Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Something Extraordinary Happened: It really is a small world after all

Before I went back to Libya last September, I noticed an advert in the local newspaper about a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training course. It looked interesting for more than a reason or two. Above all, I liked the idea of learning how to be prepared in case of an emergency. I wanted to do something for my community, to help others and meet people. Also, I thought that this would be a way to learn about civic programs that might one day be useful should Libya ever become peaceful again and needed to rebuild – maybe I could help in some way, or maybe I’m grasping at straws, but it didn’t really matter because that wasn’t my sole reason for becoming involved. I emailed to see if there was any space left on the course. Unfortunately, the course was full, so I asked to be put on a list for the next course. Then I became busy with travel preparations and my trip back to Libya so I shelved the idea for a while.

After I returned to Florida I was notified that the next CERT training course would be starting. I attended the three days of training held at my town’s fire rescue department. Although the course was short, I learned an impressive amount. We also had the chance to meet team members from earlier courses, many of which were city council members. On the second day of training a lively and spirited woman came in and introduced herself. She turned out to be the mayor of my town; Mayor Leslie Waters, of the city of Seminole, Florida.

It turned out that Mayor Waters has been a member of the Community Emergency Response Team for our town since it was initiated and is an active member of the team. She found a few minutes to chat with each of us. When she stopped to talk to me we found out that we had something quite extraordinary in common – Libya! It turned out that the mayor has been working on a project to train Libya’s first-ever women elected to city government. Due to the instability in Libya the workshops took place in Tunisia. Mayor Waters was in the process of planning her second trip out to work with the Libyan women. She gave me her card and asked me to get in touch with her so we could discuss the project. I was rather amazed that the mayor of my small town (population 17,830) would have a Libyan connection - and I think she was equally amazed to find me sitting in that training room at our local fire house!

We emailed back and forth and ended up getting together over coffee after she returned from her second trip to Tunis. I arrived at the busy coffee/bagel shop a few minutes ahead of schedule and the mayor came in shortly after. It seemed as if she knew everyone in the shop as she gave a lively and enthusiastic greeting to many of the people there. As soon as she sat down she presented me with a souvenir from her trip to Tunisia and some information about the latest activities she had been working on for the city. Then she filled me in about her trip.

Her assignment which was sponsored by the Woman’s Democracy Network (WDN), an initiative of the International Republican Institute (IRI) located in Washington D.C. and set up in Tunis by USAID-Libya. The purpose, was to help “empower women to lead” their City Councils by educating participants on how to be effective local government officials. These training forums focused on how to improve communications with constituents, to leverage social media, to network with other women throughout Libya, to set goals, and put an emphasis on the importance of developing an expertise with government issues. 

Photo credit: USAID.gov
Over 40 Libyan women took part in the first sessions held in September 2016. This initial conference was part of an effort to build and develop a national-level network of women leaders and to launch a Women’s Municipal Council Association.

In Libya, the requirements state that one seat on the governing body of each city is held by a woman, but Mayor Waters pointed out that they could also run for other council seats. The mayor explained that these trips aren’t about politics, but simply to teach the elected Libyan women the basics of running a democracy. Such things as how to communicate with residents, how to set up town hall meetings and press conferences, and how to budget and plan for the future. 

The second meetings were held in February 2017. This was a 'Train the Trainer' session with group comprised of 15 Libyan women leaders from different parts of the country. The women were given the training and information to pass on to other women after they returned to their cities in Libya. The next 'Train the Trainer' session will be in mid-May with the same fifteen women who will return for follow up. Meanwhile, Mayor Waters has been doing some online mentoring with some of the women. The ladies are in the capable hands of Mayor Waters. 

We had a great time sharing stories and ideas about Libya. We spent two hours, but I think we could have talked all day. I’m looking forward to hearing about the next trip – and I’m so proud of both Mayor Waters and those wonderful Libyan women. 

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, I asked Mayor Waters if she had heard about a famous female mayor of Libya’s past, Huda Ben Amer and when she said no I told her the tale of Huda the 'Executioner'. Thank goodness that is all in the past!

‘We do not create our destiny; we participate in its unfolding.’ ~ David Richo

Saturday, March 04, 2017


Mom's had more surgery since I last posted. All went well this time, and she is home recovering. We're mostly staying home and mom gets a bit stir crazy from sitting in the house all the time. Occasionally we go out, but we're pretty much limited to places that have motorized scooters because mom can only walk for a few minutes and then has to sit down. We have a wheelchair, but mom doesn't like to use it. She says it's low and she has to crane her neck upwards to see things. Apart from the scooter issue there is the problem that mom has difficulty hearing so that limits what we can do too. 

We try to keep mom as comfortable as possible. To make life a bit easier we got her an electric lift-recliner. She's been having trouble getting in and out of her chair so we hoped this would help. The only problem is that she hasn't been able to learn how to use the remote control for the chair. It has two buttons... up... and down. Push the up button and the chair puts you in a standing position, push the down button and you can sit down and recline with your feet up. Two buttons... simple right? Wrong! It's been nearly a month and she still hasn't been able to figure it out.  Regardless of how many times we show her, within a few minutes she will have forgotten. Dementia is so cruel!

I found a large print word search (mom has vision problems) that I thought would keep her busy. She complained 'These puzzles are not like they used to be. I can't find the words!' I watched her try. She would read the word and then begin to look for the word in the puzzle. By the time she gets to the end of the first line in the grid she has forgotten the word. It makes her frustrated and she puts the book down. She tried quite a few times because she had forgotten that she had tried before - each time with the same result. 

Mom likes to talk on the phone, but making calls is a challenge. Today, my daughter sat down to help her dial the numbers. Mom called quite a few people. She called one of my sisters and asked how she was. 'I'm sick with a cold' my sister said. Mom replied 'Oh I'll let you go then. I don't want to catch it'. She called my other sister twice, having completely forgotten that she had called the first time. One call was to a family friend. When their voice mail picked up mom said 'Hey! It's your grandmother' We were entertained by mom's phone calls for a good part of the afternoon. Then it was time for mom to take a nap. 

Maybe tomorrow I'll take her to Home Depot to look at the flowers and plants in the nursery section. They have got good motorized scooters there. Then when we come home I will pull out some old photo albums and we can reminisce about the past. That will keep us busy for a while. 

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