Friday, 28 November 2008

Dedication Ceremony of Tenegar...

Last Friday, 21st November, the clinic out at Tenegar was officially dedicated. The Communications team and Public Relations team were there in force. Carmen and myself, the two Africa Mercy writers, busied ourselves getting information for the International Operations Centre in Texas. Both of our pieces were used to spread the word about Mercy Ships - in terms of a press release. Below is an edited version of my article on the dedication of Tenegar. I hope you enjoy it!

There was a jovial atmosphere in the Tenegar community as people waited for the arrival of Madame President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Her Excellency was coming to officially dedicate the newly-reconstructed Tenegar clinic.

The clinic was destroyed during the civil war and it lay in ruins for many years, until a joint effort by Mercy Ships and the local community rebuilt it. The clinic will be able to reach over 6,000 people in the surrounding area, who previously had been without adequate health care facilities.

The anticipation in the crowd was tangible as they waited, some for more than five hours. Hundreds of people from the community and neighbouring villages had turned up, the vast majority in traditional Liberian dress or their Sunday best. Some just came in the hope of getting a glimpse of their President. Children dressed in school uniform came marching up the dirt road from the neighbouring villages. Shakers were shaken, songs were sung, people danced. The scene was set for the arrival of Her Excellency Madame President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

There were many dignatories and officials present, as well as between 30 and 40 Mercy Ships crew who had been integral to the project’s success.

And then, at 4:30pm, the President arrived. There was dancing and shouts of joy as she arrived. Her Excellency walked up to the VIP tent with the whole community. Her arrival signified the start of the formal proceedings for the official dedication of the Tenegar clinic.

Dr Meimei Dukuly, the master of ceremonies, started proceedings by saying, "This is Liberia’s day." He also expressed the community’s gratitude at the President being present.

A certificate was presented to Ken Berry, Managing Director of the Africa Mercy. This was from the community in appreciation of the services rendered to the people of Tenegar. Ken Berry then spoke on behalf of Mercy Ships. He started by saying how in the city of Monrovia, there’s a billboard. This billboard has a picture of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf with the words "Liberia will rise again."

"Today we are celebrating a wonderful demonstration of rising again, both in this beautiful building being dedicated today and the faithful people who built it," Ken said. "Yes, indeed, Liberia is on the rise."

He also stressed the fact that the community of Tenegar did the work. It was not about Mercy Ships. It was the local community who did the hardwork and ensured the project’s success. Ken went on to present the keys of the clinic to Her Excellency The President.

Next a gowning ceremony was held in which Mercy Ships crew members Ken Berry, Charles Awagah, Marcel Eveleens, Karl Schmutter and Paul Waldron all received traditional gowns in appreciation of their hardwork to the community of Tenegar.

Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Walter T. Gwenigale, spoke and emphasised the importance of a Christian organisation coming in and building a clinic for a Muslim community.

"I am very pleased that this Christian ship did not say, ‘No, we will not serve Muslims.’"

Her Excellency Madame President then spoke:

"We have been trying to find someone to [repair the clinic], and we talked to many people. Everybody said, ‘That is not a real priority. We will get around to it in due course.’ But Mercy Ships, which has done so much for our country, which has served our people so well, administering to the sick people whose lives have been changed by their operations, by the fact that they had nowhere to go and no money to get medical service or no facilities to go to. They go to the Mercy Ship, and they get treatment. They have done very well for us.

"But in addition to serving our people, they so readily agreed when we asked, ‘Please do Tenegar Clinic.’ When we got the message that Mercy Ships would do the clinic, what a wonderful day it was! And now we have the results of this major contribution to our medical services."

The President went and cut the ribbon and in so doing officially dedicated the Tenegar clinic. After a brief tour or the clinic and agricultural programme, Madame President left and headed back to Monrovia. In the meantime the community continued to sing songs in celebration. It was a wonderful day that highlighted the unity that can be achieved through hardwork and commitment to a project.

The word Tenegar means "on the hill," and it is certain that this clinic "on the hill" will be a shining beacon of hope for many people in need.

*Photo of the Nigerian UNMIL soldier above courtesy of Tayler Neill.

No comments: