12/08/2013 – Ten years after the end of Liberia’s long civil war, the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) is pulling out of the country. To mark its withdrawal, IRIN talked to a few key individuals from ECHO-funded projects during and after the conflict in this four part blog series. Read this first part here.
Sister Barbara Brillant arrived in Sierra Leone as a missionary in 1977. “I arrived here as a young lady…with a lot of enthusiasm and I was going to cure the world and teach everybody, and I ended up staying 38 years after learning a lot” she tells IRIN.
After working on mobile health clinics in Nimba County, Sister Barbara returned to Monrovia to establish and run a nursing school. But the conflict had other plans, delaying the opening of the school for four years until 1994. She started working with MSF after being evacuated to Cote d’Ivoire, then returned to work in Kakata, then held by Charles Taylor’s fighters. She was also part of the first MSF team to make it through the front lines to Monrovia. “My terms of reference were to go from Monrovia to Charles Taylor’s side to reunite children” she explains. This she did for two years.
“It was very, very sad. For me personally it was scary, no doubt about it. But as a missionary and having lived with the people of Liberia the sorrow was more seeing the Liberian people in the condition they were in”, said Brillant, who saw both resilience and pride, but also “evil at its worst” during the conflict.
Since the school finally opened in 1994, it has had great success. “We started with just nursing but now we have nursing, medical laboratory technology, social work, pre-med biology, and then we started a Masters in nursing education” explains Sister Brillant. The school currently has 450 students.
If and when a suitable replacement is found to run the school, she would like to focus on HIV/AIDS issues, often overlooked in Liberia where infection rates are comparatively low. “But it’s not up to me” she continues. “I’m a missionary… I can make my wish known, but they assign me”.
IRIN News Agency Company