Arrival – June 13
The team from the US began its journey on June 12, connecting from DC to Brussels with the final leg of the trip leaving Brussels to Monrovia, with a quick stop in Sierra Leone. During the layover, the team grew in size with the addition of Q. Karmue, Neyor Karmue, from Boston, and Chris Lloyd meeting us for the first time after his flight from London. Brother Lee Manuel Ossie and Freddy Kiwitt, arrived early that morning and greeted all of us at the Police Academy House in Paynesville, Monrovia. The last member to arrive was Ben Amanna, after several flight changes and delays. As the team settled into their room assignments we were notified that the equipment shipment was delayed yet again.
Day 1 – June 14
The morning began with several people returning to the house from my initial trip. Francis Kpoghomou is a 30-year-old native of Guinea that works as both a tutor and help for the host family. He and I met in April, and he had no previous knowledge of boxing. Together, we filled a rice bag with sand and hung it against the brick wall. I gave him gloves and boots, as well as several footwork and combination drills to practice. After just one day, Francis has been training every day from 5-7 am for two months straight. He has worked on his footwork, balance, and punch technique and was eager to show off his improvement.
Another young man joined us for whom I met on my initial trip. Emmanuel Boway, 21, and I met at a tea shop a few miles from the compound. He quickly caught my attention with his natural technique and obvious interest in learning the sport. He had earned his yellow belt in Tae Kwon-Do and enjoyed showing off his agility and flexibility with strong/precise kicking technique. He left his number and was contacted by the family for an open invite to work with the team when we returned. Both young men arrived excited to get started and eager to show off their improvement since we last met. June in Liberia is considered the “Rainy Season” with torrential downpours that pop-up with a moments notice. In a matter of minutes, the temperature drops, the winds pick up, and the rain comes down in buckets. This is unique to me, as well as my team; however, it’s just another day in June for native Liberians. Despite the skin blistering rain, the team remembered why they made the journey and began to do what we do best – teach boxing! Lee Manuel and I put them to work – Footwork, advance-retreat, step left-step right, Defense – wedge block, slip, slide. It was very clear that both individuals had been practising. As the day passed so did the rain, and more people showed up at the house to participate.
The yard was running out of space so the decision was made to move to a nearby field. This became the first public introduction of boxing to the community and served as the first of many “Pop-Up” exhibitions on a group of unsuspecting children, and the reception was insane. What started with as a modest group of 25-30, quickly grew to 100+ as more and more children gathered with curiosity. The team started with basic instruction on how to throw a 1-2 combo, which eventually evolved into pad work. The response was incredible as boys and girls from 5-25 years old all participated in drills. The exhibition ended with an explosive focus pad demonstration by our team, most notably Freddy and Lee, and the first of many group chants - “Boxing Is… LOVE! Boxing is… LOVE!”
The sense of satisfaction after that day was so overwhelming. So many children, boys and girls, had so much fun, but little did we know that this was just the beginning.
Director, Boxing Is Love
June 14, 2018