Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dare Deviling at Camp

If you haven’t gone to a camp as a young person, you have missed some of the most exciting moments in life. This kid proved to his friends who regarded as “scared and weak” how brave he was by jumping a bonfire. Camps can be hosted for different purposes, including football, Christian enlightenment or scouting to name a few. Whatever the purpose of a camp, those who attend always have a chance to do things they would not do at home.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Poet Wants Liberians to Study Creative Writing

By Leroy M. Sonpon, III (231-6-585875)

A Liberian celebrity poet, Associate Professor Dr. (Mrs.) Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, has encouraged Liberians to take interest in poet and creative writing, as well as African literature.

Prof. Wesley told reporters yesterday that the study of arts (poetry) and literature enable ones to express themselves through creative writings, evidence of her publication of books of peotry. She said arts (poetry) and literature make a nation.

The Liberian poet made the assertions at Ministry of Information’s weekly press briefing, in the Ministry’s conference room in Monrovia.

Dr. Wesley is an Associate Profession of English and African Literature at Penn State University, Penn State Altoona, USA. She is an author of four books of poetry.

According to the Prof. Wesley, her first book of poetry, Before The Palm Could Bloom, was published in 1998. It entails a collection of poems about the African continent.
The second book, Becoming Ebony, was authored in 2003, while the third book, The River Is Rising, was published in 2007.
Dr. Wesley stated that her second book of poetry articulated the essence and peculiarity of becoming a black (ebony) person, and the third book is mainly about the Liberian civil war and the devastation it has brought and also the rising of the nation.
1n 2010, the Fourth book, Where The Road Turns, was in print. This book, talks about ones’ decision and choices in life.
Prof. Wesley was born in Tugbakeh, Maryland County and grows up in Monrovia. In 1985, she earned her Master Degree from Indiana University, Blomington Indiana, USA, in English Education. In 2002, she got her Doctorate (Ph.D) degree from Western Michigan University, Michigan, USA, in English and Creative Writing.
“The books, hopefully next week, will be on sale, between US$12 to US$15. And I hope Liberians as well as foreigners will take interest in reading them,” Prof. Wesley stated.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Slum Dwellers Face Sanitary crisis

The unsanitary condition of mushrooming slum neighborhoods across Monrovia has further deteriorated due principally to the lack of toilet facilities in the homes or even pits latrines for use by these communities.

Dwellers of this dominant type of human settlement across the city are also battling with ‘bad air’ or squalor emanating from mountains of garbage stockpiles in these neighborhoods.

Inhabitants of these areas have continued to blame their being in these areas on worsening conditions in their communities of origin in other parts of the country. For instance, growing slum communities along the Measurado River account for at least 2/5 of Monrovia’s population (970,824 people), according to the final results of the 2008 National Population and Housing Census (NPHC) published by the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) in May of 2009.

The slum communities include West Point, Slipway, Jallah’s Town, Saye Town and Plunkor. Approximately, according to the Census results, 194,000 dwellers in these randomly built dilapidated houses and zinc shacks without toilet facilities or enough spacing in between to allow sanitary workers reach homes at the rear of those communities to collect garbage. These people have also built more than 500 makeshift toilets along the bank of the River; thus increasing the unsanitary nature of their dwelling places.

To make matter worse, they also dispose of their garbage and other waste materials directly into the River, which in turn, serves as breeding ground for tones of mosquitoes and flies.

Some concerned residents of the above mentioned slums, recently spoke with the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview. They outlined several issue they think are responsible for the unsanitary condition of their communities, despite relentless efforts on the part of the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) to sanitize the entire city.

“This community has been going on like this longer than you think. But I’ve continued to live here,” Samuel Moore, 33, a resident of Plunkor said.

“Some of the makeshift toilets are even older than me. Some, too, were recently built. You see as more people come into this community and build their homes without toilets, they add one or two toilets to those already along the river,” Moore explained.

Moore blamed their condition on abject poverty. He said they are hugely impoverished and cannot afford to construct flush toilets in their homes.

But Eddie Gietar has a diverging view on this matter. Gietar, a resident of Jallah’s town, is of the conviction that slum dwellers deliberately construct their homes without toilets. “It has nothing to do with money,” added.

“Building a house is a project and there is no way you are going to carry out a project without a plan. If you plan to build a house, tell me how will you leave out a bathroom which is to your own convenience?” Mr. Gietar asked.
Mr. Gietar recommended one way the people in these communities could stop using the river as toilet was if the city government prevails on owners of houses that lack toilets to make at least one room in their homes as a restroom.
“Until the MCC come up with a mandate that will have these people changing rooms in their homes to toilets, the river will be used for defecation purpose. That means we will live like this forever,” Mr. Gietar asserted.
Concerning the issue of garbage, an elderly resident of Saye Town, who asked to speak on the basis of anonymity for fear he may be seen as an instigator against the community said, the garbage along the river was a result of how cluttered the houses in the community are.
He admitted though he lived closer to the river, he also dumped his dirt on its bank too.
“It is not that I want to do that, but garbage collectors don’t reach my home because people have built their houses all on the alleys,” he said.
The Daily Observer then contacted Mr. Nyenpan Jlateh, Public Affairs Officer the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC), via mobile phone on what was being done to improve the sanitation situation in the area.
According to Mr. Jlateh, the city corporation has organized a garbage collection scheme under which every community in Monrovia will be beneficiaries.
As pertaining to the toilets build on the river, Mr. Jlateh said the city government is running a running a water front program under a World Bank project to give the river line a face lift.
“We have begun to break down some of those toilets in the in the Slipway community under our water front program,” he said.
But what will become of the communities which relies on those river toilets, the MCC public affairs officer said his corporation was working in line with community leaders to identify areas where they could construct public latrines for the people in the area.

“Do Not Allow Your Handicap to Hold You down”

Ambassador Greenfield Urged Deaf Students

Amb. Linda Thomas Greenfield

The United States Ambassador to Liberia, Ms. Linda Thomas Greenfield, over the weekend encouraged students of the Hope for the Deaf school to push forward in life and not be depressed by their handicaps.
She spoke as a guest speaker on Friday, June 25, 2011, at the first kindergarten graduation exercise which saw nine hearing impaired children promoted to the first grade.
The program was characterized by many activities including songs, drama, cultural performance, visual aid demonstration, spelling bee contest, solo and dance - all performed by the students.
Ambassador Greenfield said disable people were doing many things in the Liberian society and the school has empowered its 63 students to live more meaningful lives that could help them in the society.
“Disable people are doing many things in the Liberian society and their works are being recognized, we know so many. I want you students to know that I have a young man working for me at the US Embassy who is hearing impaired,” the US ambassador encouraged the assembly of deaf students and their parents.
Narrating how the hearing impaired staff, Isaac Jefferson of the US embassy travelled several time to get instructions on his job as a voucher examiner, the ambassador urged the students not to allow their disabilities to hold them down.
“Mr. Jefferson is a dedicated and well respected colleague at my embassy here in Monrovia. He is not only focused on his own success, Mr. Jefferson focuses on providing educational opportunities for other deaf children so that they can achieve what he has achieved in his life. He did not allow his handicap to hold him down. And I want to say to you, do not allow your handicap to hold you back,” she said.
She told the students they could be leaders, teachers or business persons and become well respected but they needed to think big and stay focused to meet their goals.
“Your President was in the United States recently, and she give a commencement address at the Harvard University, and one of the things she said resonated with me, she said and I quote; ‘if your goals don’t scare you, it is not big enough.”
Impressed by the activities which characterized the graduation ceremony, the US diplomat urged the parents to be proud of their children despite the handicap that they (the children) are faced with.
Also speaking at the program, Mr. David T. Worlobah, II, program coordinator of the Hope for Deaf Institute, said deaf education in Liberia has suffered difficulties because of limited support or enthusiasm.
Mr. Worlobah said because there are fewer schools in the country that provide any education for young people who are hearing or speaking impaired, illiteracy remains high among them (deaf and dumb).
“The objective of this school is to empower these people through education to help themselves in the society,” he said.
He encouraged the parents to help bridge the communication barrier between them and their children to promote a smooth relationship among them.
“I will like parents to help their children. Some parents are not showing interest in their children. If a person is deaf, that does not mean that person is not mentally sound. I have encouraged parents to come and learn the sign language,” he said.
He said there are plans to expand the program from Monrovia to other parts of the country to give opportunity to those living with deafness to learn and become productive citizens in the country.
Though the school is conducting training in shoemaking, the program coordinator said there are intentions to integrate more vocational training including soap making, tailoring and tie and dye.
“Hope for the deaf has been in the vanguard to make the lives of the deaf in Liberia better,” he said.
Amb. Greenfield and Students

Dancing without Sound

In our contemporary world, people have various forms of impediments that they must accept to live with, no matter what. Some are visually or hearing impaired, others have physical disabilities yet some have impediments that would only be seen if carefully observed. It is interesting how people who accept their conditions tend to overcome their problems. The culture performers seen in this photograph are girls who have accepted the impediment they are faced with deafness. This girl performed vibrant culture dance without the sound of drums. Interestingly, her motion corresponded with the gesture of a man made with his hands in thin air.

Monday, June 13, 2011

“Corruption is holding you down”

Ambassador Greenfield tells Cuttington’s Graduates

Suakoko- US Ambassador to Liberia, H. E. Linda Thomas Greenfield, last Sunday, June 12, 2011, blamed the underdevelopment of Liberia on corruption, which she said continues to violate Liberia’s trust and interest.
Madam Greenfield made this remark while delivering a commencement address at the 50th commencement convocation of the Cuttington University College (CUC) in Suakoko, Bong County which saw the graduation of at least 552 students.
“while most people are struggling to make ends meet to feed their children, send them to school, and provide them with health care under difficult circumstances,,” the US diplomat said, “there are misuse of public coffers; which should not be tolerated.”
In her 37 minutes speech to the assembly of graduates and other people present, Madam Greenfield acknowledged the significant progress Liberia has made in the area of Health, Academic, and other social amenities that could inspired Liberians at home and abroad to work harder.
“Schools are opening-up in urban and rural areas so that children can go to school. Hospitals are being built to provide decent health care to the public. Streets and communities are receiving lights to improve the quality of life of citizens. And infrastructure is being developed to increces the potential of foreign direct investment and the development of local entrepreneurs. All of these possibilities inspire us to work even harder,” she said.
“If I told you that there are no challenges,” she added. “I would be less honest with you. Because I very much care about Liberia, I don’t shy away from being critical, when necessary. Let me repeat what I have said on many occasions. The one problem that continues to violate your trust and interest is corruption.”
Not defending corruption in the United States, Ambassador Greenfield, acknowledged there exist corruption in the United States, which is not right in where ever it exists. But corruption in the United States does not lead to the lack of roads, schools, or keep ports not operating.
“Corruption in Liberia is holding you back,” Madam Greenfield, upon who the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, LHD was conferred, told the audience present.

Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bike Riding: A Source of Hope

By Bill E. Diggs

A major remedy to soaring unemployment rate among the youths in contemporary Liberia has been commercial motorbike riding --- conveying locals from one point to the other. It creates a unique avenue for self-employment and further avails itself as a strategic source of livelihood for hundreds of Liberian youths in this post-conflict context. Majority of the “phen, phen boys”, as they locally called, find themselves in the low income bracket of the society and are massively unlettered.

The Daily Observer has been investigating how bike riding has transformed the life of young Fayiah Dinnor of the Jallah Town community in Monrovia.

Dinnor, 21, has six years of experience as a commercial motorcyclist. He described his bike as his friend, family, and sole source of livelihood. At age 15, Dinnor lost both of his parents and has since been struggling on his own. He told the Observer that “the swelling level of suffering I endured after the death of my parents forced me into becoming a commercial bike rider. I was only 15 years old by then and had reached the junior high level in school. Life became a terrible experience for me. There was no one there for me. Fortunately, a friend of mine, a bike rider, offered to help me. And his only help was to train me into becoming a bike rider like him. The training lasted for only a week,” he explained.

He began as a contracted rider and was expected to report earnings on a daily basis. But Dinnor made enough to report the required amount to the bike owner by the close of each day, while saving enough to see himself through his junior and senior high school studies.
“I use a gallon and the half gasoline, which cost L$495, per a day. By the close of day, I make more than L$1,300. Of that amount, L$600 goes to the bike owner and the remaining L$205 becomes mine. I am now banking at least L$1,000 on a weekly basis,” he explained.

However, the entire earnings of Sundays go to Dinnor, as agreed upon by him and the bike owner. Dinnor further commented on the bullying received by him at the hands of police in Monrovia. “In some cased, the police spend the entire day giving us hard time for trivial reasons. Some passengers, too, simply choose to not to pay us fees our required fare. Also, cab drivers, who are of the believe that we are threatening their survival because most of their customers would prefer riding with us, will not give us chance to freely go about our activities while in traffic,” he added.

Vehicle Owners Want City Parking Fees Reduced

As street vendors fears being removed from streets corners

Many vehicle owners and street vendors in the city of Monrovia have begun raising qualms over the city government’s initiative which will take effect as of June 6, 2011 to turn portions of certain streets into parking lots.
Speaking to the Daily Observer yesterday, Jerome Fallah, a scrap dealer and car owner, said he was impressed by the trend the city government was taking in order to regulate cars parking at random in the city, but stated that the fees being charged was a little complicated in relation to the minimum wage an average civil servant was making.
“I welcome the government initiative which is good, but I think that the fees are very exuberant. Let’s take the US as an example, a car park will charge twenty-five US cents which is like thirty-five Liberian Dollar per hour. Just imagine you working for US$80 but you were bless by a friend or relative with a car and you L$50 for every stop you make, will you have any money left at the end of the month?” he asked.
“I think it will be better if the city government goes by the same rate as the US if that is the system they want to imitate,” he added.
Besides drivers who expressed their dissatisfaction over the projected fees of approximately L$9,000 for 8 hours, 6 days and one month, most street vendors also fear being removed from the streets corners to pave way for the city government’s initiative.
Alvin Myers, a street who been selling jeans for more than five years on Randall Street, said this move could get them out of business because he had nowhere to go and sell his goods to get profit.
“There is no way we are going down waterside to sell. That is the same place we go to buy our goods that means the stores are nearby and people would prefer to go into the store and buy the jeans for cost price and leave us,” he said.
Jones Saye, another street vendor, said he would prefer if the city government relocated him to a more conducive area where he could do business.
“Maybe this is a plan of the government to move us from here but they have to relocate us. I hope they will not use it as a means to force us back into poverty,” he said.
The street parking initiative came as a result of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the city government and City Parking Management (CPM), a private Liberian company, under which owners of cars parking at locations designated as street parking must pay a toll of L$50 (US$0.68) for every hour their cars are parked.
According to information gathered by our reporter, the initiative, which is new, could be widely accepted in the Liberian society by pedestrians and some vehicles owners.
Though the initiative shows prospective of being embraced by the city’s populace who wants to see proper ordinance in Monrovia, several vehicle owners and street vendors as well as are worried about how said initiative is going to work without being a problem for them and government.
In an effort to find out how this was going to work, the Daily Observer visited the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) to get the view of Madam Mary Broh, Acting City Mayor of Monrovia, who referenced the CPM as the best source of information on the issue.
When quizzed on lump sum the amount of the L$50 per hour toll would amount to if projected to a week then a month, CPM Administrative Assistant, Mr. T. Wellington Doyah, said ‘once a person owns a vehicle he/she understands the expensive that goes along and the L$50 toll was only addition.
He further said that cars parking in the parking space for any length of time below an hour will be required to pay the same toll as a car parking for a full hour and any minuets beyond the time paid for warrants another hour.
“The city government needs the funds raised to keep its projects such as street sweeping, garbage collect among others running,” he averred.
According to Mr. Doyah who also thinks that there could be some vehicle owners would violate the rules of the city ordinance, said that violator’s car would be booted and eventually towed to a police station for a US$ 20 fine to be paid.
Asked what would be done about the street vendors, Mr. Doyah said the CPM will get out into the streets, try to understand the vendors and make recommendations to the city government which is responsible to keep the city tidied.
A rough data gathered from the Ministry of Transportation indicates that the amount of cars registered in the country approximately 80,000.