Peacekeeping in an African country does not always mean patrolling riot-torn
districts and battling out-of-control militants. What it requires, sometimes, is
a willingness to give.
"My job is not as dangerous or exciting as you see in the movies. But I
wanted to do something practical to help the locals rebuild their homes," said
Du Lei, 30, a Chongqing policeman who was stationed in Monrovia, Liberia, as a
UN peacekeeper from 2004 to 2005.
Du's original mission was to help the Liberian police rebuild their force
after 14 years of civil war. But arriving in the war-torn nation he was shocked
by the ruined state of his office.
There was no toilet and waste water was running all over the floor from a
blocked sewer. The windows and desks had been completely destroyed.
"Rebuilding the infrastructure was actually one of the first things that
needed to be done," said Du.
In June, 2004, a huge hole in the roof of a detention house finally caused a
collapse. In total, 30 detainees managed to escape through the opening.
Du's colleagues asked for repair funds from the authorities but got no
response, so he donated US$130 to fix the place. They also bought new desks and
chairs for the station.
"Local people get on quite well with (us) Chinese because they think China is
here to give them real support," said Du.
However, life was not easy in Liberia, where the war had devastated the
economy and the city's utilities.
Du's flat only received 4 hours of electricity each night for reading,
watching films on his computer, or writing to his family.
"In such a state of affairs, many young people can't get a normal education.
Unemployed youths can possibly threaten public security," said Du. "Educating
young people is the only way out."
So, Du used his savings to support a Liberian child. Du and his Chinese
co-workers also donated stationery and medicine to schools and orphanages.
In 14 months, Du helped the station train new staff and rebuild its systems
as a part of the international effort. Meanwhile, Chinese and other
international companies began opening factories in the city, offering employment
and hope to young Liberians.
The day he left to return to China, Du saw streets lined with new lights and
new shops. People were starting to resume their normal lives.
"These are the signs of hope for Liberia," he said.