistant to the Bishop, since Jensen was in Kenya at an African Council of Churches meeting.
We met in Jensen’s office upon my return to Monrovia upon my return from Robersort where I explained to Rev. Bolay what we were doing and our hope to reach out to the people who belonged to the ELCL and how an agreement would help the KM obtain funds from the LCMS in the US. Amos then gave me a brief history of how the ELCL came into being by the work of a LCMS person who returned to Liberia and worked to get the church established mainly up north in Liberia in the Bandi area. Currently there are no ELCL congregations in the Kuwaa area. There has been a refusal by the LCL in the past to acknowledge the ELCL and not try to work with them.
At this time there are several ELCL congregations in Monrovia due to the displacement of people after the war, some very close to LCL congregations. There is no conflict between these congregations and they work well together. Amos main concern that he wanted clarified was the LCL stance on gay and lesbians. Rev. Dowah stated that the LCL and ELCL positions are identical in that they both oppose such unions both theologically and culturally. Their respective stances on women in clergy is just an issue they disagree on but that wouldn’t stop any cooperation between the two bodies.
We closed the meeting with a general understanding that the KM would be accepted to work in the ELCL areas upcountry and that the ELCL would do what they can to assist the KM. This would require us to work up in the Lofa County area of Liberia near Kolahun and Voinjama. These cities are quite a distance from Monrovia but they do have pretty good road access. I have sent out a copy of the draft MoU between the LCL-ELCL that speaks to their relationship with the KM for your review / comment / approval.
Kondesu Clinic Dedication
OVERVIEW OF PROJECT SPEECH
KM and the LCL first visited the Kuwaa Area in 2008
- Recognized need for clean water, health care and sanitation if the people were to prosper
- Over next few years we held meetings with the people in the area and MOH it was agreed that a rural clinic was needed
- Kondesu was selected between the KM and the County Health Department due to being centrally located to serve many towns and villages
- Floor plan was approved by County Health officials in 2011 at a meeting at the LCL compound with the KM
- Work began in 2012 with the laying of the foundation and sawing of timber
- The people of Kondesu have played a big role in helping with the lumber, making blocks, hauling water, hauling sand and hauling rock, housing and feeding the workers
- Clinic has a large reception area, storage area, pharmacy, bathroom, 2 exam rooms, a general ward and a maternity ward.
- 2 room nurse quarter has been built, an incinerator to burn medical wastes and a septic tank installed, a well specifically for the clinic but also close to the school
- This clinic is the second clinic to be built in the Fassama district since the end of the fighting and the first clinic to be built since 2004. CONFIRM WITH KOKO
- The first nurse willing to work here is Esther Kowulo and her family is from Konjade. I welcome her back to her area along with her nursing associates
VOTE OF THANKS SPEECH
- Many people and organizations are responsible for contributing to the success of this clinic
- Countless people, churches and organizations in the US contributed money and prayers
- The people of Kondesu and the surrounding towns and villages have helped by supplying labor and food
- The contractor, DMV Construction, did a wonderful job as you can all see
- Senator Momo, Representative Malai have been supporters of the project since day one
- The Minister of Health, Dr. Walter Gwenigale, and the County Health Department have been supporters from the start
- The LCL for their assistance in organizing this event
- The cooks for the fine meal everyone is looking forward to
- I personally want to thank is Rev. Chris Kowula, a long-time friend. He and I have travelled many miles on foot visiting the Kuwaa people ever since 1998. He has always made me feel at home no matter where we are. Without his direct involvement in the KM from the start of our work the wells and this clinic would not have been possible. Thank you from the bottom of my heart Chris.
- My special thanks however is reserved for Kendall Kauffeldt and Samaritans Purse. Without their support in the form of prayers, land transportation and helicopter transportation of personnel and building supplies we would not be here today. Not only have they helped with this clinic but they have also helped with transportation of well materials
- Most especially I’d like to thank God for making this long dreamed of day a reality. As the saying goes: “Everything is possible with God”. To God Be the Glory!
o Let the people say AMEN