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ISSUE XVII • FALL 2015

Borders and Edges: The How, Where and Why of everyday gandhis by cynthia travis

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ave you ever noticed that wounds heal from the outside towards the center? Think of a cut, a scab or a bruise: the outside edges heal first and then the healing moves slowly toward the center. The natural world repairs itself in a similar way, and so do human communities.

the edges where different ecosystems meet (riverbanks, edges of fields and forests, ocean and shore) are more fertile and have higher concentrations and diversity of plant and animal species than other areas. Did you know that crops planted in fields at the edge of a forest or a river are dramatically more productive than those planted in other areas?

We saw during the recent Ebola epidemic that the central government failed completely to meet the problem. In particular, people in border towns and marginal neighborhoods had to fend for themselves - and they did. In the face of government and institutional failure, many brave individuals and communities - including medical personnel who risked their lives - came up with creative ways to care for themselves and their families. Thanks to them, the rest of the world was spared.

When a forest has been clear cut, or a pasture has been overgrazed, certain species of grasses and other plants (often considered to be ‘weeds’) arrive first to repopulate the barren soil. Some of these seeds may have been lying dormant in the soil. Birds and bats may have carried some in. Others arrive from the wind. These plants are called ‘pioneer species’ because they are the first to arrive to resettle a devastated landscape. They are Nature’s emergency ‘first responders’. These plants have multiple functions: the ability to capture nitrogen from the air and pull it into the soil through their roots; to host microbes and insects necessary to rebuild healthy soil; and to entice birds, insects and other pollinators to return and bring additional seeds and nutrients with them. Eventually, leaves and brush cover the bare ground and, as they decay, they nour-

In Nature as in human society, the edges are where the action is. People who live at the margins of society have to improvise in order to get their needs met. People who solve difficult problems are able to think ‘outside the box’ – beyond the edges of conventional ideas. In Nature,

 community members gather during a peace council in voinjama. photo by andre lambertson

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THE PALAVER HUT • ISSUE XVII • FALL 2015

Table   of Contents

1 Borders and Edges 2 In This Issue 5 After the Crisis 6 Life after the Ebola Epidemic 7 Climate Change Workshops by cynthia travis

by jenna hammerslag

by johanna giebelhaus by akoi mawolo

by mahawa komala

9 10

Building Peace through Collaboration with Nature by james makor

Clinic and School Donations & Prevention Awareness by morris kamara

Mobile Peace Teams & Mourning Ceremonies

11 13 Life at Cuttington University 14 Peacebuilding Institute at EMU by lasana kamara ezekiel mavolo

by lassana kanneh

everyday gandhis staff and volunteers pose in front of motorbikes purchased to help our team reach remote and vulnerable regions with supplies, disease awareness and events that strengthen community resilience. photo by fgp

IN THIS ISSUE

A lot has happened since our last issue of The Palaver Hut. Most importantly, Ebola is not over and it needs our attention now more than ever. The virus continues to haunt regions of Sierra Leone and Guinea, and Liberia experienced three isolated cases in late June after being declared Ebola free for 52 days. To ensure community cohesion and resilience during these most fragile of times, our family at everyday gandhis has been working tirelessly on past initiatives as well as new ones that will help communities heal and rebuild after this tragic epidemic. To fund this crucial work, we have been fortunate enough to receive a generous grant from GlobalGiving to continue our Phase Two Ebola prevention and recovery work. Our philanthropic partners instilled their trust in us to preserve community cohesion, healing and to provide long-term healthcare support to various communities in Liberia. In addition, we have received several donations in recent months from generous supporters passionate about our cause. We extend our sincere gratitude to everyone involved in making our projects a success. In an effort to remain resilient, our proposed initiatives will tackle a variety of issues surrounding post-Ebola healing and recovery. This includes a continued supply of medical and sanitation materials to neighborhood clinics, schools and public restrooms; community health workshops; mourning feasts and healing ceremonies to increase emotional and social resilience in vulnerable border regions; and ecological restoration and permaculture trainings to create more viable land management practices in avoiding future outbreaks and to ensure a sustainable food supply. We are thrilled to have found support for everyday gandhis’ most important role in fighting this terrible epidemic. Our family in Liberia remains hopeful that with these funds, and the continued support from local and international communities, they will stay Ebola free while building a more stable and healthy future. In this issue of the Palaver Hut, eg students and staff discuss our recent work in these key areas as well as offer general reflections about life after the crisis. Moreover, Future Guardian of Peace and U.S. scholarship student, Lassana Kanneh shares his experience at Eastern Mennonite University’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute. We could not be more grateful for the combined efforts of our teams and communities throughout Liberia to eliminate the threat of Ebola and to improve the overall health of the nation, especially in vulnerable border communities that are key to stability throughout the region. Jenna Hammerslag is the US Media Coordinator for everyday gandhis


…continued from cover. ish the soil and hold water in the ground, recharging aquifers. In this way, trees and plants protect against drought. By observing these natural processes we can see that edges and ‘edgewalkers’ have a special role to play in restoration and healing. This is why everyday gandhis deliberately seeks to build resilience in border communities. This is why, even before the Ebola epidemic, we focused on border areas. And now, since the Ebola crisis has ended (we hope), we are paying special attention to the urgent social, emotional, agricultural and natural healing that will protect these edge communities in the future. If these communities are strong, then the center of the country and even the rest of the sub-region will be better protected.

women embrace after a community peace ceremony in samodu. photo by andre lambertson

In Liberia (and in neighboring Guinea, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire) border villages are key. They are both especially vulnerable and especially important. Deforestation in these areas has driven wild animals closer to human settlements and sometimes these wild animals carry illnesses and pathogens. People who have not developed reliable sources of protein rely on bushmeat – the hunting and eating of wild animals, often endangered species that may carry diseases. In fact, the consumption of undercooked fruit bats is thought to be one of the original causes of the Ebola epidemic. Border villages also have certain advantages: they host lively markets, long distance truckers and prostitutes – all of which are potential sources of news and early warning indicators of natural disasters or conflict. In a crisis, border communities also receive the first influx of refugees and must be able to provide these people with food, shelter, safety and medical care. And now, as the sub-region faces increased violence and instability in nearby countries such as Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, it is especially important to build a decentralized infrastructure of peace in border communities. In addition, Liberia will hold elections in 2017 that could lead to unrest or worse. For all these reasons and more, it is urgent to pour our efforts into building resilience along border areas. What are the activities and structures that can actually ensure peace? It is important to understand that Westerners have few qualifications as ‘experts’ at peacemaking and sustainability. In fact, the opposite is true. The West has been unable to lead by example in any of these areas. Thus, we must humble ourselves to learn from non-Western cultures and from the folks who have suffered directly from the war and disease that Western thinking has caused. In my experience, Liberians have proven to be very generous teachers. As Westerners, we must continuously ask ourselves what our proper role as outsiders might be. One of the most useful things we can do is to humble ourselves, to listen and observe, and then to speak as respectful witnesses, reflecting back to

the community the beauty, generosity, creativity and wisdom that is already there. Because of trauma and because of decades of being told by outsiders that Liberia is broken and in need of outside ‘experts’, many people now believe they can do little for themselves. This is true the world over, where the ‘aid industry’ persists in throwing vast sums of money – with little evidence of success - at problems that do not improve or go away. Many people now believe the lie that money solves all problems, when in fact money and greed have caused most of the world’s suffering, including war and the destruction of the natural world. Over the past ten years, we have learned that communities know what they need; they know their strengths and weaknesses. We as outsiders have little to offer except our love and encouragement, and our observations and questions from our perspective at the edge. At eg we place great importance on community consultation, talking to elders, women, traditional leaders, ex-combatants and youth. Often, this takes the form of community councils. Then, in partnership with the community, we develop a plan. Then, we listen again to see how things are going, and try to address our inevitable mistakes in a transparent way. We seek to hold ourselves – and the community – mutually accountable. We seek guidance from many other edges as well, particularly from dreams, divinations and signs from the natural world. One of the most destructive assumptions of Western thinking is that linear, logical human ideas are the best source of information for planning and analysis. This assumption presumes that Nature, the spirits and ancestors have nothing to offer, though our actions affect them directly. The results can be seen in the suffering all around us and in the ruin of the natural world. How did we become so insane as to dare think that Nature has no intelligence? How did we come to ignore our debt to those that came before us, or our responsibility to future generations? We have refused to listen, refused to respect, refused to enter into a reciprocal

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 teachers and leaders of the eg culture troupe, orando j. sorker and ceyezeal kollie, construct traditional drums. photo by eg voinjama team

relationship of gratitude and generosity. As people say in Liberia, ‘in our own weak way’ everyday gandhis seeks to repair these mistakes by the way we work. Dreams are one of our most important sources of guidance. Signs from the natural world are another: weather patterns; the appearance or disappearance of particular animals, such as elephants or certain fish or birds; the color of the moon, the shapes of the clouds – all these things are messages in the language of Nature and the spirit world. It is our responsibility to learn to listen and understand this language. Another lesson we have learned is that it is deeply disrespectful to give people money, advice, tools or other material goods as a handout. This kind of ‘aid’ is actually an insidious form of disempowerment because it assumes that the recipients have nothing to offer when just the opposite is true. Therefore, we always ask communities and individuals what kind of exchange would be fair: What do they need? What can they offer in return? And what can people do for themselves? In particular, this last question helped us to see that, during the height of the Ebola crisis (and continuing now), we have been able to contribute to health and resilience by providing basic sanitation and medical supplies to neighborhood and village clinics, schools and public restrooms so that people could prevent serious illness by taking care of themselves. In the wake of Ebola, as in the wake of the Civil War, one of the keys to healing is to mourn, fully and deeply. The pain and frustration of

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unexpressed grief will often burst out in the form of domestic violence, armed robbery, drug and alcohol abuse, high-risk sex, cruelty to animals and children, destruction of Nature, or even military aggression. We see this all over the world. In the Liberian context, the beautiful traditional Mourning Feasts bring communities together to grieve and make peace, and to properly honor the dead so that the living can turn their attention to building a future. Then we must ensure a reliable long-term supply of food and water. At eg we are addressing this need through Permaculture trainings in almost a dozen villages, and at our own Permacuture demonstration site in Voinjama. People can come to the eg Guest House and see for themselves how we cultivate food, raise chickens, make compost, and see our rainwater catchment tank and composting toilets. Later in this issue, you will read about our recent Climate Change workshops and reforestation efforts. Accelerated deforestation and aggressive mining have devastated Liberia’s fragile rainforests and many communities are experiencing drought and severe winds as a result. And so the work of repair begins again and continues. The ideas for our efforts come directly out of dreams, natural signs and community councils. We continue to heal as Nature does, from the edges toward the center. We have made many mistakes along the way and we are still learning how best to build these new, ancient practices. Cynthia Travis is the Founder and President of everyday gandhis.


After the Crisis: Grassroots Peacebuilding for a Healthy Future by johanna giebelhaus

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ince its founding, everyday gandhis has been a model for innovative and effective grassroots peacebuilding projects within the international NGO community. Our initiatives heal and strengthen communities through collaboration and reverence for the importance of traditional community structures and culture. From dream circles to photography training workshops with former child soldiers, everyday gandhis peacebuilding projects stand out from those of other Non-Government Organization initiatives because of our fundamental commitment to listen and build upon each others' strengths and community connections. When the Ebola crisis emerged, these strengths proved to be our most powerful weapons in fighting the epidemic. Our peacebuilidng teams in Liberia understood that everyday gandhis was in a unique position to face and fight the Ebola epidemic headon. Their grassroots skills and deep community networks, fostered by trust, respect and connection to traditional culture and structures, were strengths and tools that other NGOs did not possess, especially in hard to reach, remote regions confronting the terrorizing epidemic. Our Mobile Peace Teams have been doing remarkable grassroots trauma healing work for years since the war, and they were poised to direct their skills and energies to the crisis. Our Liberian teams utilized their networks, courage, passion, talents and creativity to fight the biggest threat to community peace and health in Liberia since the civil war.

The everyday gandhis team in the U.S. understood that the most immediate and tangible support we could give to our Liberian family on the frontlines of the crisis was to find the resources to “arm” our networks with medical, sanitation and educational supplies for distribution. Informed and inspired by the stories and needs from our Liberian team leaders, Mulbah Richards and Lasana Kamara (who communicated extensively with our Director, Cynthia Travis and Media Coordinator, Jenna Hammerslag), successfully pursued a grant from GlobalGiving

that distributed philanthropic funds for the Ebola crisis response in West Africa. With these funds, Mobile Peace Teams along with our Future Guardians of Peace (made up of scholarship recipients and ex-combatants) did remarkable work distributing sanitation buckets, educational health information and medicines to clinics, schools and communities in Monrovia and Lofa County, often reaching areas that other NGOs could not. Because everyday gandhis teams had true grassroots connections to the communities and an understanding of and respect for traditional community structures, our teams were efficient and effective in their work helping and serving those in need. Building upon the success of the initial GlobalGiving grant, we pursued a second, and much larger grant request from GlobalGiving this past Spring. Again, guided by the stories from our Liberian teams and their reports of what was truly needed on the ground, we shaped our funding application around two central ideas. First, we aimed to continue the supply of medical and sanitation materials to clinics and schools. Second, we wanted to support broader components of community health connected to community healing and rebuilding. Cultural and spiritual structures had been devastated by the Ebola crisis and we deeply believed their well-being was central for individual and community health going forward. Working in tandem with reports from everyday gandhis leaders Mulbah Richards and Lasana Kamara, who held extensive meetings with leaders in Liberian communities, we then shaped the grant around short-term and long-term projects focused on post-crisis trauma healing and community peacebuilding. After all, our understanding of peacebuilding is that a community’s physical, mental and spiritual health is fundamental for lasting peace. The reality was that the epidemic had devastated communities not only because it had tragically taken lives of beloved individuals and caused terrible illness, but it had also threatened traditional structures and culture, such as local gatherings for meals, mourning and discussion. Being together, eating together, praying together, celebrating and grieving together were fundamental parts of healthy communities that had been tragically halted. We were thrilled that GlobalGiving understood our link between postcrisis healing and lasting peace and awarded a generous grant for projects geared towards long-term disease prevention, community healing and restoration, environmental restoration and long-term peacebuilding. With the funding from GlobalGiving we will continue our work to strengthen communities. Projects such as mourning feasts, permaculture to help ensure a healthy food supply and reduce deforestation, and Mobile Peace Team visits to vulnerable cross-border regions are all initiatives aimed towards building lasting peace and health—and ones that holistically build a resilient and safe future. We are proud to continue our work together and so very proud that GlobalGiving recognized the important and unique role of everyday gandhis. Johanna Giebelhaus is a Consulting Producer for everyday gandhis

 everyday gandhis scholarship students and future guardians of peace thank globalgiving for their support. photo by fgp

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Life After the Ebola Epidemic: Reflections on the Recovery Process by akoi mawolo

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ife is full of ups and downs, good times and bad times. What people experience in life is not always what they expect or want to happen to them. Going through an epidemic is by far one of the worst things that can happen to any population. The word “epidemic” means an occurrence in which a disease spreads very quickly and affects a large number of people. The year 2014 was a really terrible year for Liberians and their neighbors, Sierra Leone and Guinea, as they were struck by an uncontrollable Ebola epidemic. Ebola was an enemy that couldn’t be seen, but yet its effect, when felt, could reach the deepest tissues of the body and cause unimaginable pain and destruction. The time when Ebola was prevalent was a time when almost all hope was lost, as the common enemy was not a physical one. The only thing clear about it was its mode of transmission: through direct contact with infected people and/or infected items. Anyone can imagine how terrifying a life lived in fear of contact like that could be. A life where no one wanted to come in contact with anyone or anything; where children couldn’t get close to their parents; where husbands and wives were separated; a time where the economy of the nation collapsed as many businessmen and women fled to protect their lives; a time where no one could think properly and where the educational sector of the country had collapsed; a time where literally everyone was afraid of each other. Today, to be alive and going through the process of liberation from such a foe is by God’s grace. Whether directly infected or not, everyone was a victim and everyone who was part of our population was left with memories that will never fade away. Surviving the epidemic was everyone’s hope during the outbreak of the virus. People became more religious than ever. Thankfully, our prayers were answered. However, there were stains left by this disease that only time might heal. The process of recovery is a very challenging one and getting past it will take a great deal of time and effort. As the adage goes, “It takes many years to build a house, but destroying it can be done in minutes.” This reflects how life will be after the epidemic and is something we will have to slowly rebuild together.

The recovery process is going to take a long time, as many things were lost. Thousands of lives were despicably claimed by the Ebola virus, many of whom were breadwinners for their homes or people that others relied upon. Today, children who were in good homes have become orphans, families have lost several members, students have lost sponsors, not to mention doctors, nurses, teachers and other professionals have died in an effort to curtail and combat this deadly virus. The loss of those lives has had a very negative impact on the nation as a whole since there are very few people amongst us who can fill their void. Furthermore, it is going to take a very long time for people of similar competence to replace the areas they occupied, such as doctors.

edge as everyone was more focused on how to best protect themselves from contracting the virus. Next, the epidemic left the nation in an economic disaster as many reputable businessmen and women closed down their businesses and fled the country. Additionally, there was limited importation or exportation of goods ranging from food, gas and other supplies. This led to a massive drop in the country’s GDP. This situation led to an economic breakdown as the government’s revenue reduced greatly, the rate of unemployment increased as a result of the closure of businesses, and the dependency rate increased. As of today, very few of those business tycoons have returned, posing a major setback for the nation. Taking all of this into account, it is my opinion that the best ways for communities to recover most effectively from this tragedy are from psychological counseling and storytelling. These processes are important if the individual or the communities value it. I believe through personal experience after the Civil War that whenever you share your personal story with people, it helps in your healing process. Some tools for storytelling that have helped my community overcome trauma in the past have been photography and artwork. I often share my personal story with the community and with some of my colleagues through photography. For example, our supporters abroad learn about our work regarding the epidemic through photos we send that help portray our story and emotions. In this case, you do not always have to verbalize your story, as it might be difficult for those who have experienced trauma. In Liberia there are many who believe in traditional ceremonies and practices that aid in the healing process. In this situation, and for those communities who embrace it, traditional ceremonies may also serve as a healthy space for people to share and work through their grief. Psychological counseling is another very important part of this process, because it might help those who do not believe in traditional ceremonies and other storytelling methods. My point is that psychological counseling may be preferable because it does not have to do with religious issues or other beliefs and therefore can be open to everyone. To close, things are gradually getting better in Liberia as days turn to months. Nevertheless, the process of recovery is moving at a very slow pace. This enemy, Ebola, has deeply wounded many - wounds that will take time to process and heal. Someday conditions will return to normal, but it is going to take the combined efforts of everyone, backed by the burning desire for betterment and a very strong will and determination. Akoi Mawolo is a Future Guardian of Peace with everyday gandhis and is a scholarship student at Cuttington University in Liberia.

To add to this, students from all around the country were out of school for nearly a year, many whom had potential as future leaders. During this time we lost interest in reading books and furthering our knowl-

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 eg mobile peace teams resume soccer matches as life returns to its normal pace in liberia. photo by morris kamara


Climate Change Workshops in Voinjama City, Lofa County by mahawa komala

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he world has become like a global village and as in a village, we are all organized in various ways. Whatever occurs on one side of the globe has a deep effect on all our lives. In other words, environmental problems on a local level can have global consequences. As we all know, we face many environmental challenges—such as climate change, deforestation, pollution, erosion, natural resource depletion, forest degradation and global warming— that have become most evident in recent years. Global warming, which occurs due to an increase in the temperature of the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels and the release of harmful gases by industries, contributes to many environmental calamities. These various harmful effects include, but are not limited to: the melting of polar ice, changes in the seasons, occurrence of new diseases, common natural disasters and abnormal weather systems. These lead to crop failures, food shortages, low productivity due to water stress and heavy heat waves especially during the sensitive germination and maturation periods of grain in our agriculture sector. Erosion is another problem that we face in our environment. Soil is very important to the natural environment. It influences the distribution of plant diversity and provides habitat for a wide range of organisms. Therefore, soil is part of our cultural heritage and is very important when it comes to the production and germination of grains and other crucial plants. Our landscape is affected when it faces erosion by both natural processes and human activities, which lead to the loss of soil productivity and makes topsoil infertile. In order to stop our productive soil from eroding, we need to protect our soil in agricul-

 workshop participants from the new life community gather during the tree planting demonstration. photo by mahawa komala

 women in the community show off their new trees. photo by mahawa komala

ture, land development and construction by planting windbreaks and shelterbelts to reduce wind erosion, increase soil roughness and soil organic matter content. Deforestation is another major environmental problem. Our forests are natural absorbers of carbon dioxide, producing fresh oxygen while regulating temperature and rainfall. Liberia holds 42% of the Upper Guinean Forest, much of which is threatened due to deforestation. As in most cases, human activities are the cause of this environmental issue. The clearing of land for agriculture purposes, logging, mining and settlements have many negative impacts on the land, soil and atmosphere, leading to high temperatures, increased storm damage, changes in weather, exposure to disease, wildlife extinctions and a general loss of biodiversity. When forests are cleared, we encourage community members, farmers and industries to practice reforestation so as to harness biodiversity and prevent soil erosion and drought. As it is stated, “Conserve plant life, preserve rainfall.” The forest produces oxygen for us to breathe while capturing harmful greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that cause climate change, global warming and ozone depletion. Therefore our effects on the land cannot be understated and we must strive to maintain it for future generations.

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To solve these problems, the Future Guardians of Peace deemed it necessary for everyone to get involved in targeting these environmental problems. In so doing, everyday gandhis invited Mr. James Makor who is an environmental expert from SAMFU (a nongovernmental conservation and development organization) to help discuss some problems and their mitigation methods. We organized a two-day workshop on May 22-23 in Voinjama city, Lofa County. In attendance were 35 participants from a wide range of communities around Lofa, which included: Kolahun, Beyan Town, Foyah, Kuluka, Sarkonodu, Barkedu, and Jarmulor (communities eg has already been working in). During the workshop, Mr. Makor outlined some key issues that cause deforestation, erosion and forest degradation. He discussed the need and importance of our forest ecosystem, of reforestation, the causes of climate change, global warming and the significance of plants that are used for medicine in local cultures. On May 25-26 everyday gandhis organized another workshop in the Voinjama New Life Community, where members had experienced tropical storms that destroyed many of their homes. We had 65 participants including the community chairman, members of the community, students and farmers. We talked about climate change and tree plant-

ing. The workshop was organized for them to know how to plant trees around their homes and communities that will help prevent wind and storm-based erosion and mitigate climate change and global warming. On the first day, FGP and scholarship student, Ezekiel Mavolo, presented on global warming and climate change. He outlined the causes and effects of climate change on our lives and the environment that lead to soil degradation, erosion and rising sea levels. Next, I spoke about erosion, and major causes and types of erosion (wind, water and soil). I pointed out the major effects and preventive methods of erosion, emphasizing natural methods of mitigation by planting trees, flowers, grass and shrubs in our surroundings that will help prevent erosion and keep our environment safe for present and future generations. On the last day of the workshop we demonstrated to the community how to plant windbreaks and shelterbelts to prevent wind erosion. We explained how to choose the right area for planting trees and how to maintain the trees when they are growing. In conclusion, I suggest that the government of Liberia and some NGOs get involved in providing basic knowledge to people in rural and urban communities about the causes and effects of the environmental problems we are faced with today. From the everyday gandhis workshop, I noticed that many Liberians in rural areas were ignorant and unaware of most climate related issues. As stated in the Environmental Protection and Management Law of Liberia Section 4: “the precautionary principle ensures that where there are threats of damage to the environment, whether serious or irreversible, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.” Therefore, everyday citizens need to have adequate knowledge about their environment so that they can be careful not to cause harm. Mahawa Komala is a scholarship student with everyday gandhis in Liberia.

 a community member demonstrates proper tree planting techniques after learning about the importance of reforestation. photo by ezekiel mavolo

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 community members discuss the process of planting windbreaks to protect properties from increasing storms and erosion. photo by mahawa komala


Building Peace through Collaboration With Nature by james makor

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n the northwestern corner of Lofa County are Voinjama, Kolahun, Foya and a few other communities. There are a lot of barren mountains along the route to these communities. A few years back many of those same mountains were partially covered with forest, but the forest cover is rapidly disappearing and the vegetation has declined greatly. Northwestern Liberia falls within the Northern Highlands or high altitude belt of Liberia with an elevation of about 4,000 feet above sea level. The location of those cities exposes them to strong winds, especially during seasonal changes (dry and wet). Take Voinjama for example, an area frequently disturbed by strong winds where a recent storm in May 2015 destroyed scores of homes. The FDA, Liberia’s main forestry institution, has a reforestation project site located near Foya. This reforestation project is an age-old project that has been raged by wild fires throughout the years. Many community members in these areas don’t see the direct benefit of reforestation of various plantation trees, especially when they are non-fruit bearing. The African Development Aid (ADA), an agricultural company that had an initial investment of 30 million USD including equipment, followed Agrimeco’s clear-cutting strategy (Israeli Agricultural company in Liberia forced to leave as a result of the 1978 Egypt-Israeli war). The company cleared many hectares of land for mechanized farming purposes. As a result, the vegetation was negatively altered and is now replaced by huge grasslands that are vulnerable to wildfire during the dry season. It can be said that the amount of carbon produced from the deforestation caused by ADA action is partly consumed by the nearby FDA plantations. However, the problems of wind and fire on the landscape and a full acceptance of these systems by the communities are still not aligned. Therefore, as a way to mitigate some of the damage to the environment, I would suggest the following ideas developed after much observation. First off, a reforestation program must be established in that area that will incorporate many of the actors and meet most of their needs. This should include the following:

• Begin replanting indigenous timber species on a small-scale in affected areas • Include plants of high seed value. Some NTFPs (Xylopia, Bush pepper) • Cultivate plants with fruit-producing trees and woody perennials • Honeybee keeping (which can also provide a ‘living fence’ to deter elephants from eating crops) • Specifically for Voinjama, support SHADE's ongoing volunteer tree planting and monitoring program To clarify, SHADE is an acronym meaning: Supporting Humanity Against Destruction of the Environment. This is a local CBO involved with environmental works in Voinjama that have been planting trees in the area since last year. Their source of seedlings is a nursery they established around the monument area in Voinjama city. The harmonization of peace with the environment, or the provision of projects to restore the forest, ultimately means helping local people reclaim their partially lost culture and younger generations. The art of handicrafts (basket making, rattan, mat, brooms, toys, rope weaving and woodcarving) is closely connected to the forest. Re-establishing forests will provide raw materials for artisans, contribute to livelihood development and sources of income, while helping to fight global warming by serving as carbon absorbers. Thus, this process will be a multi-faceted way to assist the local community in meeting their short and long-term needs. With a renewed forest habitat, human plant and animal populations will be better protected from a multitude of environmental calamities, while helping to facilitate traditional trainings (handicrafts, medicine and hunting) and a transfer of knowledge to younger generations. To begin this project in conjunction with everyday gandhis, we hosted a workshop in Voinjama City over the week of May 21-24, 2015. The workshop itself took place the 22nd and 23rd of May. Day one started with 35 participants from a wide range of communities around Lofa County including: Voinjama, Kolahun, Foya, Beyan Town, Kuluka, Sarkonodu, Barkedu and Jarmulor. After introductions, we all continued by listing our expectations for the workshop. Having noticed from the short interaction that everyone wanted to learn a lot in a short amount of time, we developed a set of ground rules and topics for the two days. The topics discussed were as follows: • What is the importance of the Forest/ Reforestation? • Deforestation and its negative effects on the landscape • Climate Change • Global warming • Medicinal Plants The discussions were long and questions were continuous, but I am happy to report that we touched on all the issues from the expectation list. After much success, we will hold similar workshops throughout the sub-region and in vulnerable communities throughout Northwestern Liberia in the coming weeks/months. James Makor works for SAMFU: Save My Future Foundation, a local Liberian non-governmental conservation and development organization founded in 1987. He is a beloved mentor of everyday gandhis’ Future Guardians of Peace

 workshop participants gather for a group photo. photo by eg voinjama team

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Clinic and School Donations & Prevention Awareness by morris kamara

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rom July 11, 2014 to the present, everyday gandhis’ peace program began an awareness campaign on the outbreak of Ebola in Lofa County, Voinjama and Monrovia, Liberia. At the height of the epidemic we had a meeting with the Health Centre in Lofa, where we coordinated our efforts with UNICEF, IRC, PLAN Liberia, the Health Centre team from Voinjama Center Hospital, Teywallyan and other NGO’s in Lofa. We also conducted an awareness campaign in towns and villages along the Monrovia highway such as Tenebu Town. During the time of Ebola, Liberians were not educated about the disease that was killing our people. Communities overlooked it at the beginning and the dissemination of information about the virus by our government and other leaders was vague and disorganized. We needed more support from the international community and education about Ebola. Prevention is better than a cure. I have learned to protect myself and also helped to spread messages to others about Ebola and its prevention. Knowing this, we started awareness with Tenebu Town, where we talked to them about the Ebola virus. First we met the Town Chief, who welcomed our mission in his community. We explained that there was an outbreak of a disease called Ebola in the country and that we must carry out awareness among our people by teaching them about prevention methods. We then presented their community with some materials including buckets, chloride and soap for use in public places. The eg team has done the same for several communities throughout the epidemic in Voinjama District, Kolahun District, Foya District and Montserrado. In addition, we began supplying public restrooms with similar materials in Lower Johnsonville, Paynesville Red Light, Bernard Farm, Pipeline Paynesville, Gardnersville and Chocolate City to promote hand washing. Along with community sensitization and sanitation bucket distribution, the FGP in Liberia focused on helping neighborhood health centers with Ebola prevention materials and ordinary medical supplies.

 sanitation supplies are presented to salayea public school students. photo by fgp

Ensuring clinics have the proper supplies to stay protected and treat patients for non-Ebola conditions is just as important as awareness. During the time of Ebola, we visited communities, hospitals and clinics to donate medical drugs and sanitation supplies. Beforehand, there were health workers in our country that didn't know anything about the virus, many of whom were dying every day. Our initiatives helped our people to save lives and to make sure people in their various communities were prevented from contracting the Ebola virus. We have found tremendous support to carry out this work and want to give a special thanks to GlobalGiving for their grants to everyday gandhis. Community members have expressed similar gratitude. For example, Mr. George T. Williams from the William Booth High School gave thanks and appreciation to everyday gandhis for their support during the crisis. Their students were also happy about the support. Sorina Day Care and Preparatory School, located in Upper Paynesville (Monrovia), was overjoyed by the supplies that we gave them. The principal of Sorina Day Care said that the entire time Ebola was in Liberia, only everyday gandhis helped them. The people of Gardnersville, especially Robert Ferguson Hospital, highly appreciated the assistance given by everyday gandhis during the Ebola outbreak and even up to the present. Today, health workers in the clinics are doing their work safely and we hope that things will be fine if there is another outbreak of Ebola. People are back to their jobs, students are in school and things are in better shape in Liberia now that the proper disease awareness and protection is in place. What is needed now is better support from local government and the international community. The support we are talking about is not necessarily monetary, but an improvement of our health centers and other facilities within the hospitals so that we are adequately prepared for future crises.

 public murals remind students to wash their hands. photo by benedict knuckles (upper paynesville, bernard farm, monrovia)

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Morris Kamara is a Future Guardian of Peace with everyday gandhis and is a student at William Booth High School in Monrovia, Liberia


Mobile Peace Teams & Mourning Ceremonies lasana kamara

everyday gandhis Field Supervisor, Lasana Kamara discusses the role of our Mobile Peace Teams and Mourning Ceremonies in the post Ebola healing and recovery process.

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he success of everyday gandhis’ work has to do with the involvement of traditional chiefs, elders, women and youth in our activities. Lofa County has eight tribes with different traditional and cultural backgrounds and practices that require respect and honor in regards to community entry. Therefore, we established a Mobile Peace Team comprised of males and females from Kolahun and Foya districts to act as: • Representatives of the community • Serve as message carriers to the communities • To organize meetings • To make cross border visitations to gather relevant information The Mobile Peace Teams are key to facilitating important events in vulnerable communities. Mourning Ceremonies, a mainstay in traditional cultures, are meaningful to individuals and communities that have undergone a traumatic or difficult situation, have been victimized and hurt. Ceremonies are shared across religious, tribal and ethnic lines in Liberia and are pivotal to grieving the dead and sending them to properly rest with the crisis. In the case of Ebola, the Mourning Ceremony, or Feast is intended to invite the victim’s spirits to our midst to make special prayers and offerings to those that died in the epidemic. This also provides room for family and community discussions that may result in personal healing for friends and relatives. Many communities were affected in the country, but we prioritized those areas with the highest death rates such as Barkedu and Foya.

Another important aspect of these ceremonies will be the inclusion of the everyday gandhis Culture Troupe, which plays an important role in all key village and cross-border gatherings. Our group of women, children, ex-combatants and elders perform traditional song and dance, engaging and encouraging community members to join. We have found through research and experience that community ritual and rhythmic movement, dance and drumming are very potent tools for trauma healing.

 participants in barkedu prepare for a mourning feast facilitated by everyday gandhis in may 2015. photo by fgp

On April 1, 2015 we were taken to the community hut for the ceremony where we extended our condolences on behalf of the eg family to those that lost family members during the Ebola Crisis. We then distributed the ceremony materials, along with preventative supplies to the elders and chiefs in Kpadonin’s Community. It was so wonderful to see that the elders and chiefs were interested and needed these materials. On April 3, 2015, we continued our tour in Barkedu Town, Quardu Gboni District. Upon arrival, I was taken to Alhaji Musa Teah, Chief Imam, for a short briefing, during which I explained to the Imam that Barkedu was selected because it was an area most heavily affected during the Ebola crisis. He was so happy for the news that he called on community members to assemble at the central mosque for the briefing. In less than 30 minutes, we saw a group of Muslims, both men and women, assemble at the central mosque waiting to hear from us. Similar messages of condolence were delivered to the Barkedu Community including the presentation of the materials for the feast. The Imam, Alhaji Musa Teah accepted the materials with high respect on behalf of the entire Muslim community of Barkedu, extending

To begin this process our Mobile Peace Teams and Future Guardians of Peace initiated feasts in two devastated communities, Barkedu and Foya, followed by three more by request from community members there. Reports from these ceremonies are as follows. The everyday gandhis team left Voinjama on March 31, 2015 and arrived early evening in Foya. Upon our arrival, Mr. Flomo, head of the Mobile Peace Teams based in Foya, received us. He took us to the chiefs and elders of the Kpadonin Community in Foya, which was one of the most affected communities during the Ebola crisis. They were happy to see everyday gandhis back in their community for the third time, before and during the Ebola crisis. eg’s Culture Troupe were in action during the night and demonstrated the danger of Ebola and its prevention through drama, song and dance that were all very exciting.  a communal feast is prepared by everyday gandhis at the barkedu mourning ceremony. photo by fgp

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thanks and appreciation to the president and founder of everyday gandhis, Ma Cyndie, for her meaningful contribution. He said the Mourning Ceremony was timely and in the best interest of the Barkedu Community in moving forward after the devastating epidemic. Furthermore, two Mourning Feasts were held in Zanglo Town, Voinjama District and Yanquantahun, Kolahun District. Both towns were hard hit by the virus and lost several community members to Ebola. There is even a new structure in town that indicates the death and survival of loved ones in Yanquantahun during the crisis. The names in red are those that died and those in white, who survived. Thus, the presented materials for the ceremony were timely and appreciated.

 eg culture troupe members play traditional music for the kpadonin community. photo by fgp

A few months after initiating these ceremonies, the everyday gandhis team returned to Kolahun, Foya Districts and Quardu Gboni District for follow up assessments. On June 12, 2015, we began meeting with elders, chiefs and women’s groups to get feedback on the happenings in the communities since our last visit. The first town visited was Yanquantahun in Kolahun District where a ceremony was held during the third awareness. Oldman Sundi, elder of Yanquantahun explained to us that after the ceremony, they have been interacting with the victims and survivors inclusively in the town without any problems. The next area I visited was Kpadonin Community in Foya where a ceremony was held during the second awareness. Augustin, the youth leader in Kpadonin’s community said, positive change has taken place after the ceremony. He said that when we returned to Voinjama, they organized a meeting to invite elders and women to discuss issues related to survivors and affected persons and how to incorporate them in the community. During their meeting, a 10 member committee was set up that would be responsible for the welfare of the survivors and victims in their community. I finally extended my tour to Quardu Gboni, along with Tamba D. Flomo, head of the Mobile Peace Team in Foya where similar sentiments were expressed. Due to such success, we will continue hosting ceremonies in other affected communities. Most recently, a Mourning Feast was held in the Korwuline Community on July 18, 2015, a day after the Ramadan Celebration, which called the attention of many elders to participate. The elders extended thanks and appreciation to us for identifying their community during this recovery and reconciliation period. Accepting the materials presented, one of the elders, Musa Kelleh said, “everyday gandhis has been the first peacebuilding organization to think and care about Korwuline Community." This was certainly rewarding to hear and we will make sure to return to these communities in the near future! Lasana Kamara is the everyday gandhis Field Supervisor in Liberia

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members of the eg culture troupe perform at a mourning feast in foya. photo by fgp


Life at Cuttington University by ezekiel mavolo

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s Ebola slowed down in March, the Ministry of Education and the government of Liberia considered the reopening of schools with several precautionary conditions, which include that all schools must have anti-Ebola materials (chloride, soap, antiseptic, hand sanitizer, etc) and that buckets with sanitation materials be placed all over the campus for hand washing. At first, students at Cuttington were all carrying hand sanitizers and had them hanging off them. Everyone was skeptical of each other and the health status of their friends. For example, students carefully cleaned each chair before sitting and instructors were careful to avoid physical contact with students they were standing before to teach. Even giving assignments was difficult because instructors were afraid of collecting papers from students. Overall, it was a tough time for us in Liberia and because of this, normal school activities were cut down and schools were not as lively as usual. Although the old school days were much better, we hope that things will one day return to normal. Until then, and as myself and several of the Future Guardians of Peace return to school at Cuttington University, I wish to share more about our wonderful campus and student life!

 photo of cuttington university outside its front gates, flickr

The Campus

Surrounding the Cuttington campus, one sees nothing but green. It seems that nature has chosen the environment at Cuttington University. The settlement is entirely beautified with nature (trees, flowers and grasses) and is like no other natural environment you can imagine. Because of this, the environment is very much suitable for living and helps connect us to the natural world. Students, faculty, employees and local business people enjoy this natural gift. Cuttington University is centrally located in Liberia and is one of the best institutions in the country. It takes students from all over the country, as well as some faculty and students from neighboring countries including international staff from America. Moreover, Cuttington is a suitable learning environment with lots of diversity, having sixteen ethnic groups represented there. Due to this, people learn many things from each other outside the classroom. One of the important and amazing parts is that ethnic groups get to know more about each other’s cultural lives as interactions continue.

 eg scholarship students from cuttington host a disease awareness workshop for youth in the community before students returned to school in the spring. photo by akoi mawolo (rehab community, monrovia)

Student Life at Cuttington University

Cuttington University has ten dormitories, five occupied by the males and five by the females, each housing about two hundred students. There are two bunk beds in each room, which means four students share a room. Students in one room see themselves as one family and work cooperatively together for the semester. Often, these students continue to sign up for the same room until they graduate. Since they see themselves as a family, the relationship usually lasts for a lifetime between these students, especially in the case where one person is able to get a job and excel to a higher position after graduation and he or she is willing to help their friends or family. Based on this, students try to exhibit good character by not involving themselves with illegal activities. Another important aspect of the dormitory is that you get familiar with people outside of your room, for example, by helping each other with assignments and understanding of a course. In fact, some students form a study group and go to the library or one of the classrooms for studies, which enables them to do well in their lessons. There are also Cuttington commuter students. These students live in various communities around Cuttington. Some are walking distance away and some require vehicles. There are a lot of disadvantages to commuter students at Cuttington, as our country is struggling with developmental growth, electricity and water supplies. These are serious problems in our country, but Cuttington is at least providing these facilities to dormitory students. Commuter students find it difficult to fetch water, especially during the dry season, and to charge their mobile phones and other electronic appliances. Commuter students who don’t have Internet access or textbooks at home definitely find it difficult to do extremely well in their lessons. In order to do well, they have to spend money on commercial motorcyclists to get to school each day. In short, commuter students are the direct opposite of dormitory students in terms of facilities at Cuttington. Cuttington is involved with many activities like any other university or school. The two most important activities are the Cuttington Olympics and Student Politics. Cuttington Olympics started some years back in Maryland County, Liberia. Today, schools are invited from all over LiContinued on page 15…

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Summer Peacebuilding Institute at EMU lassana kanneh

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his past spring, while on vacation with my American mother and supportive peacebuilder Cynthia Travis, I received an email from her with the subject, “May be a great idea…” with a link to the courses at the Summer Peacebuilding Institute at Eastern Mennonite University. I then read through each course syllabus and was aware of their requirements and start dates. The concepts and perceptions of each course were interesting and similar to the grassroots community peacebuilding I have been involved with in Liberia as well as what I have been taught and am continuously learning in peace studies at Kent State University. The email from her was not a surprise as we often email each other about relevant issues, challenges and possibilities to pursuing community peace. I promptly responded that I was interested and wanted to go to SPI in the summer of 2015 to attend a few of its courses because of how thought provoking the program seemed. Little did I know how historic Eastern Mennonite University was regarding their contributions to peacebuilding. I applied for the courses, Safe Communities and Safe Homes and Communities Organizing for Social Change, and was accepted shortly thereafter. I was then offered a scholarship by SPI for one of the two registered courses, and everyday gandhis sponsored the other course for me as one of their scholarship recipients and Future Guardians of Peace.

ing for Social Change, taught by Mark Chupp, an Assistant Professor of Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. The courses taught by these outstanding professors helped me gain more thoughts and visions vital to my peacebuilding skills. Furthermore, they increased my conceptual and practical understanding of gender equality. For example, the course Safe Community and Safe Homes enhanced my understanding of how gender roles are tied to societal norms and are preserved in private and public sectors, especially in Western communities and workplaces. Nonetheless, the majority of traditional people in my culture, Liberia, understand gender roles in a different way. They believe and prefer that males are the primary sources of income and therefore should take sole responsibility for feeding the household, while females stay at home and take care of the children, cook and clean. They have lived and persist to live with such beliefs.

My mother, Cynthia, who understands my interest in peacebuilding and recommended SPI to me, had visited EMU more than once and was enthused by the stories of other remarkable peacebuilders. It was these very people’s understanding of peace which helped her to found everyday gandhis just before heading to Liberia where she met with me and other former child soldiers who were passionate about becoming peacebuilders after the Civil War. Most importantly, my transition with everyday gandhis turned my life around and ignited my compassion and resilience to tell my story in traditional communities and beyond, before and after the war, through storytelling and photography. It helped me to ask for forgiveness within and from the community I hurt, to forgive those who victimized me and to help others do the same. The self-initiative, commitment and responsibility I am accustomed to within my community at everyday gandhis has changed me profoundly. It has excelled my ambition to become a journalist and a peacebuilder, encouraging ex-soldiers to tell their stories for healing and peace. Likewise, I want to work directly with them to acknowledge personal responsibility, to re-establish trust and to reintegrate into society through non-western approaches, which I consider to be most sustainable.

With respect to my Western education and experiences, and willingness to return home as a patriotic peacebuilder to work with my people in Liberia, I am now faced with a difficult question: how do I incorporate my new insights and skills in a way that does not cause harm? The answer that has been resonating with me is to empower people to take responsibility and to find their own mutual solutions to the issues they face. In this way, they have the choice to either accept the Western ideologies or use them in ways that are effective and meaningful to

The challenge that lies ahead is to use Western ideologies and agendas carefully in my community, so that I might help my people understand the importance of gender equality in Liberia without disrespecting the traditions of our culture. That said, my aim is to push for grassroots community peacebuilding and recognize equal participation in society.

My experience at SPI in Harrisonburg, Virginia was remarkable and the aspiring peacebuilders I met there understand the conceptual ways forward to facilitate trauma healing, restorative justice, community organizing for change and media roles in community peacebuilding. The wonderful people I met during these two sessions were from various countries including: Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Iran, Iraq, China, Haiti, Liberia and others. The courses I studied at SPI were, Safe Communities and Safe Homes, taught by Carolyn Stauffer, an Assistant Professor of Applied Social Sciences at Eastern Mennonite University and, Communities Organiz-

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 lassana kanneh interacts with classmates at the summer peacebuilding institute at eastern mennonite university. photo by michael sheeler


…Continued from page 13 beria to participate in these annual Olympics and those participating arrive at different times before the commencement of the Olympics. The entire tournament lasts for a week and is so popular to attend that during the final each year, you actually see people moving toward the sports grounds as if police were forcing them to watch the final match between Lofa County Community College (LCCC) and Cuttington University (CU). There are two main reasons why Cuttington hosts the Olympics; one is to expose and bring unity among the future leaders of Liberia, and the second one is to attract students to Cuttington.

 peacebuilders at spi gather at the commencement of the program. photo by spi

them in their own cultural context. The way forward is by helping and working with them to recognize their own gifts and to facilitate their discussions to understand and resolve issues. Additionally, it is important to help them assess the power dynamics within the community and their strengths and weaknesses towards a common goal of building a cohesive and sustainable community. Equally so, is to help them share their “self-story” and to build trust amongst themselves. This was one good lesson I learned from the course, Organizing Communities for Social Change. According to professor Chupp, "self-story" is one of the effective ways of community entry: by telling the community who you are and what your self-experience is. How you came to know and understand the issues at hand is an important way to build trust within communities. The gift I had to offer the Mennonite community during my studies was to talk about forgiveness and to share my personal story. I had the chance to share with them, The Fight To Forgive, an everyday gandhis film that profiles the life story and transition to healing of six former Liberian child soldiers, including myself, who found forgiveness within and from the community after war. After the screening, we had a Q&A and it was interesting to see that a community like EMU truly understood how deleterious it was that young folks like us were forced to experience the atrocities of war and came to understand peace and forgiveness. For me, it shows how supportive a community comprised of different peacebuilders, with different perspectives, stories and inspirations can be. Overall, the courses I took and the incredible story of each peacebuilder I met at EMU’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute have inspired and allowed me to think more deeply about ways to resolve issues and to go about community peacebuilding. SPI is one beautiful community that brings remarkable peacebuilders together with unique perspectives and interests to promote peace. I personally would like to attend every summer to take more courses and to meet new peacebuilders! Lassana Kanneh is a Future Guardian of Peace with everyday gandhis and a student at Kent State University in Ohio.

Cuttington Student Politics started in 1989 in Maryland, Liberia where Cuttington originated. This opportunity allows students to elect their desired candidates into positions such as president, vice president, senator, representative and so on. During the political race, the entire campus is covered with flyers of all colors and markers. You usually see students writing political slogans on opposition flyers and you also see students standing around the hallway struggling to read all the flyers people are carrying. Student Politics here expose and prepare students wanting to do national politics.

Faculty at Cuttington University

Cuttington has both local and international staff, some of which are resident staff and some that are commuter staff. The international staff are all residents and are hosted by Cuttington on the main campus. Dr. Terry Tricomi is one of the international staff members who taught me English 201 last semester. These staff usually offer voluntary services to Cuttington either through their church or by their own desire. Some of the local teachers are former students of Cuttington paying back the University for their investment in them to get a Masters Degree or PhD abroad.

Employees at Cuttington University

Cuttington relies on its community’s dwellers for employment, especially the semi-skilled and unskilled labor sectors. These people include cafeteria workers, grass cutters and sweepers, janitors and security guards. Every morning you see them headed to their various assignments, especially the cafeteria workers, a majority of which are coming from a town very close to Cuttington called Sinyea. These people solely depend on Cuttington for survival and to send their children to school.

Business people

When Cuttington opens and students start to arrive, local business people also start to come around with their local products such as bananas, cucumbers, peanuts, pineapples, corn, etc. They usually sit under a tree that bears flowers with a purple color. Both the business people and the motorcyclists depend on students at Cuttington to make money. In fact, when the semester or the academic year is coming to an end, you hear them complaining. As staff and students recommence their studies at Cuttington, it is our responsibility as Future Guardians of Peace and leaders on this campus, to ensure that everyone continues to abide by the Ebola precautionary methods. In doing so, we will remain safe and able to resume university life as it was before this terrible epidemic. Ezekiel Mavolo is a Future Guardian of Peace with everyday gandhis and is a student at Cuttington University.

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eg Fall 2015 Newsletter  

everyday gandhis Fall 2015 issue of the Palavar hut offers a reflection of life after the Ebola crisis in West Africa and the opinions and e...

eg Fall 2015 Newsletter  

everyday gandhis Fall 2015 issue of the Palavar hut offers a reflection of life after the Ebola crisis in West Africa and the opinions and e...