Africa, Day Four: A Reunion, A Press Conference, and an Interview

This morning we drove out to a more rural area outside of the city of Monrovia and met with Anna’s sponsor child that she has been sponsoring through a charity for years. It was very, very cool to see how all the money she has sent through the years has actually helped a young man, who went by the name of Pon Pon.

We drove out to see his school and the area in which he lived. I thought living in the city was destitute- the countryside has NO running water to speak of, so we passed a pump-powered well where people were gathering to fill wheelbarrows full of plastic jugs of water. The huts were made more of the air than of raw materials- a four-sided hut was getting more and more rare.

Yet, the people were still happy, smiling, and surprisingly well dressed, as I had already learned of LIberians and their above-average fashion sense! The people outside of the city were also MUCH more laid back about getting their pictures taken- in Monrovia people yell at you, thinking you are  yet another journalist sticking your camera in their face and making money with their images. In the city, it’s not uncommon to be yelled at for snapping a shot. In the country, however, people were inviting me into their huts for mini-photoshoots!

Anyway, Anna met with Pon Pon, after years of correspondence, and he was very happy to meet her finally. Her sponsorship pays for him to go to school, have a school uniform, at eat a hot school lunch every day. All that for just $30 a month! What a deal. He was so grateful for her and her support, as was his father, who came with him. It was so touching and inspiring!

We interviewed the administrator of the charity, who tells us that since the recession hit the world, sponsorships have all but stopped from the States, which is heartbreaking for the kids. I had already decided I wanted to sponsor a child when, out of the group of kids that always seem to find me and my lolly-pop laden pockets, a little smiling boy with a large scar down his beautiful cheek asked “Will you be my sponsor?” I almost broke down. “Of course I will!” I answered. “Ok. My name is Small Sam.” he replied, with another 100-watt smile.

So now I have a new child to sponsor when I get home! =) I can’t wait to post these pictures of these beautiful children. During the interview they always gather around me, since I”m kind of removed from the cameras and snapping ‘behind the scenes’ stuff instead. That, and I always travel with at least two pocket-fulls of candy. =) These kids were as sweet as the others at the soccer game. It’s funny- they all know there’s candy in my cargo shorts, but not ONE of them reaches in and snatches at it- which they easily could! Sometimes they’re practically falling out of my pockets and not one kid makes a grab for them!

After the interview, I wandered around the village for a minute (much to the consternation of Anna and Johnny, who worried I had been kidnapped!) and that’s when all the locals called me into their huts for pictures- even women breast feeding wanted a picture snapped so they could see themselves in the little window!

We drove back to our hotel and got ready for our  press conference. We had it in one of the side offices at Kimmie Week’s headquarters, and there were so many reporters interested that it crowded out the small room quite quickly! It was fun to meet the local journalists, but there weren’t many photographers around. In fact, two journalists asked me to send them pictures of the event for them!

After the press conference, we met with the Liberian Movie Actors Union, a fledgling union for movie actors Liberia. It was so great to see how passionate this group was about making movies against the odds. Imagine filming a movie in a place where running water is in a fraction of the buildings! The technology for the cameras, editing, sound, etc… just to think how they make that all work is so amazing. And they love what they do so much! It was great to see such determination and passion for film making, even in a country still recovering from a devastating civil war!

We ended our long day with an impassioned interview with one of Kimmie’s staffers, Oliver. He is such a well spoked, well educated young man- all of Kimmie’s staff is amazingly intelligent, passionate, and focused on making Liberia a better place- it’s truly inspiring to talk to any of them. Oliver was here throughout the war and experienced some atrocious things. He is a gifted story teller and I hope that Anna uses some of his amazing story in her films, so I can link to them and you can see how amazing Oliver is! He lost his brother during the wars, saw such horrible things, yet still is fighting the good fight and trying to rebuild Liberia with a positive attitude and message. It is wholly inspiring and it was an honor to spend time with him while we were here.

So many people here have been though so much- ti is amazing how resilient this country and her people are. Everyone mostly wants to talk about how far the country has come- not the awful things they lived though. They don’t want to live in the past, they are intent on rebuilding for the future. It is truly amazing and beautiful.


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