(Editor’s Note: This past season, Arielle Sklar traveled with Second Chance Africa to tour Liberia and see SCA’s work in action. Second Chance Africa helps Liberians with psychological rehabilitation after the Liberian civil wars of the past two decades. Every other Wednesday through the year, she will file episodes from her trip. Previous posts: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV)
“I got headaches and toothaches and bad times too, like you.”
The road to West Point, the largest slum in Liberia’s capital of Monrovia, is a shrieking gridlock of cars, motorcycles, and merchants. I cling to Gus, our driver, as he navigates.
West Point is a series of huts and alleys located on a beach-lined peninsula that extends into the Atlantic Ocean. The area is filled with trash heaps, human excrement, and tons of children. There are no toilets or garbage cans and barely any shoes.
Kids look at you with wonder and adults with suspicion. Gus surreptitiously pulls out our video camera. Everything seems to be in motion, yet people are going nowhere. There is a striking number of children who love to pose and ask for nothing in return for their big-toothed, big-eyed smiles.
Angry Liberian police command us to stop. They question if we are filming. Gus handles it like a pro, playing dumb and eventually handing over the video camera. The police fumble with it, can’t figure it out, and hand it back.
The scene ingrains the notion that children are children. They seek fun and attention. They stare puzzled at novelty and let curiosity get the best of them. They go about unaffected by nudity and less aware of their circumstance.