-Ganta, Nimba County
Chris Brownell has lived at the Grace United Methodist Rehab Center since 1973 when his family sent him here after he contracted leprosy. At the time, he says, his family could not deal with the stigma surrounding the disease. The Rehab Center offers medical care and vocational training for people with challenging conditions. Trades include mat-making and carpentry. Mr. Brownell is a wood carver—an excellent one, despite the loss of all his fingers. He makes decorative wall pieces out of camwood—a heavy, sienna-colored wood found here in Liberia’s forests. He is making “a woman kneeling down” now, and says it will take him about five days to carve the piece. His workbench is a tree stump, and he uses a spear to shape the wood. The spear is a tool that resembles a crowbar but is razor sharp at the tip. Five days at several hours a day, and he will charge US$15 for the piece. Some of the carvings are sold to visitors who come to the Center, and some of them are sent to Monrovia where we—having no clue and no concern about the amount of work the laborer put in—often bargain the price down as low as we can go.