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This weekend my family and I are having our first ever garage sale, which we’re hosting to benefit the doctors I’m featuring in my documentary Still We Rise. 

It’s a small gesture, but the impact on our new friends in Liberia will be great. On our next shoot in (May 13-21st) we’re traveling to Nimba County, a rural area several hours outside of Monrovia. In Nimba we’ll be following Aaron Debah, one of the ONLY mental health clinicians working in an area devastated by the civil wars. We’ll also shadow two female clinicians – Quendi and Helena – working and teaching in Monrovia.

In e-mail exchanges, I’ve asked these young health workers for a “wish list” of supplies. They’ve all taken great care to responded, and it’s clear that their needs are modest, but urgent. Among their “wishes”:

Pencils and notebooks for students at a school for the blind, basic medical supplies like bandages/Tylenol, plastic wrist watches, DVD’s of films about mental health to use for teaching and a small movie projector to teach new students training in mental health care….

So, stop by if you’re in the NJ area and can offer any support. All proceeds from our sale will go directly to the purchase of these supplies. Wish us luck! More to come as we get closer to our departure date, and a sincere thank you to our dear friends who donated to the sale.

(Details of the sale posted at: www.maplewoodonline.com)

 

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I am an activist first, and then I am a mother…” – Leymah Gbowee, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize

For those following our progress on Still We Rise – a documentary film about an extraordinary mental health program in Liberia – there’s good news: we’re scheduled to return to the country in May, which is just around the corner.

In addition to firming up our shoot schedule for our second visit, we are ramping up our outreach. And what better way to kick all of this off than an evening with Leymah Gbowee, the recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize and an inspiring, eloquent speaker.

Last night I joined a packed room at the international law firm Skadden Arps to hear Gbowee, who led the women’s movement responsible for bringing peace to Liberia after 14 years of war. Her story is featured in the amazing documentary by Abigail Disney – Pray the Devil Back to Hell.

What Gbowee experienced in Liberia during the war is something far beyond most of our worst nightmares. During those years, Gbowee said she moved through life as if it were an out of body experience; the violence to horrible to contemplate.  She questioned the existence of God, became angry, and then – in her words – “I sunk into the depths of whatever you call it.” Despair. Depression. Anger. Trauma.

But like so many Liberians who suffered unspeakable trauma during the war years, Gbowee is yet another reminder – and a powerful one – of the collective resilience of the human spirit. She began to organize the women in nearby communities, and realized that the very women who had been raped and tortured were the ones advocating for peace. Together, these women not only mobilized to force an end to the war – they found hope.

Hearing Gbowee speak reminds me just how much these mental health clinicians in our film can achieve in Liberia, where more than 40 percent of the population suffers symptoms of PTSD. These young men and women are doing exactly what Gbowee calls on people around the world to do: “Make your voices heard. Reach out. Do what you can in your own back yard.”

At the end of the event I approached Ms. Gbowee to introduce myself and thank her for giving me the inspiration and strength to make a film about Liberia. As a mother, I told her, you make me feel like anything is possible. I didn’t know what to expect – hordes of people were waiting for her autograph, or like me, for the chance to say a few words to her. She thanked me, and then reached out and hugged me with so much enthusiasm that I swear I can still feel the breadth of her arms around me.

Stay tuned for more as our return trip approaches, and our fundraising begins in earnest. For those who donate to our campaign on Kickstarter, we will have a very special reward – limited edition, signed copies of Ms. Gbowee’s memoir.

Do what you can, even in your own backyard.

Leymah Gbowee, Winner Nobel Peace Prize
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Still We RiseA story of healing, hope and promise for a broken nation

We’ve finished the trailer for our documentary, and are excited to begin sharing it. For more information on the film of how to support it, visit: www.stillwerisethemovie.com

After 14 years of a brutal civil war the West African nation of Liberia is still rebuilding, but struggling against a silent and devastating adversary: trauma. For a population of more than 4 million there is only one practicing psychiatrist and one psychiatric hospital – until now. Against extraordinary odds, a group of 21 newly certified mental health workers are setting out to heal widespread psychological trauma. Still We Rise follows these young men and women on a remarkable journey of healing, hope and promise for a broken nation.

For more information about the film or how you can get involved, please contact me at mollyraskin@msn.com