Monday, September 6, 2010

Lasting thoughts from this summer

Before I left for Liberia, I had set out to learn more about the world of philanthropy (through Government's perspective), and I believe I was able to do this. In my short time with the Philanthropy Secretariat I was able to see the struggles that (third world) governments face when working with philanthropic funders, specifically: turning keen interest into actual financial support, making sure foundations align themselves with the country's development goals, and encouraging foundations to collaborate to scale up their initiatives. 

This summer I was also able to catch a glimpse of the struggles which local NGOs face while working with international funders.  NGOs must adhere to grant stipulations, even if this puts them in a bind (this is in addition to the struggles of their day-to-day operations). I witnessed the struggles which NGOs face when they lack the capacity to provide funders with all the necessary documentation and information they require. On the flip side, now I better understand the frustrations of international funders as they try to operate within the Western system, while assisting these third world NGOs. The need for an office like the Philanthropy Secretariat is great in a place like Liberia.

What I was able to do in Liberia was minimal compared to the work that needs to be done, but I m happy that I was able to help plan the annual Foundation's Meeting (which will be September 20th in New York). Each year, the Secretariat hosts all its international philanthropic partners to discuss the year's successes and challenges. This year, the Secretariat will feature one government agency at the meeting in hopes that foundations will collaborate to fund one project. I was fortunate to assist in the request for proposals process, and in the selection of the project which will be featured at the meeting. 

My greatest accomplishment this summer was working as the liaison for Redemption Hospital. It was great to see something tangible come out of the meetings with hospital personnel and the discussions with the foundation representatives.  Indeed one of the greatest challenges of this type of work is finding the appropriate amount of funding which will cover the needs of the grantee and fit the funder's goals.

Last Post from Liberia

Another draft, which I had not posted. Apologies!

This will be my past post about Liberia.

Cute anecdote: I was riding the elevator with the Minister of State, and he was telling Jennah and I about a visit that he made to a school the the previous day. In talking to the students, he came across a boy of about ten years, and asked him what he would like to be when he grew up. The little boy said, "I want to be Vice President when I grow up!" According to the Minister, the way in which the little boy made the declaration, he had to ask why he wanted to be Vice President and not President of Liberia. The little boy replied, 'because that's a woman's job' :) I could only smile when I heard that.

Last semester, I took a class on Women in Leadership with Dr. Kellerman, and one of the things we discussed in the class was the notion that one way to change people's perceptions of women in leadership is to actually put women in places of leadership. Seems to be working for the youth of Liberia.

Rotary: I had the privilege of visiting the Rotary club of Monrovia a few weeks ago. A friend of mine is a Rotarian, and as soon as he heard that I was an ambassadorial scholar in 2008-2009 hosted by his own district (district 9100, which includes most of West Africa), he made sure that I was at the next meeting. Rotary clubs around the world can be so different in style, but the ones in Africa, particularly W. Africa have the same flavor. When I got to the meeting I felt as if I was home, I felt as though I was in a family meeting. At this meeting, the club was discussing funding for a school which they were building, and the discussion was nothing short of lively. With the few rotary clubs that I have visited in Africa and in the US, gender representation isn't always the most ideal. One thing I loved about the Rotary Club of Monrovia was that their President was a female!

Taxi situation
I don't think that I ever explained the transportation situation in Monrovia. Unlike like other African cities where 12-20 seater vans and large buses are used in addition to taxis as a means of public transport, in Monrovia taxis are essentially the only means of public transport. Given this, taxis are piled into with people going similar directions. There are a few official stops, but for the most part people can hop on and off at any point on the route of the taxi. It quite confusing if you do not know the routes. I've seen 5+ people in the back of a taxi before, and 2 people crammed into the front passenger seat. The supply of taxis aren't enough for the demand as well, so people fight for taxis. There are private taxis which will take you around the city for roughly $5 an hour. I've been privy to a list of private taxi drivers which most expatriates use. I know some people who use pen pens (which are motorcycle taxis). These are cheaper and maneuver through traffic easily. I've only been on one of these once, and this was in Yekeba, where there was no traffic. I wouldn't ride this in Monrovia, there's too many cars on the road.

For Liberia's 163rd Independence Day Celebrations our office traveled to Nimba County to take part in the festivities. Each year the government chooses a different county to celebrate Independence day. The drive was about 5 hours, and it was nice to get out of Monrovia. The minister gave us his car to use, so the drive was relatively comfortable. I was able to see a lot of the rural areas of Liberia while driving the drive up to Sinniquelle (where the festivities were). We actually stayed in Yekepa, which was about 20mins North of Sinniquelle. Yekepa is a mining town essentially on the border of Guinea.

West Point Visit
I traveled with Jennah to West Point, which is a sea-side slum in Monrovia. The township has a large population of Ghanaians, so I was curious to go and see the place. The area is right by the water and the primary livelihood of township occupants is fishing. I got to see how they smoke the fish in the huge barrels. Sorry, I didn't snap a picture. I was taken around the community with a lady who pointed out just about every Ghanaian we walked past (which was a lot!). These Ghanaians have settled in Liberia primarily to make money from fishing. I hear that some of these are quite wealthy, but chose to live in West Point because of the proximity to the sea. I was told people take the boats and travel by sea to Ghana frequently.

The reason for our visit to West Point was to visit West Point Women. West Point Women  is an ngo which works with women who have been abused.
The ngo does skills training and offers assistance for women in disputes with their abusive husbands. Here are a few pictures of me, Jennah, and the President and Vice-President of West Point Women.

Here is a shot of West Point. I took the picture from the West Point Women building. 

West Point has just received some funding from a few foundations. For more information on West Point Women, visit: . The NGO has been featured in a few articles, including one on huffingtonpost.

As I said earlier, this is my last post on Liberia. I've had a great time here! I will be leaving for Ghana in a few days, and will spend 3 weeks spending time with my family and interning for the MTN Ghana Foundation.

(Long overdue) Miscellaneous

I had put this post in a draft, and never uploaded it. 

I've gone around snapping some random pictures around Monrovia. Enjoy!

Yes, it will.

Redemption Hopsital. They are finally confirmed to receive their grant!
Don't 'pepe' here!

JFK - the hospital I was born in
Your internet speed = crap!
Rainy Monrovia

Ghana/ Africa/ Worldcup fever

We drove to Robertsport (a popular beachside town 2 hrs outside of monrovia). I caught a snap of our driver reading. He's raising money through driving to go to school...

 Pictures from the 163rd Independence Day Celebrations in Sanniquellie, (Nimba County) Liberia

The entire office at me and Roland's going-away dinner. Jennah, Shedrick, Margaret, Dan, me, Minister Davis, Roland's wife, Roland, Osman