In November, we boarded our first flight of the year.
It’s a telling sign of how unusual this year has been, not boarding an airplane until the eleventh month of the year, but we know we’re not the only ones who have been affected by this pandemic, and certainly not in the worst way. We went from six months of no work to several months of an outpouring of work thanks to the Foundation of FirstHealth, the nonprofit arm of the hospital in Cassie’s hometown. In fact, we were so busy that we didn’t have much time to think about our upcoming trip to Liberia until we were sitting in the airport. Masked and with our negative PCR covid tests in hand (required by immigration to enter Liberia), we were traveling nearly 30 hours to a country in West Africa to document the work of The Last Well.
We had the opportunity to travel and document this same nonprofit’s work in Liberia in 2015, during the ebola outbreak and now we were returning during a global pandemic. Arriving in Liberia felt oddly familiar, with the temperature checks and hand-washing stations, all things we had experienced on our trip in 2015. To read the blog post recap from our trip in 2015, click here.
We walked across the street from the Monrovia airport to our hotel around midnight, went to sleep, and were up and filming the next morning at 8am. This became a pattern for our four days in the country— long days of filming in the field with long stretches of driving on the red-dirt roads in a Land Cruiser with no air-conditioning, which meant windows down the entire time. Jordan shared a window crank with the driver as we drove behind three other Land Cruisers with the windows down and got covered from scalp to toes in the red dust. When we pulled up at our destination hours later, we looked like we were sporting spray tans. Wearing a mask was actually a blessing for those long, dusty drives. We had the same driver and vehicle the whole trip, and on the last day another team member got shuffled around and ended up in the front seat of our car. When he saw our janky set up, the hot-wiring to start the car, the peeling tint every time we put the windows down, not to mention the passing of the window crank to put the windows down, he joked, “Next time I know how to pick what car to ride in— whatever car the Timpys are NOT in!”
Five of the American team members on the trip were also with us on our first trip in 2015, so it was a welcomed reunion, and we laughed about our shared experiences from the last trip we were all together, including the horror story that made it to the top of the list of our worst night’s escapades from our travels. To see our hilarious list of top 5 worst nights, it’s at the end of this blog post recap from our trip in 2015.
The special thing about this trip was seeing an impossible dream become realized. The Last Well’s mission is to provide access to safe drinking-water for the entire nation of Liberia, border to border, and offer the Gospel to every community they serve by the end of 2020. That’s right, by the end of THIS year. Many might have thought that given the circumstances of 2020, this already seemingly impossible mission would have been stopped in its tracks. But that’s not what happened.
In the 12 years of its existence, The Last Well and their national partners have drilled 3,717 wells and installed 101,075 Sawyer water filters in the homes of Liberians. Now every Liberian has access to safe drinking water within a 15 minute walk of their home. What an accomplishment! We were invited on this trip to document the celebration in the village where the LAST well was installed. There were hundreds of locals gathered to celebrate, there were dancers and singers, speeches, a meal, and then the ceremonial unwrapping of the final well, which was then hand-pumped to fill the last first bucket of clean water in Liberia. This well is a symbol of an incredible accomplishment that could entirely change the way nonprofits approach a mission in the future, not to mention, the work was done almost entirely by Liberians themselves, helping their own country to reduce water-borne disease and improve their health for future generations.
We produced six videos for The Last Well, but they haven’t been released to the public yet, so we’ll save those for a future update. Since our trip to Liberia was just one week of our lives since the last time we posted, let’s give you more of a recap of what we’ve been up to recently.
Since the end of August, we’ve produced a whopping 58 videos for the Foundation of FirstHealth. Out of the overwhelming amount of videos we’ve produced recently, the below video is probably our favorite! It’s a video about a boxing class that the Fitness Center offers to Parkinson’s patients. Rock Steady Boxing is an international boxing program with the mission to give people with Parkinson’s disease hope by improving their quality of life through a scientifically proven, non-contact boxing-based fitness curriculum. We hope the below video inspires you to see that even in the midst of whatever you’re going through, hope and joy can be found!
We’d also like to share a series of Covid response videos showcasing some of the hidden healthcare heroes working behind the scenes during the pandemic at FirstHealth. The first video from this series is about the Infectious Disease Department, featuring Dr. Arnoczy, an Infectious Disease Specialist, who is super passionate about her job. It was so cool to hear about the clinical trials FirstHealth has been able to participate in, even becoming the first hospital in the country to enroll in a National Institutes of Health (NIH) clinical trial and enroll the national study’s first patient in Pinehurst, NC!
Another area of the hospital where heroes are working tirelessly behind the scenes is the Operating Room, and the video below highlights those involved in the OR at FirstHealth.
Unfortunately, due to the rising number of deaths due to the virus, hospice and palliative care have also been playing an important and necessary role during the pandemic. Below is a video specifically about hospice and palliative care.
The last FirstHealth video we’ll share with you today is a video we produced for the CEO of the hospital who wanted to celebrate achieving the 91st percentile in employee satisfaction (what the hospital calls “employee engagement”). In what seems like the worst year ever, FirstHealth achieved the highest employee satisfaction survey score (91%) in the history of the organization’s existence. Since the hospital couldn’t gather and celebrate, we produced this video interviewing the employees themselves.
We haven’t ONLY been working with the hospital in Cassie’s hometown though! We had the pleasure of working with Refugee Hope Partners again, producing two new videos for them. You might not know, but right in Raleigh, North Carolina, there is a growing refugee community at Cedar Point Apartments, a door to the nations of the world where refugees are assigned housing by the government. Refugee Hope Partners exists to love these refugee neighbors with the hope of the gospel in partnership with the local church. They love their refugee neighbors by engaging families and individuals as they face cultural, practical & emotional hurdles; equipping hands, minds, and souls for independence with dignity; and encouraging healthy relationships & spiritual growth so that ALL MAY THRIVE! Below is a video about how their work has changed because of Covid as they continue to stay true to this mission.
In the video below, an Afghani woman shares her journey from being a famous TV news anchor to becoming a displaced refugee in a foreign land struggling to make ends meet, and how Refugee Hope Partners is helping to make her new dreams a reality.
AND NOW, A LOOK BACK ON 2020 WITH OUR ANNUAL YEAR IN NUMBERS:
379.4 MILES HIKED ON THE MOUNTAINS-TO-SEA TRAIL IN NC
200 ANIMALS SAVED BY EATING VEGAN
116 VIDEOS PRODUCED
40 HOUSE PROJECTS COMPLETED DURING THE STAY-AT-HOME ORDER
33 GALLONS OF KOMBUCHA BREWED
27 FLIGHTS CANCELLED DUE TO COVID-19
22 BIRTHDAY FREEBIE OFFERS ENJOYED
19 DIFFERENT BEDS SLEPT IN
15 BOOKS READ (INCLUDING THE BIBLE)
14 NIGHTS SPENT IN A TENT
8 BABY CARDINALS HATCHED IN OUR AZALEA BUSH
6 FLIGHTS FLOWN
5 TREES PLANTED IN OUR YARD
4 COVID TESTS TAKEN (ALL NEGATIVE RESULTS)
1 STATE VISITED (VIRGINIA)
1 COUNTRY VISITED (LIBERIA)
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
We have no idea what 2021 will bring, and I think 2020 taught us to not expect anything. All but one of our international projects got cancelled and our thru-hike sidelined from the pandemic, so next year, we will just go with the flow like we did in 2020. We will try to enjoy what is thrown our way, thankful that we have a good Father in Heaven to give us hope.