Tag Archives: Primary School

Amy Parker – DR Congo – This school is merely the tip of the iceberg

29 Apr

‘‘If we don’t have peace, life is empty. We will lose everything again if we don’t live in harmony. Children of Tulambo, this is your future.’’

These words, spoken last week at the inauguration of Tubangwa Primary School by a local chief were met with a huge round of applause by all those present to celebrate their new school. This Primary School is the 15th to be built on the Mid and High Plateau region in South Kivu, DR Congo, by Children in Crisis and our local partner NGO Eben Ezer Ministry International (EMI). Tubangwa School sits in Tulambo village. Nestled deep on the Itombwe Plateau, with no telephone coverage and several days’ journey by foot to the nearest centres, Tulambo has long suffered from inter-ethnic conflict. It is a region inhabited by two communities, the Banyamulenge and the Babembe. For many years, peace reigned and the communities lived happily side by side. However, the years of conflict from 1996 onwards saw the two groups pitted against each other. Former friends and neighbours found themselves entangled in a fatal conflict, driven by rumour, jealousy and manipulation. Today a fragile peace has been reinstated, but it is a peace that needs nurturing.

Approaching Tubangwa Primary School, with the rusty , leaking roof of the old school building to the left.

Approaching Tubangwa Primary School, with the rusty , leaking roof of the old school building to the left.

‘If we don’t have peace, life is empty. We will lose everything again if we don’t live in harmony. Children of Tulambo, this is your future.’  - Tulambo's community leader

‘If we don’t have peace, life is empty. We will lose everything again if we don’t live in harmony. Children of Tulambo, this is your future.’ – Tulambo’s community leader

When talking about what makes them sad, the first thing that the men, women and children of Tulambo spoke about was war. In my personal world, death is not something that I think about regularly. It is not something that I’m faced with regularly. However, for the group of 11 and 12 year old pupils with whom I chatted, the first thing they told me they didn’t like to see was death. The thing they most hated to hear was news of people being killed by war. These sentiments were echoed by the men and women I talked to. Men spoke about not wanting to hear people talk about inter-ethnic killings, they don’t like to hear news about war and they are sad when they see people fleeing and the destruction that war causes. Women spoke of the sadness of widows and orphans left behind following conflict. They hate to see friends become enemies and are scared when they hear news of fighting.

Sylvie is one of Tubangwa's pupils who I spoke with at the school opening.

Sylvie is one of Tubangwa’s pupils who I spoke with at the school opening.

Three women who were part of the school construction committee.

Three women who were part of the school construction committee.

The construction of a school is seen as a symbol of a brighter future. The building itself is merely the tip of the iceberg. In all of Children in Crisis’ schools-construction projects, we work closely with the community to ensure they are ready for the job at hand – the investment of the local population is enormous. Whilst we transport building materials from the lowlands and provide a skilled team to lead the project, the community will work together to provide stones for the foundations, sand for the cement and water on a daily basis over eight months of construction. Being so invested-in and integral to the project, they also scrutinise the quality of construction throughout, and become ambassadors for education within the wider community.

Esther Nyakaguju, a mother of eight children who spoke extremely powerfully about the power of the school to unite everyone and the hope it gives for the future.

Esther Nyakaguju, a mother of eight children who spoke extremely powerfully about the power of the school to unite everyone and the hope it gives for the future.

As is often the case, for the communities of Tubangwa Primary School, the construction project also provided a neutral platform for previously warring communities to work together for a common goal – more important than any lingering mistrust or suspicion.

Children sat at comfortable desks, in their new school.

Children sat at comfortable desks, in their new school.

The resulting, bright spacious school is not only a place for Tubangwa’s children to learn and prosper. It is the best chance we have to put an end to the spectre of death that haunts people of this region on a daily basis. It is the hope for a future without conflict.

Click here to learn more about constructing schools on the remote Plateau of South Kivu and the work that could benefit from your support. 

Pete Simms – Afghanistan – Children’s voices

1 Dec

I especially enjoy talking to children, who seem able to stay optimistic, to dream big, and have real, genuine hope for the future. 

2014 has been a critical year for Afghanistan with elections and troop withdrawal characterising a change in the direction of the country. There is now a new President, one who promises to end the corruption that permeates so much of Afghan politics, and the national military have now taken over responsibility for security from NATO. But what does this change mean for the average person and what does it mean for organisations like Children in Crisis who are trying to bring the right to education to some of the most underprivileged children in the country?

The first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan’s history was an incredible achievement. Democracy only works if people believe in it, and during the election thousands of Afghans defied the threats of the Taliban, the distance to the voting booth, and the corruption of the political system to cast their vote and have their voice heard.

The challenges to building a stable, peaceful nation are still enormous, but people are now demanding that they be heard, that their voice be listened to. This is a significant step along the path to meeting basic human rights and of building a pluralistic society that values the role of all.

Much of the focus on the election was on the involvement of women, and for somewhere that has systematically and structurally undermined the concept of gender equality, the 38% of voters who were women should be celebrated.

At Children in Crisis we believe that everyone’s voices should be heard and that a society should listen to its most vulnerable as much as its most powerful. I spend a lot of my time talking to the people we work with, listening to their stories and to their hopes for the future. I especially enjoy talking to children, who seem able to stay optimistic, to dream big, and have real, genuine hope for the future. Adults can be cynical, sceptical of change and distrustful of those offering it, but children are not.

CBEC pupils 1

I recently spoke to a young girl called Sabera. She had moved to Kabul with her family five years earlier to escape the conflict that still continues in much of the country. Her family was extremely poor and, like most girls in Afghanistan, Sabera had never been to school before Children in Crisis opened a Community Based Education Centre (CBEC) near to her home. Her father is a day labourer and she and her brothers and sisters all work to make sure there is enough food every day.

When I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up she said she wants to be a teacher. She wants to help other children go to school. What impressed me so much about this 12 year old girl’s answer was how she immediately, unquestioningly, wanted to help others. Her hope and dream was to make sure other children receive their basic right to education.

When I asked Sabera about what she wanted for Afghanistan her answers were a mix of the deeply personal and the universal. She wanted a home of her own, an understandable dream for someone who lives in a temporary shelter and who craves a foundation, a structure to an otherwise temperamental existence. She wanted peace – more than anything she talked about security, about an end to her constant fear. She said she wanted people in Afghanistan to be friends with each other.

Afghanistan has certainly improved in the 13 years since the removal of the Taliban regime. However the decision to draw down the international military support and to reduce the humanitarian and development aid to the country is far too premature. The gains made in bringing quality education to the first ever generation of Afghan children should be celebrated, but while more than half of school-aged children are still denied access and are required to work to help feed their families there should be no thought of turning back.

Group of kids - 700 pixels wide

In one of our CBECs in Kabul I sat with a group of children enjoying the last few days of the autumn, the snow already visible on the line of mountains that snakes around the capital. Rafi told me he wanted to be a pilot, or a football player, and that he hoped that in the future Afghanistan would be like other countries. He listed off the names of the main international contributors – the US, Germany, the UK – these far away countries that he has heard so much about. He said he wanted the different ethnic groups to live together; a pertinent point for this divided country. Nazifa, a bright and precocious young girl who, in line with her dream of one day being a judge, said she wanted the new President to bring justice, to help poor people, and to build more hospitals.

two boys - 700 pixels wide

All of the children talked of their wish for the fighting to stop. They talked about ending the sounds of war – the bombs, the guns, the explosions. Sara wanted to be a doctor when she grows up so that she can help her community. When I asked her what she wanted most of all, what she dreamed of, she said to end the violence against girls like her and against women like her mother.

As the troops are pulled out it is more important than ever to step up our work in Afghanistan. We cannot allow the situation to slip backwards. Incredible achievements have been made; people have started to imagine a future of optimism – we have a responsibility to try and make that a reality.

Children in Crisis is delighted to announce that all funds given by the British public between the 3rd September and the 2nd December 2014 will be matched, pound for pound, by the UK government.

Your support of our work has never been more powerful or important.

 

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Joseph Kamara – Sierra Leone – Ebola, another setback for people with disability.

13 Oct

Even before the outbreak life for people with disability was hard. They are the poorest of the poor.

Joseph Alieu Kamara Founder and Director of Welfare Society for the Disabled (WESOFOD) in Kambia, Sierra Leone talks about how Ebola is especially impacting people with disabilities, making them vulnerable.

We are facing an outbreak of Ebola virus disease which is said to be the most severe reported outbreak since the discovery of the virus in 1976. In order to curb the spread of this deadly virus, the national government has declared a state of public health emergency. This has greatly affected the normal way of life. People are having to cope with all sorts of changes such as no handshakes, no public gatherings, no social meetings, no travel for people in some parts of the country, and no going to hospitals for usual illness such as malaria or diarrhoea for fear of being diagnosed with or catching Ebola. People are constantly washing their hands, either with ordinary soap and water or, if you can afford it, with chlorine.

Ebola is also hurting the country’s economy in no small measure. Many businesses have closed down, national and international markets have been closed and it has become very difficult for business men to travel. In Kambia district specifically, the international market at Bamoi Luma has been closed. This means that for many in Kambia their main source of income and means of survival has been cut off. Prices of commodities, including food, are rising on a daily basis. Life on the whole has become very miserable for people.  I fear that with Kambia district being one of the poorest and most deprived districts in Sierra Leone, an outbreak will be hard to bear.

 

Joseph (back row, second from left) & children at WESOFOD's home for children with Disabilities

Joseph (back row, second from left) & children at WESOFOD’s home for children with Disabilities

 

Though every Sierra Leonean is affected in one way or the other, I strongly believe that Sierra Leoneans with disability are the most affected for the simple fact that they have a disability. To name but a few are the following ways the outbreak has affected them:

Increase in discrimination and neglect. Even before the Ebola outbreak, these are challenges faced by people with disability from both the community and family members. This outbreak has made it worse. A lot of people with disability are dependent on others to support their movement and general welfare, especially those who require mobility aids but do not have them. Now, because people are afraid to come into contact with other people, they are no longer willing to help people with disabilities get around. This means people with disabilities are now having to crawl on the floor to get around, they get wounds from falling and crawling and have to suffer the shame of toilet systems that are not disability-friendly. People with disabilities in turn are afraid of asking for support as they do not know the whether the other person may have come into contact with Ebola. Immediate family members are confused and do not know what to do. Some bear the risk, others abandon their vulnerable family members.

Exclusion from relevant decision making processes in the name of state of emergency. In our experience, people with disability have completely been left out in the fight to curb the spread of this deadly virus. For WESOFOD the reality and hard fact is that our effort and strides to contribute to the development of our communities is still not recognized by stakeholders. Despite our contributions in making schools and health centers in Kambia district inclusive, WESOFOD and our disabled members are still left out of important decisions. Because people with disability and their families were not represented in planning meetings on the Ebola response, the awareness raising programs do not target persons with disability and therefore, do not reach them.  For instance, a street rally on Ebola using Okadas (motor bikes) will only reach those who could run to see them pass. A radio awareness raising program will only reach those who could afford a radio. A sensitization meeting on Ebola held in a court barry or town hall will only benefit those who could climb the steps to the court barry or town hall. A holistic and inclusive approach is what will help us contain the spread of this deadly Ebola virus disease in Kambia District and Sierra Leone as a whole.

 

A sensitization meeting on Ebola held in a court barry or town hall will only benefit those who could climb the steps to the court barry or town hall.

A sensitization meeting on Ebola held in a court barry or town hall will only benefit those who could climb the steps to the court barry or town hall.

 

Closure of schools. There is a very high illiteracy rate amongst persons with disability. A study conducted by WESOFOD and Children in Crisis in 2011 found that 60% of children with disability who were of school going age in Kambia district were not in school. When asked what would help them most, 80% said ‘education’. Since 2011 WESOFOD have been working hard to make education accessible for these children. Now all that has had to stop because schools have been closed. For people with disability, education is the only hope for a brighter future for both the child and parents. We hope children with disabilities are included in any alternative education projects that are planned during this crisis.

High cost of living. Even before the outbreak life for people with disability was hard. They are the poorest of the poor. Most struggle to make a living and a good number are living on the street as either street beggars, or prostitutes or both. They are unskilled and the majority are unemployed because throughout their lives they have been denied education and opportunity. The Ebola crisis has made it worse. For those who were working- their businesses are closed. For those who were living on the street they are even more desperate now the country is feeling economic strain. This has further pushed people with disability into poverty and vulnerability.

 

Children with disabilities miss play and they miss their friends.

Children with disabilities miss play and they miss their friends.

 

The right to play is being removed. Play is the order of the day for children. It is what makes them happy. Children with disability are no exception. Due to the Ebola crisis (fear of contracting the disease), parents and caretakers try to restrain their children from play. Children with disability are confined on their wheelchairs and in homes. Children in the neighborhoods are also restricted from play. They miss play and they miss their friends.

Without targeting those most vulnerable you will not be able to ensure everyone is protected from Ebola, which is a risk to containing the disease. We very much strongly believe that a holistic and an inclusive approach is what is needed to curb the spread of this deadly virus disease in our communities and country as a whole.

 

Children in Crisis  and FAWE have launched an emergency appeal to help our partner communities in Sierra Leone and Liberia protect themselves from the Ebola outbreak.

Please donate today,  your donation can be matched pound for pound by the UK government.

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Sarah Rowse – Liberia – The fruit of collective endeavour

26 Nov

As logic dictates, the infrastructure of a school has a significant impact on a child’s education. No matter what the standard of the teacher, children’s education is compromised when classrooms aren’t fit for purpose

Together with Children in Crisis’ dedicated partner in Liberia, FAWE, Children in Crisis UK joined hands with our colleagues from Children in Crisis Italy the week before last, to celebrate the opening of a newly constructed School, Logan Town Primary.

The School, which is located in the heart of River Cess County, was constructed with funds raised by Children in Crisis Italy and is an impressive nine classroom building. On the day of the inauguration, the pupils and their teachers proudly showed us around their new school, pointing out with great pride the whitewashed walls, sizeable classrooms and wall length blackboards; it stands in stark contrast to the small, cramped, makeshift school that stood before it.

When Children in Crisis and FAWE first undertook an assessment visit to Logan Town School in 2012, the learning conditions of the children in the old school were deplorable. Despite the valiant efforts of the teaching staff and parents of Logan Town to maintain and repair the makeshift classrooms, Liberia’s extreme of climate meant that they faced a constant uphill struggle. During the wet season, the thatched roof of the school and its mud walls failed to stand up to torrential rainfall.

Within just a few months of my visit, Logan Town's old school had collapsed

Within just a few months of my visit, Logan Town’s old school had collapsed

Conversely, during the dry season, when temperatures rose, cramped classrooms were hot and uncomfortable for children and teachers alike. There was no safe water-point for the school from which pupils could drink. Nor were there any toilet facilities, so children would simply do their business in the bush. For girls, the lack of hygienic toilet facilities at the old school made it especially embarrassing, uncomfortable and difficult for them to attend school when they were having their period. As the Principal of Logan Town School explained at the time, this in part contributed to the disproportionally high drop-out rate of girls (60%) compared to boys (40%) recorded over the course of the 2012/13 school year.

Logan Town's children outside of their old school.

Logan Town’s children outside of their old school.

As logic dictates, the infrastructure of a school has a significant impact on a child’s education. No matter what the standard of the teacher, children’s education is compromised when classrooms aren’t fit for purpose – when children are exposed to the elements on account of a leaking roof, holes in the walls and dilapidated school furniture. This is what compelled Children in Crisis UK, Children in Crisis Italy and FAWE to work together with the community of Logan Town to build a school that is worthy of its name.

And this, I am pleased to report, is what we’ve achieved. The new nine classroom School includes a library, school canteen, water pump from which to draw safe drinking water and two latrine blocks, separate for girls and boys. It took 12-months to construct, at a cost of £81,084 in building materials and labour, and was the result of impressive collective endeavour. The contractor and workforce, for example, were fed and accommodated by the community of Logan Town throughout the construction period as part of the community contribution to the building. Also, of particular note, was the contribution made by the County Authorities of River Cess to rebuild a dilapidated bridge so as to ensure that the building materials could be transported to site. This investment will bring longer term gains to an otherwise isolated, inaccessible rural community as it will facilitate better vehicular access to Logan Town and the surrounding villages, and with it, benefits such as increased market opportunities and services.    

Logan Town's new school has two latrine blocks, separate for boys and girls

Logan Town’s new school has two latrine blocks, separate for boys and girls

Water pump

A water pump at the new school, providing drinking water for the children

On other levels too, the multiplier effect of rebuilding the School are significant. The building will serve not only as a Primary School for upward of 300 children in the morning, but, with support from the Ministry of Education of Liberia, will soon serve as a Junior Secondary School in the afternoons. This will make Logan Town one of only four other Junior Secondary Schools in the entire county of River Cess, which is a significant development for the education and learning opportunities of children and young people here. Not only this, but parents will also be able to attend adult literacy classes in the evenings. Evening classes have been made possible thanks to the donation of a generator by the building contractor, Mr Dee, which will enable classes to run after dark. When Mr Dee announced this at the inauguration, he timed it so that all the lights came on in the school with a well-orchestrated nod of the head. It was impeccable timing on his behalf, and was met, understandably, with great applause by everyone present. In a rural community such as this, where there is no mains electricity, this will be a source of great community pride for years to come.

Evening classes have been made possible thanks to the donation of a generator by the building contractor, Mr Dee, which will enable classes to run after dark.

Evening classes have been made possible thanks to the donation of a generator by the building contractor, Mr Dee, which will enable classes to run after dark.

For the past 5 years, Children in Crisis have been working in Liberia, a country deeply affected by the legacy of war, to support schools and communities to rebuild the countries shattered education system. Our work in rural Liberia, in River Cess County, has focussed principally on teacher training and skills training for women. It has, as yet, comprised only a small construction component, with Logan Town representing the sixth school to be rebuilt by Children in Crisis in partnership with FAWE. However, learning from this and from our in-depth understanding of educational needs in the remote interior of the County, presents a compelling case for why Children in Crisis will continue its programme of school building in the years to come.

Watch this space as we monitor the progress of pupils from Logan Town School in the year ahead.

Read more:

A news piece on Children in Crisis’s website with videos from Logan Town.

Dru McInenrey – Summer Intern

24 Jul

Hello, Dru here

I am Children in Crisis’s summer Intern! A little background on myself, I am a Government and International Politics Major from across the pond at George Mason University near Washington DC. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to London for the summer, and even more fortunate to land an internship for an outstanding charity. Naturally, the first thing I wanted to do upon my arrival was to orient myself with the astounding work Children in Crisis produced over the past 20 years. This is when I discovered the vast photo library.

The Children in Crisis photo library has thousands of pictures of children and communities spanning over four continents and numerous countries.  Going through some of our most recent photos, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share some pictures of where we have been and where we are going this year. Posted are photos from some our programme visits to communities in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Democratic Republic of Congo. I’ve highlighted just a few of many programs that have positively affected these hard to reach communities. In addition I have added pictures of the marginalised Batwa communities of Burundi that Children in Crisis plans to begin working with in the near future. Hope you enjoy the optimism depicted in these photos as much as I did.

Cheers

-Dru McInenrey

Burundi, Batwa

The children of Burundi are just as curious as we are optimistic about Children in Crisis’s vision for education.

Burundi, children, batwa

It is evident the children of Burundi don’t lack imagination. With proper schooling the future is bright!

Burundi, Batwa, children

Girls from the Batwa community perform a dance in front of their friends and family.

burundi, batwa, children

It’s the boys turn! Batwa boys are excited to perform in front of their community.

Sierra Leone - Children in Crisis trained 159 Teachers in 2012.

Sierra Leone – Children in Crisis trained 159 Teachers in 2012.

Empowering Women in Liberia!  337 women participated in our Vocational Training Programme in 2012.

Empowering Women in Liberia! 337 women participated in our Vocational Training Programme in 2012.

Democratic Republic of Congo . In 2012 Children in Crisis built a permanent, weather-proof, durable school to give 269 children a place in which they can sit and learn.

Democratic Republic of Congo . In 2012 Children in Crisis built a permanent, weather-proof, durable school to give 269 children a place in which they can sit and learn.

Tom Tyler – Liberia – The Art of Driving

11 Jun

‘My experience of Joe before this trip was seeing the line for ‘Driver’ when looking at the budgets for the projects back at my desk in South London. I had always assumed that someone has to drive the vehicle, but it seemed strange that it needed a skilled, permanent employee. That assumption has been wiped clean this week.’

The Art of Driving

I am writing this in our guest house in Cestos City, the capital of River Cess County in Liberia. ‘City’ is a loose term here, there is one un-tarmacked road forming the high (and only) street, a small number of permanent concrete structures, and a large number of wooden-framed and mud-walled homes (which require rebuilding every year after Liberia’s long rainy season).

I’ve been in River Cess now for three days visiting the projects that Children in Crisis is delivering with our long-term partner FAWE Liberia (Forum for African Women Educationalists), a local education charity.

Typically foreboding rain clouds gather over Cestos City.

Typically foreboding rain clouds gather over Cestos City!

As a member of the small fundraising team at Children in Crisis (there are six of us based in our office in South London), my primary role is to write the proposals requesting funding for our work and the update reports on the progress of the projects. This has been a week of firsts for me: my first field visit, my first trip to Liberia, my first trip to Africa for that matter, and my first real appreciation of the amazing lengths that my field colleagues and FAWE will go to reach the most isolated and remote communities.

I arrived in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, late on Sunday and was immediately hit by the humidity and luscious green surroundings (Monrovia, I would learn, is the wettest capital city in the world. In July alone, it receives double the amount of rain that London receives in a year!). After spending a couple of hours on Monday morning meeting with our FAWE colleagues, the rest of the day was spent on the road to Cestos City. Before starting the journey, I asked Charlotte (my field colleague), who has lived in Liberia for two years, for an indication of the likely travel time. Six to eight hours was Charlotte’s response. It was not the traffic that would determine the final length of the journey, as it might in the UK, but rather the state of the road. The first three hours’ driving would be on a tarmacked road all the way to Buchanan, Liberia’s second city. Beyond Buchanan it would be the dirt road.

April and May are the change-over months from the dry season to the rainy season in Liberia, so bright blue skies and 28 degrees in the morning, then three hour thunder storms in the late afternoon and early evening. If the rain over the last couple of weeks or so had been hard enough and soaked through into the road, we would be looking at the full eight hours (which rises to a potential 10 hours at the end of the rainy season when the road is truly saturated).  As it was, even with a stop off for lunch in Buchanan (rice and ‘cow-meat’ soup), we reached Cestos in five and a half hours.

Tragically, on the stretch from Buchanan to Cestos, we saw a small amount of commotion at the side of the road, surrounding a car that had crashed into a divot. Given the lack of traffic, it was most likely that the brakes or steering had given out, or that the driver had made a mistake. One body was still in the car, and another had been covered up with a blanket at the side of the road. It was a sombre sight.

Within this context, for the remainder of our journey I was incredibly thankful for two things; the sturdy 4X4 vehicle we were travelling in, and the skill of one man. Joe Cappard, the FAWE driver, has been working for FAWE for over 15 years, and driving on Liberia’s challenging roads for 30 years. We’re pretty sure that Joe has literally driven on every one of Liberia’s roads. Before joining FAWE, Joe worked as a mechanic in one of Liberia’s few medical facilities, the JFK Hospital in Monrovia. To pay his way through high school, Joe worked for a mechanics firm during the holidays. Both Joe’s brother (now living in the United Sates), and his father were also mechanics. Joe’s four daughters however, all of whom are still in education – his eldest will soon be graduating from accountancy college – do not share their father’s love of cars and oily engines!

Joe Cappard, FAWE driver.

“It is the most important thing that my daughters are educated, so that they can stand on their own and make a future for themselves and their children. I will make sure that all my children are educated because that is the best way to have a good life.” Joe Cappard, FAWE driver.

Reaching Cestos City in good time was just one leg of the journey to visit the communities that we are working with. Indeed on our second day in River Cess we travelled to a community where even Joe’s skills were of no use. In 2011, with the help of our supporters, Children in Crisis and FAWE constructed a brand new primary school for the community of Neegbah. The amazing thing about this building project, and the reason that Joe could not be of assistance, is that there is not a single road that leads to the community. To reach the school we took the same route that every single bag of cement, steel rod, nut and bolt also had to take; the 25 minute crossing of the vast Cestos River in a hand-built wooden canoe, followed by an hours’ walk through the bush.

Mardia, one of the mothers we spoke to in Neegbah proudly described how the whole community had worked every day from 6am to 12pm for six months to transport the building materials. While the funds were lovingly provided by our supporters in the UK, and the construction work was completed by skilled professionals, the transporting of the materials (including locally contributed materials such as sand from the riverside) helped to create a real sense of ownership amongst the community. 18 months on from completion of the construction, it was clear from the highly maintained state of the school that this sense of ownership was bearing fruit.

Mardia explained that she and the other parents were scared for their children when they attended the old school during the rainy season. Pieces of the roof used to fall on the children, and snakes (yes snakes!) would often fall from the roof into the classroom!

Amazingly, after completing the new school, the Children in Crisis and FAWE team decided to go yet further into the depths of the bush to reach an even more remote community. Beyond Neegbah, Jarstar community is a further 25 mins on the back of a motorbike (as I was fortunate enough to travel), or a two hour walk (almost three hours from the riverside). The women of Jarstar are now benefitting from the piloting of our Vocational Training Outreach Project, whereby our training team live in the community for four months, delivering lessons in locally relevant skills such as pastry-making, tailoring, and hairdressing, as well as adult literacy and business skills classes.

Women attending a VTC bakery class. I was lucky enough to try one of these very tasty fish pastries.

Women attending a VTC bakery class. I was lucky enough to try one of these very tasty fish pastries.

Today, my last day in River Cess, we visited two other communities involved in this pilot project (we hope to turn the pilot into a wide-ranging three year programme benefitting thousands of women in the near future), which were about a four hour drive from our guest house. For this journey, we had to cross two of the most rickety, dangerous-looking ‘bridges’ I’ve ever seen. At one of the bridges, to reduce the weight, Joe asked us to get out of the vehicle. After checking the bridge, and looking for the strong and weak points, he skilfully manoeuvred the vehicle across. We jumped back in on the other side.

Joe Cappard, FAWE driver, and the FAWE team assessing the bridge before crossing in the vehicle.

Joe Cappard, FAWE driver, and the FAWE team assessing the bridge before crossing in the vehicle.

Our timetable for the day, given the amount of travelling involved, gave us about an hour and a half at each community. It became apparent that the women involved in the Vocational Training are so proud of their new skills, and so thankful for the support provided by Children in Crisis, FAWE and our supporters, that the joyful conversations, the meetings, and demonstrations of their new skills were going to play havoc with the timetable.

As a result, by the time we finished at the second community, the early evening rains were coming down heavily (at a force I’d never experienced before!), and daylight had all but run out. I was a bit nervous at this point – the road, strewn with holes and ditches, was difficult enough to navigate during the day when it was dry, let alone at night and in the rain. What was this journey going to be like? And more importantly, given that mobile phone coverage doesn’t extend to the remote parts of River Cess, what would happen if Joe misjudged a divot, or if the vehicle let him down?

As it was, I had no need to worry. Joe drove in the pitch black with only his headlights for guidance (there is obviously no road lighting), handling all that the road had to throw at him. It was an amazing piece of driving. We arrived back at the guest house about 45 minutes ago. Ironically, the generator is broken, and so I’m typing this in the dark. I’ve made more mistakes in the last ten minutes than Joe did in four hours!

My experience of Joe before this trip was seeing the line for ‘Driver’ when looking at the budgets for the projects back at my desk in south London. I had always assumed that someone has to drive the vehicle, but it seemed strange that it needed a skilled, permanent employee. That assumption has been wiped clean this week.

Learn more about Children in Crisis’s work in Liberia.