Friday, January 30, 2009

It's Hot!

The cold and snow here is apparently prompting a bit of mild envy about our sojourn in equatorial Africa. Friends, family and co-workers have pointed out we will miss the worst of winter weather that February has to offer. While that's true, Liberia is not exactly Island vacation weather either. According to some, Liberia weather can be difficult in spite of the abundant sunshine. Lonely Planet has this to say about the weather there;
Perched on the chin of West Africa's coast just above the equator, Liberia has a tropical climate with a pronounced rainy season from May to November. There is little seasonal variation with temperatures usually averaging around 30°C (86°F) between November and May, and only a few degrees lower in the middle of the year. However, humidity levels of more than 85% in the dry season (November to April) and more than 90% in the rainy season (May to October) often make it feel much warmer.
It's the "make it feel much warmer" bit that is the issue. If the temp. is 85 and the humidity is 85% - a terrarium? We will miss the rainy season though. We have been told that season is when the roads turn to rivers and mold grows on clothing while you are wearing it.

Now, does that make everyone appreciate February just a little?

Only four more days!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Try this link


Hope this works!

Why Liberia...

We are often asked "Why Liberia?" It is not an unreasonable question and, in my case, there are a thousand answers. Most of those answers involve much self reflection which is of interest only to the reflector (me, Beth). Even though I have been advised that "blogging" is much like diary writing and that the "dear diary" style is quite appropriate for this medium, my training is as a news reporter not a diarist. Although I love to read it from others, public self-reflection will not be a highlight of my posts. My goal is to report Liberian stories and provide pictures and links that will serve to help readers gain their own insights into how our personal commitment and the LOEP organization evolved - those insights are the 1,000 answers to "Why Liberia".

Why Liberia? Click on the link and you will see http://url/ women rebuilding their lives and their nation.

Who could resist finding a way to encourage the incredibly strong and determined ladies of Ganta?
When these ladies decided to start a community pre-school/kindergarten for their children, LOEP put together Kindergarten-in-a-Box kits - start-up kits filled with basic school supplies for little ones (little board books for learning first words, crayons, fat pencils, paper with big lines, etc.). The kits were shipped to Liberia where they were transported by U.N. helicopter to Ganta and distributed to the Ladies of Ganta by Rep. Worlea Dunah, the Ganta representative to the Liberian Congress (Rep. Dunah is an active human rights advocate in Liberia and LOEP Friend in Liberia).

Why Liberia? Click the Link!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Word About the Training...

Our teacher training team will be working with teachers from Lott Carey Mission School and CRM and AAMOM - the two orphan schools we have been working with these past few years. The training plan is based on building a solid foundation for a self-sustaining professional development program. We will be training teachers for eight days and, at the same time, preparing some teachers to carry out ongoing training of their peers and colleagues after we are gone.

We have researched and developed a resource library that Lott Carey can use as the foundation for a Professional Development and Training resource for Lott Carey's teachers. The resource library will also be made available to teachers at the orphan schools and other mission schools. The library is packed and ready to go with us - it has more than 200 documents and weighs more than 100 pounds. Plans are to continue adding to that library as we send school supplies and other instructional materials to Liberia.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Packed and ready to go…

Phone calls and e-mails are flying back and forth between Liberia, Atlanta, Richmond and Browntown, and our dining room is filled with footlockers, suitcases, scales and remnants of training materials, papers and office supplies. Only 9 days to departure and we are all so excited!

A training trip has been in LOEP’s plan for several years since our friends in Liberia asked us to come and work with teachers in the orphan schools there. Actual preparation has consumed nearly 9 months for Phylis, Emmalee, Brenda and me. We have been busy putting together mobile classrooms, designing the teacher training, preparing handbooks, putting together training kits and assembling a Professional Development Resource mini-Library.

Not only have we prepared to train teachers, we have tried to prepare adequately to be good guests in Liberia where the long years of war have taken a devastating toll on the country and society. We want to put as little strain as possible on resources and friends who are really quite busy rebuilding their nation.

These pictures show some of our preparation and also serve to introduce all the team members to those of you who only know some of us

Phylis and I made Panera in Fredericksburg our “half way” office. Located half way between Browntown and Phylis’s home in Richmond, the bread restaurant is our regular meeting spot for lunch and planning. This meeting was the first where Phylis and I reviewed the original Training Manual – sometime in August.

Here Gary takes a breather from unloading some of last year’s Fall shipment of school supplies and teacher materials at the shipping agent drop-off point. This year’s shipment, in preparation for the teacher training, LOEP sent two mobile classrooms and three classroom kits like those in the picture.

I am getting great help packing up 50 teacher training kits that we will be unpacking in less than 9 days (in Liberia)! Also pictured are the boxes of supplies we use for School Day Packs, Classroom Kits and Mobile Classrooms.

Emmalee originally came up with the Mobile Classroom concept when wheeled, wooden boxes became available to LOEP at no cost. Training teachers how to use the instructional materials in the themed units most effectively is the basis for the first LOEP Teacher Training.

Brenda Bernard and Rev. Emile Sam-Peal with his son Ethan. Brenda, the fourth member of the LOEP Teacher Training Team, has represented LOEP on several trips to Liberia. This picture was take more than a year ago before Rev. Sam Peal was appointed Superintendent/Principal of Lott Carey Mission School

Now you know who we are and where we are going!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Who are these people and what are they doing?

On February 3 a four-member LOEP teacher training team will travel to Liberia at the invitation of Rev. Emile Sam-Peal. He has asked for LOEP's assistance with a program to train teachers whose careers were totally disrupted by the long war in Liberia.

Beth Iden, Phylis Benner, Brenda Bernard and Emmalee Iden make up the four person team. We will spend eight full days training and working with administrators, teachers and students at the Lott Carey Mission School in Brewerville, Liberia.

Phylis and Emmalee are the teachers on the LOEP team.

Emmalee, a former classroom teacher and a founding member of LOEP, designed the original Mobile Classroom and Classroom-in-a-Box kits that LOEP has been sending to orphan schools in Liberia for several years. Emmalee met Rev. Sam-Peal when he visited Browntown Church during the last couple years of the war in Liberia. She was inspired by the commitment of teachers who with no materials, struggled valiantly to educate traumatized children.

Phylis has more than 40 years of experience in early childhood education and teacher training and her experience is broad and deep. Her experience includes training Head Start teachers, traveling with U.S. Dept. of education training teams internationally, and she currently teaches Early Childhood at the college and university level in Virginia. Working with information and input from Rev. Sam-Peal, she has designed a training program that will demonstrate the principles of learner-centered education for a child-centered school using the LOEP mobile classrooms.

Emmalee and Phylis met at Wolftrap Center for the Performing Arts when where they worked togehter there in the education department.

Brenda Bernard came to LOEP through her connection to Liberia and her work at CNN. Born in Liberia, Brenda has roots firmly planted in both the U.S. and Liberia. She lives in Atlanta where she is a CNN journalist and the mother of five children. In spite of her busy life, she has been a great resource to LOEP serving as a member of the board of directors. She has been the face of LOEP in Liberia visiting orphan schools, meeting teachers and students and strengthening the relationship between U.S. LOEP supporters and our partners in Liberia.

I am not a teacher and have never been to Liberia. What can I bring to this team? Well, somebody has to be the "gofer" and I am good at that. Somebody also has to "direct operations" and those who know me know I can claim experience there. My hodgepodge lifetime experience as a newspaper reporter, community organizer, administrator, fundraiser, Girl Scout leader and strategic planner may also come in handy.

We hope our friends and family will find their way to this blog and join us on an exciting journey to strengthen our relationship with our Liberian partners. We will make every effort to post regluarly with pictures and thoughts from Liberia! Please send us comments too!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Coming Soon

The LOEP Teacher Training Team will be leaving for Liberia on or around February 3. Please come back and visit with them here as they embarq on this wonderful journey.