Just few meters off the Roberts International Airport Highway, about two minutes after the Baptist Seminary junction, on the right from the ELWA Junction is a dusty road leading to the Cotton Tree Community – popularly known as the Smythe Junction, is a roadblock with a huge drum containing chlorinated water mixed with soap.
Opposite the drum, sit two young men, one controlling the rope and another with a thermometer, taking the temperature of all those entering the community, which hosts an estimated 15,000 residents.
Drivers park their cars, turnoff their engines and walk to the drum, wash their hands and have their temperature checked along with their passengers, while pedestrians and motorcyclists go thru similar routine.The exercise is done in a peaceful and friendly manner with drivers and pedestrians, acknowledging the need to keep safe.
The roadblock was erected on Monday with the drum placed at the junction through the kind courtesy of one of the community leaders, Mr. Tennessee K. Charlie – leader of Block B, one of the Blocks in the Cotton Tree Community closer to the RIA Highway main road.
Mr. Charlie took up the initiative immediately to keep his community safe, hours after Liberian Health authorities announced the virus was spiraling here amidst debate over a possible lockdown of the city.
At least Liberia has confirmed 14 positive confirmed cases of the novel Coronavirus. Of this number, the country has recorded three deaths, while three have reportedly recovered.
The initiative by Mr. Charlie is being self-funded. There has been no intervention from any politician, not even the District Representative Rev. Samuel Enders.
“You know every position comes with a responsibility. And as a community head, when this pandemic was first reported (in the country), the first thing I thought to do was to visit each house and explain to them the little knowledge I had about the virus and tell them to buy buckets and erect it at their homes to wash their hands regularly”, Charlie told the New Dawn.
However, he said when health authorities here announced that the virus was spiraling, with debate over a possible lockdown of the city to curb the spread of COVID-19 here, he decided to take the preventive measure a step further by purchasing a thermometer, a huge drum and rope to put up the roadblock.
How is it being funded?
Except for one or two other community members who have chipped in a little, Charlie says he is funding the project directly from his own pocket.
“When I come from work, sometimes, I give the boys who man the roadblock and take the people’s temperature 1000 or 500 Liberian Dollar to keep them motivated,” he explains.
He says it is better to start with what he has as a leader then to wait upon government to come, an expectation that may likely not be met.
Other initiative undertaken by Charlie
Mr. Charlie has over time demonstrated his community leadership ability. For over a period of time now every year, he buys crushed rocks and spread it on the road during the rainy season without asking others for contribution.
During the rainy season here most of the community roads become deplorable making it difficult, if not impossible to be accessed by community dwellers.
He says, he is yet to do so this year because there were speculations that the government had listed the community’s road as one of its projects, but there isn’t yet any sign of that.
Charlie said he is determined to serve his community because his position as a community block leader comes with a responsibility. The Cotton Tree Community could arguably be Liberia’s model community – showing how communities can help stop the spread of the virus in their individual neighborhoods.