Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Postings from "Trainer Heaven" at LCMS

We have more great news from "Trainer Heaven" at Lott Carey Mission School. LCMS teachers are enthusiastically putting their training into practice. LOEP's teacher training included understanding individual learning styles and lesson planning with activities - an essential part of the child-centered learning approach. Rosa Allen, LCMS Principal of Instruction sent an encouraging report the other day. She writes:

I must share this experience with you before the day ends.
Miss Harvey took her Nursery class outside to show them the Flag of Liberia as part of her Social Studies lessons. She explained that the Liberian flag has three colors, red, white and blue. During the "field trip" to see the Liberian Flag hoisted on the school grounds, she asked the class, how many colors do you see in the Liberian flag? Every one said three, red, white and blue; but Mary Tuam, aged three and the half, piped up, "Miss Harvey, the flag has four colors, red, white, blue and yellow" (the Liberian Flag at LCM has yellow fringes around the edges).
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.
Miss Harvey is a wonderful teacher and the smart and observant Little Mary is getting off to a great start in her school career!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Teacher Training Next Year Needs Support

LOEP has been invited to work in Liberia again next year training teachers. We have already started developing the training and raising funds. We will need some help this time with funding and we have found a very painless way that you can help us out every time you shop online.

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!

Every Day is Market Day

Transportation is a huge problem in Monrovia. Getting from one place to another is a frustrating experience for Liberians who have business to attend to. In most cases there is only one route to get from one place to another - no freeways, beltways or bypasses divert traffic around congestion. Many of the teachers who came to training had to be out on the road hailing a taxi (shared by as many as 7 or 8 people) by 5 a.m. so they could be on time for the 8 o'clock training.

Driving is a real challenge on narrow, potholed roads choked with traffic and the concept of a road shoulder or curb is not known in Liberia that we could notice. Retail display space seeps into the very edges of the road where merchants and pedestrians alike dodge taxis and other vehicles as they haggle and bargain. Merchants and markets operate all day long Monday through Saturday. In a concession to Sunday traditions, it all starts a little later in the morning and ends a little earlier in the evening on the "day of rest" but it is no less intense. Market day is every day and every day is a new opportunity to hustle.

For the LOEP team transportation was no problem - we had no pressing engagements (except the training) and our wonderful host drove us around in air conditioned comfort. Every trip was an exciting adventure! We loved "getting stuck in traffic" and while our poor host dealt with the frustration, we hopped around like little kids trying to see everything from every direction firing questions and taking pictures (the windows are tinted so we didn't risk offending folks as we snapped candid shots). Every time our host mentioned a trip outside of our community near the school, we would chorus "Oh how fun! We can get 'stuck' in traffic!"

Traffic problems are the number one complaint among our friends and hosts in Liberia. Lack of running water and no electricity was barely mentioned but traffic was a constant source of aggravation and complaint. For the LOEP team, however, traffic congestion was a great opportunity to see the sights! Pictured are some random shots we took riding through town. You get some idea of how close everything is to the traffic flow since these pictures are taken from inside the car and close enough to reach out and touch the pedestrians/products/merchandise.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Education is Hope

As hard as economic times are in the U.S., times are much harder in Liberia where so many educational opportunities for Liberian children depend on partnerships with U.S. organizations. Schools like Lott Carey Mission School are experiencing crushing budget shortfalls as contributions to U.S. organizations dwindle.

One of the things that really struck us as first-time visitors to Liberia is the remarkable spirit of optimism and hope that seems to prevail. This spirit is remarkable because life in Liberia is difficult. The new government is strugglilng to stabilize, there is an entire generation adjusting to a fragile peace and the economy is extremely weak. In spite of incredible challenges, Liberians that we met are looking forward brightly to the future with high expectations for success.

Much of this faith in the future rests on the fact that Liberians recognize the value of education beyond all other gifts for their children. Liberian parents make huge sacrifices in order to pay school fees and children know that their primary duty to the family is to study and do their very best in school to justify that sacrifice. Education is so valuable that meagre family incomes often center around paying school fees first and living expenses such as food, come second. No savings accounts, no 401-Ks, no Wall Street investments -education is the typical Liberian family's investment in their future and the future of the nation.

Teachers work for months with no pay checks and school fee increases hit hard on already over-burdened Liberian families.
I worry about potential for devastating impact on Liberia's future if schools like Lott Carey Mission School cannot survive the downturn.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Another amazing Liberian baker

Some great cakes and breads come from this oven, I am sure. This Liberian baker has the equivalent of an institutional oven with her re-purposed Blockbuster Video Box.
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