Liberia, anyone?

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July 30th 2006
Published: August 1st 2006
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I'm not quite sure what I expected to see at a Liberian refugee camp...but whatever it was, I didn't see it. About 45 minutes outside of Accra there is a camp for displaced Liberians that, over the past few years, has slowly evolved into a small village....and if I had the choice between living in the refugee camp or the slums of Accra, I would pick the refugee camp any day.

Over the course of a 13-year civil war in Liberia (a country founded by freed American slaves) about 340,000 Liberians have fled their country and settled in nearby West African nations such as Ghana and Nigeria. While the refugee situation is undoubtedly heartbreaking, what many people don't realize is that most of the refugees choose to live there even during times of peace and prosperity. Many are waiting to hear from relatives in the US and Europe. Others just prefer the refugee camp to their homes in Liberia. While I was there, one of the refugees asked me why Americans and Europeans are so passionate about helping refugees but are oblivious to other social, economic, and political problems in Africa...and, honestly, I could not think of a good answer for him. While many of us are probably appalled by the idea of not having a home or a place to call 'our own,' I think it is important that we not divert all of our time, money, and energy away from other problems -- domestic violence, urban filth, government corruption -- that are slightly less in vogue.

That being said, I had a great time at the refugee camp and learned a ton talking to the refugees and some of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) volunteers. The main purpose of our visit was to paint a mural that Timo, who is an art student at Leeds in the UK, had sketched a few days earlier. The mural was primarily for the children of the camp and consisted of lots of happy, smiling foods asking to be eaten (kind of like that 'let's go out to the kitchen...' milk commercial in the US) and a bunch of bare benches that we transformed into animals. I tried to draw/paint a bird, a lion, and a fish on three of the benches (see pictures). The fish and lion came out well but the bird.....looked more like a pencil
The BirdThe BirdThe Bird

Do you see it? Because I don't.
with a beak :/

Additional photos below
Photos: 5, Displayed: 5


Two refugee children...Two refugee children...
Two refugee children... front of Mr. Orange
All of the volunteers...All of the volunteers...
All of the volunteers...

...with Mr. Banana

1st August 2006

cute kids! Nice drawings!Interesting info. about the camps.. jamie
3rd August 2006

How did they end up in Ghana when Liberia doesn't even border Ghana? Isn't the civil war in liberia over? I though they arrested the dictator or something and now have a democracy? If that's the case, then why aren't people forced to go back to their country? Who funds the refugee camp? Thanks for the education, Mark. I have to say I am so ignorant when it comes to African countries and political issues.

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