Friends of Liberia

Report from Group 1, Liberia

Liberia I gathered at George Mason University for their 49th-year reunion on September 19. Thirty-five members of the ninety-member group showed up for the 3 Fs (food, fun, and fraternizing); with spouses and staff members they numbered 48. They kicked off their three days together with a backyard barbeque at Fred and Mary Zamon's house in Fairfax.

On Tuesday, the group attended a Peace Corps forum at George Mason where recently returned volunteers from Eastern Europe and Africa added their experiences to the views and stories from Liberia I.

That evening, organizers Fred Zamon (Bomi Hills) and Leon Weintraub (Kahnple) arranged a panel discussion with American Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Liberian Deputy Chief of Mission Edwin Sele, and a representative from the International Federation for Electoral Systems. The discussion and spirited Q & A following gave updates on the upcoming election, the state of Liberia's economy and resources, and efforts to reconstitute civil society.

The group spent much of the day Wednesday sharing stories and videos of Liberia I's service prepared by Sheldon Butts (Monrovia), Sue Miller Gordon (Bensonville), Steve Hirst (Tappita), and others. Included were photos of Sarge's mid-April 1963 visit to several of our sites.

A table held books written by Jack and Angene Wilson (Suehn), Steve Hirst, and Jerry Adams (Monrovia) and books written and published by Geraldine Kennedy's Peace Corps publishing operation Clover Park Press. Geraldine (Brewerville) was one of the five women who famously hitchhiked across the Sahara Desert in 1963 and lived to write about it in Harmattan. Two of her companions in that adventure were also in attendance, Barbara Doutrich Weeks (Monrovia) and Evie Vough Stanley (Brewerville).

In the afternoon, Group I got on the speaker phone for a chat with their cherished Ol' Country Doc Leland Fairbanks, Liberia's first Peace Corps doctor, who has gone on to distinguish himself as one of the nation's foremost anti-smoking advocates and a leading light in Indian Health Service.

During the Wednesday session, we also heard reports from Anne Easterly and Fran Hull Nimick (Cape Palmas) on their book and library project for Liberia and from Karen Johnson Sermersheim (Bolahun) on Group I's scholarship fund for Liberian students.

On Thursday, batteries recharged and idealism undimmed, Group I descended on Washington for Peace Corps's 50th events. Thanks to Friends of Liberia's dedication and hard work, there could be no doubt that Peace Corps Liberia made the largest and most spirited group among those gathered at Arlington. The march across the bridge among the flags of 139 nations marked the unforgettable highlight of the celebration.

We're still Peace Corps, and we're not done!

Steve Hirst