Brittany Skolnick's Reflection

It probably won't come as a surprise when I say that living and working with over 50 children can be challenging. Each child is wholly unique, and yet in many ways, children are children no matter what country you are in. They can have attitudes, they get upset over how they performed in their sports matches or in school, and they argue with their siblings. All 50+ of them. Like a parent, I am often frustrated with them, but every day I am reminded of why I chose this type of work. I am reminded when I see their faces light up when they get a letter from their sponsor or when I watch the celebrations they have when they beat other teams in a football or kickball match. I'm reminded when we celebrate the most improved students or one of them comes running to tell me they did well on quiz they were nervous about. I'm especially reminded when I listen to the choir during Mass, seeing the light of God shining through each of them as they sing at the very top of their lungs.

It's not just the kids that make it worth it, but the staff and community that surrounds Liberia Mission too. In one of my first few weeks here, Rebecca, the head cook, brought me to her house that is a stone's throw across the street from the mission. I was introduced to her extended family and neighbors who received me as if we had known each other for years. Her sister then pointed to the patch of land growing potato greens, handed me a knife, and put me straight to work. In the pouring rain, we all got a very good laugh about how ridiculous I probably looked, drenched, covered in dirt, and doing my best attempt to keep all my fingers intact. For Liberians, it doesn't take much for a bond to be formed, and every time I see Rebecca or her family, I'm received as warmly as any blood relation would be. I've also since been given the name of "Liberian Brittany" by Rebecca, which I take as a sign I'm slightly more competent than I was when I first arrived.  

As I write this, I have just passed the 6 month mark of being in Liberia. I've thought a lot about what I would go back and tell myself, if I could speak to myself before I left America. I would warn myself that there is a seemingly endless supply of ants and spiders the size of my hand, that I would sweat more than I ever thought possible, and that silence would be all but eliminated from my life. I would tell myself that there would be days that I would be frustrated to the point of tears or so tired that I am sure I cannot get out of bed. Most importantly, I would tell myself that though this work is hard, these kids and the people of Liberia are 100 percent worth every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears.