Photojournalist

Two men visit the grave of Joseph James Cheeseman, the 12th president of Liberia, in his hometown of Edina. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Lydia Sackie, 26, center right, shares a laugh with her friend, Winner Williams, 14, at an orphanage in Chicken Soup Factory, Liberia. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Lydia Sackie still remembers the day she saw her parents being dragged away by Samuel Doe’s soldiers during Liberia’s first civil war, in the 1990s. It was the last time she saw them.

Winner Williams saw her parents die in the Ebola epidemic that killed nearly 5,000 people between 2014 and 2015. She was 10 then.

Today, Sackie, 26, and Williams, 14, live at an orphanage in Chicken Soup Factory, a small town outside of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia. Both are survivors of the trauma that has wounded this small West African country in recent decades.

Founded in 1822 by freed American slaves, Liberia has strong Baptist roots and city and county names that might seem incongruous to Africa: Marshall, Buchanan, Maryland, Dirt Hole. The American rubber company Firestone dominated the country’s economic and political landscape for years, until the country became mired in civil war. Now, Liberia is among the world’s poorest countries, according to the World Bank. George Weah, the soccer superstar-turned-president who campaigned as an anti-corruption populist, has drawn scrutiny for expanding presidential powers. And last October, inflation hit 26.6 percent, diminishing hope of an economic resurgence.

Yet, Liberians hope that the flights from European capitals, many of which were suspended after the Ebola epidemic, will resume and ferry Euro-carrying tourists to the white-sand beaches and lush national parks. They hope foreign investors won’t have to worry about being fleeced and be able to help build the country’s infrastructure.


Smoke rises from a fire in a banana tree field in Harbel, Liberia. Agriculture, primarily rubber and bananas, as well as lumber and mining, are the main sources of income for the small West African country. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Azik Seeman visits the grave of his wife, who died during the Ebola epidemic of 2014. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Residents of the orphanage in Chicken Soup have a lollipop after eating lunch. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

A man carries a bag of coconuts ashore from a boat in Buchanan. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Vendors, workers and "pen-pen," the local name for moto taxis, mingle in the streets of Monrovia. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Two girls gather water in Monrovia. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Two Liberians participate in a photo shoot on a roof overlooking Monrovia. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Women prepare freshly caught fish, including barracuda, which will be smoked, in Buchanan. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Fishermen pull their dugout canoes up to shore in Westport, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Monrovia. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

A church choir practices for Sunday services in Buchanan. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

A young man rests in front of a monument that represents Liberia's history. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

People gather in a bar in Buchanan. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

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