In yoga, the subtle adjustment of various parts to make a structured pose is called alignment. In my experience, things tend to fall into place when I let them grow organically, in their own time.
Over the last month, three things have fallen into place for my work here. First, we met a marine biologist who is now generously advising us on environmental projects for Robertsport Community Works. Second, Sabine from SoulSurfers.org and I have started to talk about ways to partner and support the Surf Liberia scholarship program for surfers and our environmental projects, including beach cleanup. Third, in addition to my freelance stuff I started taking on work through with Nate's consulting company, Consultants for Online Development and Education, and am developing a proposal I'll write more about this week.
As Robertsport Community Works projects take shape, I've also looked at how to become more professionally engaged with public health work in-country and spent a few afternoons with a friend of mine who runs a center that provides skills training and psychological services to at-need Liberian youth. She's a trauma specialist in her last year of training, with a highly qualified support network and a strong passion for her work here.
I assumed, based on my own priorities, that she would be supporting women affected by conflict, mostly likely survivors of gender-based violence and sexual assault. Rape is the second most reported crime in Liberia, with young women and girls most at-risk. When I got to the center and met her program staff -- people she had trauma counseled in Buduburum Refugee Camp in Ghana and then hired as her Liberia program staff -- I saw that all three were men. When I looked at her program rooster of self-selecting trauma survivors from what she calls the "ghetto" around the center, 3/4 were men.
I thought I was getting involved in a center supporting women survivors. Instead, I'd done the opposite: showed up for a program that offers psychological support to young men, many of whom are probably perpetrators: ex-child solidiers, or, to use UNICEF terminology, young men "formerly associated with armed conflicts and groups." But next door to my friend's center is a partner program, one of Liberia's few drug treatment centers. It's a much-need resource in a country where conflict was fueled by drug-riddled combatants, many of whom cope with lingering addictions. Although it wasn't where I was first looking, this is an intriguing program.
The center offers support groups that teach tools to deal with anxiety and depression, teaches meditation, offers courses in literacy building and, if I join their staff, a yoga program that monitors and evaluates the effects of a regular yoga practice on diagnosed clinical trauma. It's an opportunity to teach a group I wouldn't normally teach, with a strong monitoring and evaluation component that will apply my professional skills and my new MPH.