Friday, May 11, 2012

'The flower child’

Today is dedicated to Maureen. Maureen is the owner of the guesthouse that I call ‘home’ in Liberia. It has more than its fair share of power shortages, lack of running water…but Maureen makes up for everything, and so much more.

Today, Maureen told me her story. The daughter of an upper middle class Liberian family, she spent a few years studying in America as a student in the 70s. She was part of the generation during the heady days of the US that saw the ‘flower children’ protest against US involvement in the Vietnam war and advocate for world peace. Ironically, it was this very naiveté that made her return to Liberia in the middle of the civil war in the late 1980s and again in early 1990s. 

Maureen's father died in a crossfire between Charles Taylor's advancing rapacious army into Monrovia and the incumbent military dictator. The house where I am staying now was burnt down twice, but being on ‘prime property’ and being the ancestral home that it is, Maureen took out a loan from and rebuilt the house.  After her father’s death, she left for America where she had family but returned on a refugee ship 6 months later. The ship, that sailed with bare minimum food and water provisions for the refugees who wanted to return to Liberia and docked in Nigeria. Maureen made the journey from Nigeria to Liberia by herself and never left.

Today, Maureen is the Chairman of the President’s Trust Fund and involved in a number of women organizations, advocacy groups and NGOs in Liberia, especially for teenage prostitution and pregnancy that was the result of the war and a ‘lost generation’ – children without/ with separated families, lack of skills and education. Liberia has one of the youngest populations in Africa (>40% under 15 years of age) and this presents both a challenge and an opportunity.


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