Josh and Clare are travelling in Liberia as part of their Step into the Gap experience. To find out more about a gap year with CAFOD visit www.cafod.org.uk/stepintothegap. Clare continues their journey.
We are now drawing to the conclusion of this chapter of our trip, in Gbarnga with CJPS and BOCAP. What better way to spend it than at one of Liberia’s most beautiful natural wonders- Kpatawee waterfall. Together with our friends from both organisations, we made the hour-long bumpy journey into the wilderness. The day certainly was the rejuvenation we needed. We were all renewed in mind, body and spirit; hip-swinging to some Liberian tunes, and splashing around in the waterfall. To end was a warming ceremony that formally concluded the day, with gifts of brightly coloured African costumes and final remarks on our stay.
Amid the dancing, laughing and swimming was a moving, yet disturbing drama on the abuse and corruption visited by rebel soldiers on the young in war-torn Liberia – a painfully recent memory for the people we now call friends. With superb acting, as usual, the BOCAP drama group gave a frighteningly life-like portrayal of what it was like for a young, innocent boy to be ripped from his world and dragged into a cycle of drug-abuse, alcoholism and extreme violence. This reminded the three of us of the comment made by our trusty driver, Collins, the previous night, as he reflected on the combination of fear and faith that was inherent in daily existence during the war. I asked Collins whether or not he still held on to his faith during these times and he told me, “oh yes. I thanked God each night that I still had my life; and each day after that”.
Yesterday we visited a few local schools and learnt more about the education system in Liberia. Here too we were reminded of how the war robbed the people of Liberia of so much. In classrooms now it is normal to see a wide range of ages all gathered in one class. Ages and year groups are completely irrelevant in Liberia as people are dedicated to learning and getting the education they may have missed out on.
With the majesty of the waterfall as a backdrop to our day today, and reflecting on our week in Gbarnga, I felt so blessed to be part of this place and these people. I will always remember the vivid sense of a world where opposites come together in love and friendship: black and white, strangers and friends, peace and conflict, joy and sadness. What a beautiful tapestry to end our time in Gbarnga and a true reflection of our time here.