Getting ready to embark…

Hey all,

As I’m preparing to leave on Tuesday to begin my epic adventure in Liberia, I thought that I would take a minute to introduce myself. My name is Anna Casey and I just finished my first year within American University’s MAID program (Master of Arts in International Development), which is part of AU’s School of International Service. Specifically, my concentration within the program focuses on Conflict, Peacebuilding & Development. I am interested in working on issues facing post-conflict settings in Sub-Saharan Africa including: refugees, youth in conflict, peacebuilding and reconciliation, community health and development, and gender relations. 

This summer I will be  interning at a small non-governmental organization located in rural Gbarnga, Liberia called Development Education Network, Liberia (DEN-L) which focuses its efforts on promoting peacebuilding, human rights, good governance, gender mainstreaming, leadership training and advocacy. Specifically, I will be working with the Civic Action Program (CAP) and the Gender Awareness Program (GAP) to educate community members, local leaders, and other NGOs on peacebuilding, community development, good governance and women’s empowerment. Although I anticipate that I will learn a lot more about the role that is expected of me as an intern once I arrive, my understanding thus far is that I will facilitate and conduct workshops and training seminars on the aforementioned themes both on DEN-L’s compound as well as in villages throughout Liberia to which I will travel with my team members. 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Liberia’s recent history, here is a quick primer: Liberia’s brutal back-to-back civil wars resulted from the sequential dictatorial political regimes of Samuel Doe and Charles Taylor, who both gained power by means of oppression and prejudice. The first war, which began in 1989 left more than 250,000 people dead and almost a million displaced. The second civil war was waged between rebel groups and lasted from 1999 until 2003. Liberia’s economy has suffered immensely from this fourteen year period of civil strife. Crippled by an exorbitant amount of debt, backwards politics and destroyed infrastructure, conflict in Liberia has had horrific ramifications for its social framework including mass unemployment and poverty. Things are looking up, however. In 2005, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won the presidential election, designating her first female head of state in Africa. Since taking office, Sirleaf has made major gains in reclaiming the social stability and economic progress that Liberia once enjoyed before the civil war. Her regime has placed a priority on improving security, employment, community and social development, economic revitalization, basic services and sound governance.  

In Liberia, I will be based on DEN-L’s compound and will travel into “the bush” for work sporadically. Although I’m not quite sure what to expect, I know that this experience will be unlike any other that I have had to date. While I have worked in the Dominican Republic briefly and done my fair share of travel, I have never lived in a developing country for more than a few weeks. Although I am a big proponent of living simply, I have never lived for an extended period in a location where there really wasn’t another option–where processed foods and hot water are virtually non-existent and things like electricity and Internet are luxuries. Furthermore, DEN-L is locally run and, as far as I know, I will be the only American on the compound. Needless to say, I am extremely excited to be removed from my comfort zone. I think this opportunity will challenge me to better understand the nature of the work that I am interested in pursuing upon graduation as well as enable me to better understand myself and my own goals and sense of purpose. 

I look forward to contributing weekly posts to update you about my Liberian adventure. Please feel free to contact me anytime at anna.t.casey@gmail.com

In peace, 

Anna

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