The Uncommon Man

February 13, 2007

MRI in Liberia: Gifts and Gratitude in Karnplay

Early this morning, I walked to the IRC-sponsored health clinic in Karnplay. There was already a large group of women and children waiting outside. Since I did not have time to wait, I discussed the situation with the IRC staff. Their social worker, Alice, took Josephine to the clinic, where she received a shot and pills. Alice will personally take her to the clinic for the next two days for follow-up treatment. It was impressive to see the coordinated system of IRC services mobilize to respond to this situation. I shudder to think of what might have happened to this girl if these services had not been available.

During the second day of training, more and more men stood up to talk about their own experiences of violence, as perpetrators, survivors and witnesses. More and more women stood up to speak, often in their native language, about the violence and disrespect they experienced from men. The men, as a group, asked the women how they could support them, and responded with words of commitment to serve as allies, role models, and change agents in their community.

The training ended with the signature Men’s Resources International pole ceremony. Each person tied a length of fiber (brought from home) to the pole. As they stepped back, holding one end, we created a large circle of connection. Turning the pole, we wound the ribbons together into a symbol for their community. By the time James and I leave, there will be four communities with poles like this one. Upcoming trainings from the IRC Male Involvement staff will produce an additional six, created by men’s and women’s groups throughout Liberia. And they all know they share this symbol with communities in Zambia and Nigeria and the United States. The web of connection is growing.

To my surprise, another ceremony followed. The community presented me with a bowl of kola nuts, two huge stalks of banana, several pineapples, and a live chicken, with remarks of gratitude from the leaders of the men’s and women’s groups. As I climbed into the van to begin the return journey, my tears flowed, knowing that the bonds of connection will remain even as we are separated by vast physical and cultural distances.

— Steven Botkin, Executive Director
Men's Resources International, USA

To see a photo of Josephine and to read a compilation of all blog entries from Liberia with pictures, click here.

Posted by Daniel at February 13, 2007 04:51 PM


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