(Note: This blog was written by Chuck McMillan, Medical Equipment Services Partner Manager here at International Aid upon his return from a week long visit to Liberia. He traveled with another employee and together they visited and assessed clinics.)
We left for our trip to Liberia on June 21st, 2014. As we arrived at the airport and began the check-in process, so many thoughts began to run through my head.
“Here we go through security…”
“Boarding Pass in my hand…”
“Put your computer in the bin…”
“Take everything metal out of your pocket, place everything on the belt…”
“Shoes and belt off, place them in the bin and then out the bin on the belt…”
“Ok…now through the metal detector I go. Please don’t go off, please don’t go off.”
Ugh…it went off! “Oh man, I forgot to remove the phone from my pocket.”
Here comes security with the detector wand.
Heading to Liberia, and traveling in general, sure does take a lot of concentration. What gate, when do we board, did I take my malaria medicine, how much cash do I bring? So many questions running through my head, and not really a definite answer for many of them. Finally we have liftoff to our nearly 24-hour trip to Liberia, Africa.
We traveled to Liberia with particular goals for our trip. One of the main goals was to assess a clinic location for a donor wanting to invest in new equipment for the location. Another reason for our trip was to follow up on equipment that International Aid sent to a clinic and to get photos and feedback for the donor for that project. Of course since we were going to be in country for a week we also planned to visit other hospitals, clinics, and personnel in the public health system.
Upon our arrival in Liberia, I noticed the difference in the culture right away. Liberia is not nearly as developed as Ghana. The Monrovia airport is very small with no ramp into a slick airport. Once you get off of the plane, it’s a hop down on to the tarmac where you then board a bus. The bus takes you through customs, where you learn very quickly to DO WHAT they tell you! After clearing through customs our I.A. friend and driver was there to meet us.
Liberia has been through a long civil war, but has been peaceful for about 10 years. Effects of the past trouble are visible through the buildings along the roadside that construction was once started and has since been left undone, as well as a certain “dilapidated” appearance to various buildings. The countryside, away from cities, is tropical, with palm trees, people walking along the roadside, women with large baskets on their heads; people selling at wide spots in the road (instant market!). Progress in the country is happening! New roads, widening of current roads, motorbikes everywhere; traffic lights at new intersections; lots of traffic (motorbikes, “citizen” taxis picking up riders); lots of horn-beeping to move the motorbikes out of the way. You realize the need to drive fast when you can and you slow down when you have to! Close calls on the roadways are happening constantly. Everyone seems to get out of the way just at the right time. Trucks break down, and there they sit half on the road and half off.
But our trip there was about more that the views of the buildings and the busyness of the traffic. We were there to visit the clinics and assess the equipment so that we could then return and report to the donors of our observations. The clinics and facilities that we visited both surprised and impressed us, as well as opened our eyes to many things. We saw some very nice, well-maintained clinics with great equipment and supplies, and we saw facilities that could use some updating and replacing of equipment. This is where the hard part of the job comes (emotionally), so much to do but how can we do it. We don’t live here, so we can’t understand a lot of things. But immediately you want to help and do as much as you can. We want to show respect for the healthcare professionals there who plug away and stay on the task!
Now is where the prayers and trust in God comes into place. We’ve visited Liberia, we’ve seen the amazing ways in which God is working in these communities through the clinics with the help of our donors. But we also know that there is STILL so much need there. More equipment, supplies and health products will truly help them change even more lives than that of which they already have. As we continue to help these clinics and plan ahead for ways to help them, we ask for your continued prayers and support. It’s truly with the help of our donors that these projects and impacts are even possible. I am truly blessed to have been able to travel to Liberia to see firsthand our partners in action, and see the faces of the lives that are being changed! Thank you and God Bless You!