Friday, December 18, 2009
Introducing the LOEP Training Team 2010
Karen Darner - is retired from Arlington County Schools where she was a Speech Pathologist and taught Special Education. Karen's experience is so valuable and such an asset to LOEP that even on the plane from Liberia last winter, we began plotting how to persuade her to join this year's team. It did not take much convincing. A former Peace Corps Volunteer (Jamaica), Karen took one look at our pictures of Liberian kids and she was on board! Working with Emmalee, Beth and Phylis, Karen developed the special needs component of the 2010 Training. Karen lives in Arlington, VA and is a member of Clarendon Methodist Church.
Emmalee Iden – develops and manages education programs for the Atlanta Opera and spends her spare time working on developing networking and funding opportunities for LOEP. She was a middle school teacher and while she was a graduate student she developed the Mobile Classroom concept (roots of LOEP). She was able to see that concept fully developed with the training last year which was based on principles and concepts using materials in the Mobile Classroom units for Pre-K through third grade. Emmalee lives in Atlanta, GA and maintains her life-long connection to Browntown Baptist Church in VA.
Brenda Bush-Weeks –A founding member of LOEP, Brenda's Liberian heritage and her commitment to orphans and vulnerable children in Liberia are an invaluable asset to LOEP's board of directors. She accompanied the Training Team last year and hosted team members there with family and friends – strengthening LOEP's valuable relationships in Liberia. Brenda, a life-long Methodist, is the mother of five children, is a writer for CNN, and lives in Atlanta, GA.
Jacob Madehdou- Executive Director of the Liberia Education Project, Inc. (LEP) brings unique and valuable perspective to the LOEP Training Team and he will have a special role in the LOEP 2010 training. Jacob will work as a training coach in small-group format with LOEP Teacher Trainers, helping them prepare to conduct supplemental LOEP trainings (professional development) throughout the year with their colleagues at Lott Carey, AAMOM and CRM schools. Jacob is a member of Somerton United Methodist Church and lives in Philadelphia, PA.
Phylis Benner – a founding member of LOEP and Senior Trainer, Phylis develops training materials and coordinates training with LOEP Teacher Trainers in Liberia. Her expertise in teacher training and her solid background in Early Childhood Education is the foundation of LOEP's Teacher Training programs. Phylis was the Lead Trainer on last year's team. This year her LOEP role will be U.S.-based. She will coordinate post-training observations (using follow-up video and U.S.-based trainers) and teacher trainer coaching. Phylis lives in Richmond, VA where she is a member of Ridge Baptist Church.
Beth Iden – As a founder of LOEP and LOEP Training Team Leader, Beth's job is to keep all the many loose ends of a LOEP training tied neatly. Beth and Gary (a U.S.-based LOEP team member) live in Browntown, VA and are members of Browntown Baptist Church.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
The weeks that I spent in Liberia flew by entirely too quickly and it was so terribly difficult to leave when the time came! As I held back tears on the plane leaving Monrovia (ok, so I was trying to hold them back and not doing such a good job at it!) Mom and I reminded each other that we would be returning in 2010 and that there was plenty of LOEP work to keep us busy and connected in the US.
It has been a busy 10 months – we were right, there was a lot to do to prepare for the next round of training! Now here we are, nearing the end of 2009 and it’s almost time to go back. I have been thinking about my friends in Liberia so much and can’t wait to get back there! The administration at Lott Carey has been working so hard these past 10 months to implement the techniques and strategies we introduced in the training last year. The teachers have been working hard to engage their students in the learning process. I can’t wait to see the progress that has been made and help take them to the next level!
I am certainly looking forward to enjoying time with family and friends this Christmas season, but a large part of my mind has already fast forwarded to the time I will soon spend with the LOEP family in that beautiful, irrepressible and hopeful country in a much less materialistic part of the world. In the meantime, pictures and emails will suffice until our February departure!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
LOEP also works with very limited resources. To keep focus on our purpose of providing educational support as cost-efficiently as possible, LOEP is constantly evaluating, reviewing and assessing our own programs and how our partners make use of the assistance we can offer in building their own community of learners within their institutions. Part of the 2009 training program included an evaluation process that helps us answer key questions about how institutions use LOEP training. Is LOEP training effective for teachers? Are teachers using new techniques in the classroom? Are the new concepts understood and embraced by teachers who receive training? Are LOEP-trained teachers encouraged to introduce their colleagues to new concepts and new techniques? Are school administrators engaged in the training process? Are school administrators actively supportive of new techniques and concepts in their institutions?
We work with schools whose teachers and administrators are committed to building a community of learners within their own institutions. Teacher by teacher, student by student, school by school – setting the building blocks to build a community of learners in Liberia requires focus and commitment at every level.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
These children are the leading edge of a post-war generation – they represent the first children in a generation to go to school in peace in Liberia and they are the first children in Liberia whose leader looks like a mother, not a father. It will be interesting to watch how the influence of peace and women's empowerment will change the lives of these children as the nation pulls out of its long period of strife, chaos and war.
Already there are clear signs of major positive changes in the culture. The CRM graduation picture shows a nearly 50-50 ratio of boys to girls- evidence of the newly embraced issue of equal educational opportunity for girls and boys. Under the leadership of President Johnson-Sirleaf and the influence of international emphasis on improved opportunity for women, there is a conscious national effort to educate girls. Educational institutions and educators are committed to educating the entire nation (not just the male half), and cultural values are changing also. Lott Carey Mission School, where LOEP will be training teachers in February, 2010, is a progressive institution whose web site proudly claims a 48-50 girl-boy ratio.
The CRM graduation indicates far more than a personal milestone for those little graduates - it represents a national milestone for Liberia raising a generation of children in peace who accept equal opportunity for both genders.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Her orders are coming in quickly so if you want a very meaningful, very unique gift, place your order soon. She can only produce so many of these beautiful, original-art-suitable-for-gift-giving items. Link to her web site in the previous post.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Go to her web site and check out the beautiful cards for all ocassions, Christmas cards (proceeds will all go to LOEP teacher training) and the other handmade paper items she makes. Send a special holiday greeting this year - a beautiful piece of original art that will also help teachers train to teach Liberian orphans!
Her web site: http://causeforcreation.wordpress.com/
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
One of our friends is a devoted mission supporter who has chosen to spend her retirement giving to others through her own type of mission work. Mary Stokes, pictured below, makes amazing items to send to Mexico, Jamaica and Liberia. She has friends all over the world who keep in touch with her and send her pictures of her wonderful donations being used in schools, orphanages, clinics and hospitals in farflung places. In addition to keeping her sewing machine busy making useful items, Mary purchases school supplies to send to orphans in orphans schools in Liberia. This week-end we arranged to be with Mary and picked up the equivalent of two carloads of stuff she has purchased and made to send to Liberian children. Some of her donations will be used for the 2010 teacher training. Mary is a real inspiration and one of many whose compassion allows for generous support so LOEP can continue education support programs.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
One piece of advice we received before we left was to take pictures of home and family with us to Liberia to show our hosts. We dutifully made up albums of our children and families and one of my photos featured a 4-H barn with the 4-H clover symbol painted on the side (it is the centerpiece building of the Southwestern 4-H Center where Win - Emmalee's brother - works). When Mrs. Rosa Allen saw that picture her eyes lit up and she exclaimed "Oh, 4-H!". Then she burst into song. As it turned out, 4-H played a big part in her childhood and she has very fond memories of it. She even remembered the 4-H song she learned in 6th grade.
We spent some time sharing 4-H stories - Rosa raised rabbits, planted gardens and developed a rice field, she said. It was clear from her enthusiasm that Rosa had wonderful memories of 4-H and it played a very large and positive part in her childhood. She asked if it would be possible to bring 4-H to Lott Carey School and establish a 4-H Club there for the students.
It occurred to us that Rosa singing the 4-H song should be captured on film. Several days later, after she overcame some reluctance and rehearsed a bit, she allowed us to record her rendition of the childhood song and submitted to a brief interview.
This lady really loves 4-H!
Mrs. Allen is a very fine school administrator. She coordinated the teacher training workshop and supervised the library children's section renovation when the LOEP team was there. This video was done in the book storage room as we unpacked boxes of donated books and worked on the library project.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Link to Cause for Creation: http://causeforcreation.wordpress.com/
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The Classroom-in-a-Box units each contain subject-specific materials - one is math/science and the other language arts/social studies, for example. This particular pair of units also shared a "Teddy Bears" theme based on the generous donation of 30plus teddy bears from a Fredericksburg merchant and donation of hand made costumes for each bear from a LOEP supporter. The Language arts/social studies unit included story books and instructional materials with bears and woodland themes. The math/science unit included "counting bears" color/counting games (top picture) and environmental lessons on preserving bear and other animal habitat. Part of the learning process for young children is creative play and teddy bears with fancy, fun costumes certainly filled a good part of that requirement.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
· 50 Liberian doctors, according to UN estimates. There are also about 75-100 doctors serving with missions, NGOs and other aid groups.
· Three hospitals in Monrovia - one of those was converted from a war-ruined school into a small hospital with 150 beds and one operating room. The largest is a war-ruined medical facility of 1970s vintage with intermittent electricity, among other severe limitations.
· NGOs that operate more than 70 percent of health care facilities in Liberia
Personal safety and protection from violence is not the only measure of safety, though, and we were very aware of personal, individual vulnerability in a nation where there are no emergency services and access to health care is minimal. There are no rescue services with ambulances, fire trucks, etc. in Liberia. The only ambulances we saw with sirens and lights going during our time there were provided by NGOs such as Doctors without Borders and UNMIL (United Nations Mission in Liberia). It was not clear how the patient in those vehicles qualified for help and a race to the hospital but certainly such access is extremely limited – only available to the average person by chance or some luck of the draw.
Traffic and driving is chaotic and wrecks often result in horrible death and injury with only passersby to administer first aid or assistance. We happened upon one auto wreck and, before I turned away with a lurching feeling in my chest, I saw a motorcycle under the front wheels of a Hummer-type NGO vehicle. The motorcycle tried to take a turn, passing close on the inside and ended under the wheels of the much larger, heavier vehicle. A crowd had already gathered and people were trying to be helpful and provide what assistance they could. There was much shouting, gesturing and it seemed an effort to pull something/one from under the vehicle was underway. Here in the U.S. such a crowd would likely be waiting quietly for trained medical personnel in the ambulance speeding to the rescue. In Liberia there is no rescue – they know they are on their own.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Friday, May 8, 2009
The lovely little girl pictured in the new Children's Section of Lott Carey School library is Tracy. Tracy is in pre-Kindergarten and has just started her studies at Lott Carey. She is, quite simply, a remarkable child.
The LOEP team and Tracy spent a delightful afternoon in the Lott Carey library sorting books and setting up the Children's Section (more about that in another post) while Tracy "read" book after book. She could not get enough of those books! Selecting a book from the sorting pile, she pointed to each letter, whispering the letter to herself and once all the words on the page were "read" she examined the picture. Occasionally she would come to one of us with a dazzling smile, point to the picture and talk about the story. We were impressed that this kindergartener could spend an entire afternoon fully engaged in this solitary, quiet activity and seemed to enjoy every minute of it.
Tracy is hearing impaired in a country where deafness is viewed with suspicion and with less sympathy and tolerance than other disabilities. Deaf infants and children are sometimes abandoned and sign language is almost completely unknown so the deaf have no language and no way to communicate with the hearing world.
Tracy lives with her grandmother, one of Lott Carey's excellent administrators, who is determined that Tracy will have the advantage of an education. Little Tracy is no less determined, it seems. She completed her pre-school education in a school where there was no accommodation for her hearing impairment -she learned by watching and absorbing whatever she could. Amazingly, she is at or above her grade level in all areas and has been accepted into Lott Carey although there is no accommodation for deaf students in that school either. With no classroom accommodation for hearing impairment, students like Tracy begin slipping behind their peers and fall farther and farther behind.
LOEP is working on a teacher training program that will help teachers at Lott Carey and partner orphan schools accommodate their teaching and classrooms for deaf and hearing impaired students like Tracy.
Tracy is fortunate to have family/school support because children with hearing impairment are not unusual in Liberia and most do not have a support system. Tricia, an American teacher of the deaf who was recently in Liberia writes: Presently, there are no statistics available as to how many people are deaf or who have a hearing loss in Liberia. If audiologists are available in the country, many do not see them, so there are no statistics on the causes of deafness. But talking to the Principal of the Hope school, David Worlobah, and going through student information sheets, I found that most of the students became deaf after an illness or due to loud noises during the war. These illnesses consisted of malaria, typhoid, or Lassa fever. With these diseases, a high fever is likely, which can cause deafness. Deafness that could be preventable.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Liberian President Johnson-Sirleaf has recently been on tour here in the U.S. touting her just-published memoir, This Child Will be Great. Her book has had some mixed reviews but there is no disagreement on the fact that she is an amazing, strong and determined woman. Her life story is remarkable and from that standpoint alone her memoir is undoubtedly worth reading. I have to confess I have not read it yet but have read every review I can find and heard every interview with her on television and radio. Can't wait to read the book.
Blue Clay People, by William Powers is written by an American who lived in Liberia working for an NGO shortly after the war ended. It gives a good account of Liberia from an American's perspective. I found much in common with Powers account of his impressions and his response to Liberia. Also had some differences of opinion and reaction but the book is well-written and very interesting.
The House at Sugar Beach, by Helene Cooper is a fascinating account of Helene's childhood in Liberia which ended abruptly with political turmoil and brutality. Cooper explains the Americo-Liberian, Congo, Country social class system that exists in Liberia from her own point of view as one who was of the privileged elite. Her explanation was very helpful for me in terms of understanding how the political situation in Liberia evolved. Cooper and LOEP Board Member Brenda Bush-Weeks grew up together in Liberia and attended school together there.
Redemption Road, by Elma Shaw is a novel (unlike those mentioned above). It takes on the difficult subject of recovery from war in Liberia. I have not read this one yet either but Rev. Emile Sam-Peal highly recommended it and said he could not put it down. Of course, his perspective is entirely different from what mine would probably be but all other reviews concur. It is the next one on my list.
For several years now I have been reading all things Liberia which has been mostly somewhat dry history, highly charged political rhetoric or ex-pat blogs. There just has not been that much available until now. The 14 years of war and the long period of political upheaval leading up to the war has changed that and a new genre of Liberian literature seems to be developing. There are incredible stories everywhere in Liberia. War survival, political turmoil and even ex-pat accounts of good works are all more interesting with a Liberian backdrop - probably because the incredible stories are true.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Bea's immaculate, well-organized home/business is a single room that functions as sewing studio, fitting room for clients and her personal sleeping/living quarters. We spent such a fun afternoon there thumbing through fashion magazines (to pick out styles for ourselves), having head ties and shoulder pieces styled and oohing and aahing over the beautiful fabrics and sample garments and designs she was preparing for an upcoming fashion show.
Friday, May 1, 2009
This links http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=84052 to an excellent article that clearly states the case for most of West Africa. One point that really puts the issue in perspective as it relates to Liberia's future stability:
"Education activist and former child soldier in Sierra Leone, Ishmael Beah, told IRIN: 'Education is not only something to get a career or change your socio-economic status, but it is a way you can begin to understand your government and demand more of it.' ”
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I must share this experience with you before the day ends.
The next day Miss. Harvey took me outside and asked me, Mrs. Allen, "how many colors do you see on the Liberian Flag"? I said "three, red white and blue." "What about the yellow fringes," she asked. I couldn't answer. We decided to ask the ROTC teacher, Capt. Dorothy Gray, and Mr. James Sango, Art/Craft teacher for help on the topic. Both of them are retired from the Armed Forces of Liberia and teach at LCM. I also went online to get additional information to share with all.
This experience was very exciting. Here is what Miss Harvey said, "I observed that Mary is a visual learner".. I asked what else she felt she could have done with the lesson. She said that she should have visited the site to carry out a thorough investigation before taking students on the field trip. We are now researching online about the topics she is planning to teach.
Little Mary was still persistent about her experience and early the next morning she cornered her teacher and told her, "Miss Havey, the flag has four colors RED, WHITE, BLUE, AND YELLOW". The flag is located directly opposite the Nursery and can be seen clearly from the classroom door.
By then Miss Harvey had information from the Internet and her colleagues about fringes on flags. Now she has the gruesome task of explaining to three years olds about fringes on flags, and why the yellow fringes are not actually part of the LIBERIAN NATIONAL FLAG. I hope that all the teachers will learn from this experiene. We plan to discuss it in the next faculty meeting and pull out lessons from this experience.
Lott Carey teachers and administrators have taken their training to heart and fully embraced the child-centered learning approach to education.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
On the right side of the screen is a button for iGive.com. If you will click on that site and register the next time you order something online, LOEP will get a donation. If you go through that website every time you shop online, LOEP will benefit. It is a great and easy way to support the next LOEP teacher training. It's a whole lot easier than dodging traffic at the roadside market!!
Please consider giving it a try. Those who travel can also make all their reservations (lodging and transportation, including car rental) through the website and help LOEP educate orphans! As some may know, Gary travels a lot and he has already generated some good support for LOEP with his latest reservations made through the iGive website!
Please click on the button and register and thanks in advance for your help!
Friday, April 10, 2009
Friday, April 3, 2009
Keeping up with news of Liberia has involved keeping up with blogs by folks who live and work there. While some bloggers have no idea I see their online journals, others have become personal acquaintances. Joy, a former missionary in Liberia, now lives in Virginia and we have become online friends and have met several times. If you are interested in Liberia, I recommend you check out her blog. She no longer makes regular entries but it is worth going to her archives and reading about some of her experiences in Liberia. http://finding-joy.blogspot.com/ check it out here.
Another interesting web site that both Joy and I check regularly is linked below. It covers the African continent from a unique perspective - it highlights African inventiveness! Today's entry highlights Liberian resourcefulness and it reminded me so much of Miss Valerie in her kitchen! Check the original story at this link
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
The United Nations has an interesting website on their mission in Liberia (known officially as UNMIL or United Nations Mission in Liberia). Great information on Liberia here including a report they did on orphanages several years ago. LOEP has found that report to be very useful.
Shenandoah University held a forum on Africa last week-end, according to this article in the Winchester Star newspaper
Had I known about it I would have attended!
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
Miss Valerie's home based business operates out of her home kitchen. It is attached to the house and has no windows or roof. Wide open to the fresh air, it keeps the heat outside - not in. Three charcoal cookers in the outdoor kitchen and a charcoal oven located inside the house are the main cooking "appliances". With limited electricity, Valerie has no regular refrigeration but makes good use of a freezer that runs periodically when electricity is available.
The day I visited Miss Valerie's house she was preparing one of our fabulous lunches. While she applied lovely, professional decorations to a birthday cake, she supervised her cooking crew in preparing extraordinary amounts of rice on the three small charcoal cookers. She had baked the cake herself in her charcoal oven. Anyone who has tried to bake in an oven with an automatic thermostat knows steady temperature is critical to successful baking. It's challenging enough to cook on a charcoal cooker but to actually bake cakes in a charcoal oven guessing at the temperature? The sight of several loaves of bread and tea cakes cooling on a nearby shelf and I was really impressed.
Miss Valerie has linked her passions for food and teaching and has boundless enthusiasm for both. She is also committed to working with young women through her church - teaching them to develop strength of character, self-respect and self-reliance through cooking!
We caught Miss Valerie in the midst of lunch preparation this day but she stopped long enough to welcome us in. She also has a green thumb!
Monday, March 23, 2009
CRM director Sam Kargbo has plans for the orphanage that call for the school and orphanage to eventually re-locate to property in the countryside about an hour's drive from Monrovia. CRM raised funds for a 20-plus acre site in the area known as Kakata where the orphanage and school will establish a vocational/agricultural program for orphans and other students. The land is being developed as an agricultural venture at present and a farm manager, Amos, lives there with his family. The products of the farm are sold at a local Kakata market and, when transportation is available, sent back to the oprhanage. LOEP team members visited CRM at Kakata and pictured above Board member Brenda Weeks, watches as Amos (purple shirt) supervises eggplant harvest.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Keeping children healthy in Liberia is challenging even in the best of circumstances. The problems are compounded in institutional settings like CRM with 70+ children, extremely limited resources and minimal facilities.
Life expectancy in Liberia is among the lowest of all nations on earth, hovering right around 40 years old. High infant mortality rates, high risk of death and injury for little children who are exposed to the above health problems and all sorts of other accidents (open barrels of water and charcoal cookers, for example, are only two of thousands of commonplace hazards that pose risks for infants and toddlers) makes childcare and child survival difficult in Liberia. While all children in Liberia may not be orphans, all Liberian children are vulnerable. The United Nations acronym, OVC (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) applies to every child who lives in Liberia. What is remarkable is the resilience, perseverance and hope that Liberians have for their future.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Thirsty for all things Liberia, I have been enjoying online reports about the Colloquium. I came across an excellent account of the festivities today, found on this blog by Nadine B. Hack. I got goosebumps reading this! It's so inspiring to know that there are so many people working together to empower and educate women and girls on so many levels worldwide. What a fantastic and moving event!
Here in Atlanta, I was able to celebrate International Women's Day by attending a special viewing of Sheila C. Johnson's documentary, A Powerful Noise. The film was broadcast in 450 theaters across the United States last Thursday, and was followed by a live broadcast of a panel discussion moderated by NBC news anchor Ann Curry. Panelists Madeline Albright, Natalie Portman, Christy Turlington Burns, Nicholas Kristof, and Dr. Helene Gayle were quite impressive and provided wonderful insight. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was referenced in the discussion, as the first female elected president in Africa. The event was quite compelling, and I highly recommend the film which features women impacting their communities and the world in Vietman, Mali, and Bosnia.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Mrs. Allen's message, "Thanks to all of you again for the wonderful experience shared with the teachers here at LCM. There is so much going on in the classrooms that I am happy to give you feedback".
"Thank you and the Training team for the wonderful time spent here with the Liberian teachers. There is a new excitement in the air amongst the teachers, students and parents. The KIDS are proud to display their work in their learning centers. Chairs have been rearranged, learning centers established. The mobile classroom is squeaking with movement of the materials everyday AND planning ahead for lessons is the order of the day."
The excitement among the trainees was clearly demonstrated every single day of training and their interest and enthusiasm has carried over into their classrooms, apparently, according to Mrs. Allen's glowing report.
Phylis, you were right - it really is Heaven!