The following post first appeared on the Amani Liberia blog. We’re cross-posting it here so y’all can get a look at how far the Liberia center has come. Many thanks to Emily Kirwan, Amani Liberia’s intern, for so beautifully sharing this piece of Amani’s history.
Feet peddle on sewing machines, babies giggle, and voices hum. Amani Liberia is in full swing.
The building still lacks electricity, but tall windows span almost the entire length of the wall, so even in Liberia’s overcast rainy season, the seamstresses and tailors have plenty of clarity.
Amani Liberia has transformed this war-torn shell into a beautiful building. Or—as Liberians say—a “fine” building.
When asked what she thought of the improvements at Amani Liberia center, Patricia, age 27, shares enthusiastically that, “The building was ugly before, but now, its fine!”
“Fine, fine, very fine,” echo the other members.
The building was nothing but concrete floor and walls a few years ago. During the war, most structures were abandoned, and anything of value was promptly pilfered off. This building, a former arts and crafts center, was stripped of its roof, flooring, and plumbing.
If you take a tour around the community, you find that this is not an uncommon fate for any of the structures. Before the war began, Yekepa was on it’s way to becoming something of a resort town that catered to the mining company here. There was even a country club equipped with a pool and tennis courts. Now, the streets are lined with roofless ruins, picked clean of any value, housing only a collection of tropical plants.
But there is progress and healing in the community as well, something the Amani Liberia members have been a part of through the building’s transformation.
Teresa, a mother of three, points to the tiled wall on one end of Amani. “When people come in, they will see these designs and think, that looks beautiful.”
“Soon we will be on the current (able to use electricity), and it will look even better, all of the lights will be on,” says Annie, gesturing up to the bulbs.
In addition to electricity, the center now has a roof, windows, doors, a bathroom, and running water, all installed by Amani.
But Regina, 33 and mother of three, finds a deeper meaning in the building’s beauty. While cutting fabric for the lining of a purse, she explains that she, like most Liberians, was unable to attend school during the war. To do this she needed a job, a tall task when you live in a country whose unemployment rate is a staggering 85%.
“When I found out about what was happening in this building, I came, because I wanted my boys to go to school and finish my education. I am now in the seventh grade,” She beams.
The Amani Liberia members can think of only one complaint when asked about their “fine” building: The white tiled floor. “It’s too white, we can’t keep it clean!” exclaims Annie.