As we rode in a bus bound for Cape Coast, Ghana, site of a former slave-trading fort, my friend Carly pointed out the Liberian refugee camp as we passed. The camp, located on the outskirts of Accra, Ghana, was one of many camps established during the 14-year civil war that claimed an estimated 300,000 Liberian lives. At the time, I did not realize the many connections this camp would have with my work in Liberia.
Having arrived in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, after visiting Ghana for one week, I quickly came to see just how fragile the peace is here. As our plane landed, I noticed a dozen UN helicopters as well as UN emblazoned trucks and various supplies locked in a secure compound just near the country’s international airfield. It was a sobering sight, but one that reminds me that the international community has acted so as to provide a security force in the country.
Currently I am staying with a host family in Monrovia. My host brother Joscee spent nearly 15 years in Ghana, from the time he was a young child until just a few years ago. His mother and six sisters had to quickly leave the country as the fighting moved toward the capital.
While most of the refugees in Ghana have returned to Liberia, or decided to establish a new home for themselves in Ghana, some families remain at the camp.
The peace in Liberia is fragile, largely due to the fact that many former combatants are now living amongst those who fled. The challenge has been developing employment opportunities for this largely young population.
My work with Skills and Agricultural Development Services (SADS) will be focusing on helping rural communities claim their rights and find means of income, so as to mitigate the challenges posed by deforestation. As the civil conflict occurred throughout the country, this work will hopefully also contribute to creating a sustainable means to development while forging a new means of peace.
As families begin to rebuild their lives, and often, quite literally, their homes, I think back to the incredible challenge life in a refugee camp must have been. The optimism that I see in Liberians is humbling given the atrocities they have seen and challenging life they have lived. I look forward to a fruitful collaboration with SADS and rural communities. Hopefully our work will create a positive way forward for the communities with whom we work.
Posted By Adam Welti
Posted Jun 9th, 2009