Liberia: A 72-year-old Swedish woman has found peace and comfort in Liberia since arriving at the age of 13
Monrovia – Growing up as a 13-year-old Swede in pre-war Liberia was always fun for Ann Huber. Since the Swede arrived with her family on January 19, 1963, she has never looked back, never forgotten, and never turned her back on the African nation that brought so much joy to her childhood.
“The year 1963 was very special, and different, exotic, remembers Ann. “I will always keep with me many beautiful memories of my childhood”, says Ann, now 72 years old.
Many of her peers and friends in Sweden will always remember Ann as a Liberian living in Sweden, mainly because of what her childhood experiences meant and brought to her life. “My childhood years and all my friends from the good old days know how much I love Liberia. Today my friends are spread all over the world including Liberia.
For nearly five decades since her arrival, Ann has not only mastered the country’s culture and language, but has become passionate about food. From Pepper Kala to Fufu, Palm Butter and her favorite pepper soup, Ann has an affinity for all things Liberian. So much so that she often gets into trouble when she tries to slip the popular Club Beer into her suitcase when she returns to Sweden after a vacation. “I bring as many bottles of Club Beer as I can. Nostalgia maybe but I also like the taste.”
For most of Ann’s peers and friends, who prefer other travel destinations for leisure, Ann’s time in Liberia is beyond that.
Today, Ann is part of the Liberia Dujar Association-Sweden (http://www.liberiadujar.org) which works to rebuild schools, including E-School in Yekepa, Nimba County. “I strongly recommend everyone to support this non-profit organization to help rebuild Liberia. “We are changing the lives of hundreds of Liberian children.
School has played an important role for many Liberians in Yekepa. For Ann, this was important for a part of Liberia where many young children had to leave school for various reasons, civil wars, ebola, no jobs, etc. future does this country have then.”
Ann has also been involved in projects for women who want to start their own small business. “A lot of things have to be taken into consideration when you want to start your own business and we are giving young women a chance, show them the ropes.”
In addition, Ann also helps children go to school, especially in Yekepa where most schools are private and therefore have a cost. “We are trying to find sponsors for this. At the moment I have 67 children in school and 2 in university. The reason why I mainly work in Yekepa is because they are so far away of everything. One of these days, when everything is working up there, I’ll start in other places too.”
This was critically important in a part of Liberia where tuition is $100 per school year. “The school year is 2 semesters with 5 months per semester. So only 10 dollars per month. For us it is not much but for Liberian parents it is. The first school year I had 8 donors. a joy for these children.”
As results improved, Ann decided to double that for the 2017/2018 school year, increasing enrollment to 37 children in the program.
For the next school year 2019/2020, Ann hoped to reach 50 students but exceeded that number by reaching 57. “I am really proud that everyone is eager to help a child with education.
The children are all of very different ages. We currently have a daughter who is 22 years old and in fifth grade. She’s not the only one. This is because many children had to drop out of school due to civil wars or their parents lost their jobs.”
For Ann, getting and keeping children in school is a very worthy cause. “It is important to sponsor a child’s school fees. Who knows, you may have sponsored one of Liberia’s future leaders. Since 2018, we have had a children’s retreat day. importance of school. The importance of studying hard, to get an education, to get a job. On this day of retirement, we serve everyone breakfast and lunch. I personally attended at one, 2019 and it was amazing. The kids love it and are so grateful to their donors for giving them the opportunity to go to school.”
Ann started small and the project eventually grew into an organization. The project has also been instrumental in organizing charity lunches for the older generation of former LAMCO employees.
Through this, Ann says she had the opportunity to connect with people who shared her love for Liberia. “I showed them pictures and videos from my last trip and served them the traditional Liberian pepper soup. I finally decided to take it to an official non-profit organization so I could do even more.”
Ann is also part of COPDA Sweden, a non-profit organization that aims to help women and children in Liberia, a West African country. Over the years, COPDA Sweden has financed school fees for children, supplied local villages with sanitary products and informed the population during the Ebola crisis. “At COPDA Sweden, our goal is to help where help is most needed. Typically, this means helping children go to school and sponsoring villages with survival tools – water filters, health products and disease prevention information.”
Ann considers COPDA Sweden to be a sister organization to COPDA Inc. which is a grassroots organization in Liberia. We work closely together in every project we manage.
Today, there are eight communities in Nimba County where interests are high in
accountability in mining communities and COPDA aims to increase the voice of women and youth in addressing human rights issues that affect their lives. It also aims to promote accountability in the governance of natural resource extraction within mining communities.
We train the leadership of 5 women-led grassroots organizations under a network called Nimba Resources Rights and Advocacy Network (NIRRAN).
Additionally, COPDA organizes and conducts workshops designed to build the capacity of networks to understand the mining resettlement framework in the context of human rights. The group also hosts interactive community forums. Public meetings with duty bearers and the mining company to address human rights issues surrounding mining operations and community rights.
In 2007, the Liberian government and Arcelor Mittal, a multinational mining cooperation, entered into a mining development agreement (MDA) for the extraction of high-grade iron ore in Nimba County. Under this MDA, the company is required to make an annual payment of $1.5 million to Nimba County through the Government of Liberia. This is an annual social levy to help meet the needs of the county and its people through development projects and identifying social development priorities.
Based on these developments, COPDA Sweden and COPDA Inc are working together to implement projects designed to give local citizens more voice to help them address their human rights needs and engage their leaders. This involves sensitization, sensitization and advocacy that will empower local leaders, including women leaders, to claim their rights and provide them with their tools for constructive engagement with their duty bearers and other local authorities. This will allow networks to engage their leaders on issues of rights and responsibilities that affect them. Help indigenous women defend their rights within communities. Protect the rights of marginalized women and girls who primarily constitute the youth population to advocate for improved livelihoods.
Besides her involvement in community projects through COPDA, Ann is always on the lookout to attract more tourists to Liberia. “The country is so beautiful and has everything to be a great tourist attraction,” she says.
According to her, the solution is for the authorities to invest heavily in making the beaches cleaner. “The cleaner the beaches, the more tourists will be enticed to come, the streets must also be clean and efforts must be made to lower the prices of travel and accommodation.”
For example, says Ann, a Swedish traveler can fly to The Gambia and return, including a hotel, for two weeks for around $650. In contrast, from Sweden to Liberia alone the flight is more than double. “For Liberia to get a steady flow of tourists, prices have to come down somehow.
Liberia has so much to offer tourists. For example: hiking on Mount Nimba, cycling across the country, surfing. We could go on excursions: Liberian cooking, dancing on stilts, etc.
The nature and the possibilities are endless but far too expensive. Organize something like charter flights, 1, 2 or 3 weeks, flight and hotel. Excursions and meals at an additional cost.”
For Ann, it was her giving back to the nation that gave her a great childhood. Whether it was finding ways to make Liberia a tourist paradise, helping to contribute to the education of young Liberians, or raising community awareness of the mining sector, Ann believes her connection to Liberia was part of his destiny, part of his meaning of life. “Many of those who grew up or worked in Liberia are keen to come back and see their old places. However, many do not dare to come alone and therefore prefer to travel with me. There is a lot to organize for a trip here, location cars and drivers. Accommodation. Where to eat etc. Eating in Yekepa for example, for a European is not easy. So you will have to be in the AM canteen. Buchanan and Monrovia have more to offer in terms of accommodation and side food.”
Ann loves Liberia, there is no doubt. It’s still her home away from home. Although it is very far from the Liberia she grew up in, Liberia is still her home, literally.
For Ann, the good old days are long gone but the memories linger. “The people, the culture, the food. This is my home. I think spending almost 16 years as a child here is what it feels like the most. much richer.There was electricity, streetlights, crime was much lower, there was no problem walking the streets.
Tubman’s open door policy was good.”