Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Educator Honored and Dresses delivered

Little Fatu and Naomi were so pleased to receive their stylish, new pillow case dresses and posed happily with their friend, Fahmetta Morris to show their new finery.  The third dress, draped over Mrs. Morris' walker is intended for another sister who was too shy to pose for the camera.  The little girls so seldom have anything new to wear and the pillow case dresses were a real thrill as you can see from Naomi's shy but radiant smile!  Leah Lunsford and her crafting ladies made these little Liberian girls (and quite a few others) very happy!
Mrs. Morris is a retired teacher and principal who, at age 95 years, is always ready to relate stories and memories of her days in the classroom and as a Kindergarten principal.  Her memory is clear, her speech sharp and she is a youthful and vibrant lady who loves her community and her country.  Naomi, Fatu and their mother live with Mrs. Morris in the Liberian tradition.  Many people live together in households as families bound by mutual caring and need for each other regardless of whether blood ties exist.  Mrs. Morris lives with her household family in rural Clay-Ashland, a small community on the banks of the St. Paul river that was ravaged by wars of the last two decades.  She has outlived her only child and her husband and many other extended family members have settled in the U.S. where they fled to escape war in Liberia.  Mrs. Morris is a cherished member of her community and was happy to tell  us about the wonderful birthday celebration held in her honor in September when the entire communty turned out to honor her.  Family came from the U.S., Ghana and all over Liberia to join the community event with dancing and feasting to honor their community's treasured educator.


Monday, January 24, 2011

An Educated Community

Each LOEP Traininig session opened and closed with all of us, trainers and teachers, reciting the following statement of belief in our work as teachers building a community of learners together:

We believe our students are the future of Liberia.
We believe teachers shape that future.
We believe an educated community is a strong, peaceful community.

This year the 2011 LOEP team was fortunate to witness first-hand some incredible evidence of learner communities in Liberia.  We visited:
  • two orphan schools - one building a new classroom building and dormitory and the other improving their facility with new security and playground areas, 
  • Hope School for the Deaf, a community of learners who are no longer isolated now that they can sign and learn together,
  • Virginia Christian Academy, a school currently undergoing construction of a new, two-story building which will include housing for their new library collection,
  • A church-sponsored school facility with six classrooms constructed of bamboo poles and grass mat walls where more than 400 children attend school every day in three sessions and adults attend night-time literacy classes.
These learning communities and hundreds of others like them are all led by dedicated teachers who know the future of Liberia depends on educating their students - adults and children.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bean Bag Fun at Hope School

Yesterday the LOEP team finished up hearing screenings at Hope for the Deaf School  in Monrovia where our friends David Worlebah and Eric are doing remarkable work with hearing impaired children.  The school located on the Methodist Church of Liberia campus, has three extremely small classrooms and one larger classroom/assembly room/lunch room.  There are sixty seven students ranging in age from 4 years old to 26 years old and all are either deaf or severely hearing impaired.  The older students are there because as disabled persons in Liberia, they have been unable to access any education or training opportunities until recently when awareness of rights for the disabled began to be recognized.  David is actively working as an advocate for the disabled in Liberia in addition to his commitment to Hope where he is both school administrator and a teacher.
The LOEP team completed hearing screenings on 52 students yesterday.  While the screenings were going on in one building, LOEP team member Luvenia Harvey demonstrated how to use bean bags as instructional classroom tools.  The children LOVED it and had a wonderful time challenging each other to spelling with bean bags and teaching Miss Harvey and Beth how to sign each spelling word!  They were delighted to share their communication skills with hearing persons who wanted to learn.  One teacher joined enthusiastically in the fun spelling/signing activities.
Rachel had a great time with the children on Thursday afternoon and has learned quite an impressive array of signs and phrases from the children, including sign names of some of the indigenous tribes in Liberia.
LOEP videographer in Liberia, Derrick Snyder, has produced a great video on Hope for the Deaf School.  The video will be posted on the LOEP website as soon as we return.  Watch for it!

Miss Harvey surrounded by kids and bean bags - it's spelling time!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Building a Community of Learners!

LOEP Trainers of Teachers (ToTs)
(l to r) Mr. Zinnah, Mrs. Allen, Miss Harvey, Mr. Achempong

Today was a milestone day for the LOEP Training Team and our colleagues at LCMS!  The theme of LOEP's three-phase, three-year training program is Building a Community of Learners. The goal is to train teachers who can train their colleagues, shareing information, ideas and resources, building a professional network of teachers with a commitment to professional development and ongoing training. The group pictured above are the three LOEP Trainers of Teachers, meeting with LCMS Principal of Instruction Rosa Allen. The three LOEP ToTs are meeting to plan the LCMS Professional Development Plan for the remainder of 2011 and next academic year. The ToTs will be working throughout the year training their colleagues and working with teachers in sister schools to provide training and instructional support as they Build a Community of Learners!  They are on their way!!
On a personal note, Emmalee and Beth were in attendance for the first portion of the ToT meeting and experienced some personal emotional moments. We watched these incredibly gifted, committed professionals newly self-confident in their abilities, moving to a newly independent level of their professional development.  We felt that same mixture of pride, anticipation and love that one feels watching those "Pomp and Circumstance" moments with our own children! What a joyful day!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

School Days

This past week, the LOEP team was able to spend quite a bit of time in the classrooms at Lott Carey school with both students and teachers. The students will not be in school next week when we are working with the teachers exclusively, so this was a good opportunity for us to do some team teaching with Lott Carey teachers and even substitute teach by ourselves in some instances. I was very pleased to cover some 7th and 8th grade English classes, and Rachel had the chance to show off her science skills in a 5th grade science class as well as 12th grade biology! We had a great time with the students and with the teachers. The school currently has a faculty opening for middle school English and Language Arts. I enjoyed filling in for a few days and got some good laughs from the 8th grade class. Kids are kids are kids are kids - in Liberia, USA, and all over the world! Here are some pics from our teaching days this week.

Two seventh grade students work hard on the vocabulary lesson I gave them in the library on Tuesday.

Fridays begin with a flag raising ceremony that the older students and ROTC lead for the entire student body.

Mr. Appleton's 11th grade biology class models a human cell using students.

Rachel poses with the senior class. They were very excited to have a class picture!

We have been doing some team-building exercises with the students and will continue this work with the teachers next week.

Ms. Harvey and her nursery class

Voter Registration

Several years ago, the citizens of Liberia elected Madame Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Ma Ellen) as president - the first female president in Africa! Much development has occurred in Liberia since that time, and LOEP has seen the progress first-hand in the way of new roads, buildings, etc. Every visit we see more progress in this beautiful country! The presidential term in Liberia is six years, and this November the country will vote again for a president to lead them. The voter registration process is a bit different here - all voters register (or re-register) for each election - every six years. Voter registration opened here on Monday, January 10 and will run through Sunday, February 6. Voters are supposed to register in the precinct where they live. As in the US, the voting age is 18. People are very excited to register, and the lines at the precincts have been quite long in some areas.

One of the buildings on the campus of Lott Carey is used as a registration site. The registrar is working hard to get people ready to vote in November!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Harmattan Winds

The Harmattan Wind season prevails in early January in Liberia.  The powerful wind current marks the beginning of the dry season in West Africa with winds blowing south from the Sahara bringing sand and "smoke".  The temperatures are a bit cooler this month because the sand and "smoke" filters the powerful sun rays.  Some of us are feeling the effects with irritated throat and coughing - sort of like hay fever but without hay or ragweed just dust and sand instead.  The slightly cooler temperatures only last for a brief period during January generally. The low humidity and 85 degree temps. are great for us but not so much for Liberians who are used to 95 degrees temperature with 95 degree humidity!   We have seen many in down jackets with hoods and many of the little nursery children are arriving at school bundled in coats and knit hats.  Some are complaining of the "cold" weather.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Audiometer

Thanks to all for good wishes and prayers for timely delivery of the audiometer!  It is on track to arrive in Monrovia on Friday evening and we are scheduled to pick it up Sat. morning and take it directly to Hope School for Saturday morning hearing screenings.  Keep your fingers crossed!
 The plan for our work at Hope is to test hearing of all 67 students and gather some hearing loss-related data such as individual health history, previous diagnoses related to hearing loss, etc.  On our return to the US we will turn that data over to LOEP Team Members Karen Darner and Melanie Hudson (both are Speech Pathologists).  They will work with Dr. William McFarland who has volunteered to work with LOEP on this project.  Together they will analyze the data and develop a needs assessment.  Based on that, we can begin to develop resources for assisting Hope students with educational tools and hearing aids.  
 More to come on Hope School and our friends there, David and Eric.  They are two remarkable young men who have made a remarkable commitment.  They educate children who, in Liberia, are completely marginalized and have very few opportunities.  Their steadfastness in the face of huge obstacles is nothing short of inspiring!

Back to School

This week is the first back to school since the Christmas break.  Last week LCMS prepared for school opening with an exciting ceremony - the Grand Opening of the LCMS Teacher Resource Room.  A renovated storage room has been transformed to function as a Teacher Resource Room where instructional materials, science equipment and classroom display materials can checked out and used by teachers in their classrooms.  An area for collabortive planning has been designated and cabinets stocked with supplies are accessible.
The LCMS Teachers Resource Room is open to teachers in schools where LOEP teachers work and a check-out system is in place for tracking and accountability.  It is a rare opportunity for teachers in Liberia to have access to instructional materials.  The LOEP team is focusing on helping teachers AND students learn how to make maximum use of new and exciting learning tools.

LCMS Principal of Instruction, Rosa Allen showed LOEP Team members Rachel Price and Beth Iden how resource materials have been categorized and shelved according to subject area for easy teacher access in the new Teacher Resource Room.

Wednesday morning visit to CRM orphanage came just about lunch time.  Cook is preparing to feed 48 children who live at CRM full time.  CRM children are still on Christmas break and their school semester begins next week.  The orphan school is open to children in the surrounding community and has about 150 students in addition to the CRM children.

Nursery students during cooperative play time.  The blocks are a big favorite!

LOEP Team member Emmalee Iden cannot resist the Little Ones (who can??)  Just had to get in a few minutes of play time building a tower.

CRM administrator, Sam Kargbo, with Matron (center) and CRM's number one volunteer greeted the LOEP Team when we visited on Wednesday morning.  Notice a set of "shape" bean bags displayed in the classroom.  Next week's teacher training will include workshops on using bean bags as instructional tools in all grades and for all ages.  Craft Hope Bean Bags are a great addition to the Teacher Resource Room and to orphan schools like CRM where instructional materials are nearly nonexistent. 


Monday, January 10, 2011

Old Friends and New

We arrived to many warm greetings of "Welcome" in the Liberian style with beautiful, gleaming smiles, warm handshakes and cheek to cheek "hugs".  Yet another year, we are astounded with the amazing progress Lott Carey teachers and students continue to make to the school campus, buildings and, most of all, to the quality of education.  It is incredibly inspiring to see such commitment to educating children.  We look forward to training week next week.  Today Emmalee and Rachel are working in the classrooms with teachers.  Rachel had the opportunity to teach a fifth grade Science class today and will work in the labs with students through the week. Emmalee will be teaching Language Arts the rest of the week.  Beth (me) will be in the library working with the librarian who is new to Lott Carey and has already made huge strides in sorting and cataloging books.

Our "home away from home" has also changed a bit with electricity available more hours of the day than in past years.  We are sharing our guest quarters with a mission group from Charlottesville, VA area.  Although we have worked jointly on shipments to Liberia and other support to our friends in Liberia, this is the first time our two groups have actually met.  Seems crazy that we live only a couple of hours apart in the US and had to come all the way to Liberia to meet in person.

Pictures and more entries to come.  Internet access is reliable at Lott Carey now (another amazing improvement)!

Sunday, January 2, 2011


The 2011 LOEP Training Team is nearly all packed up and ready to go!  It has been a little difficult to focus so soon after the blur of activity that was Christmas and New Year's but departure is Thursday - so ready or not, here we come!
In addition to conducting training workshops, LOEP training team members will use the new battery-powered, compact audiometer donated by EBS Healthcare - a LOEP corporate partner - to conduct hearing screenings at Hope Scool for  the Deaf.  The objective  is to gather basic data on student hearing at Hope School (types of hearing loss, extent, cause, etc.) and bring that data back home for analysis by LOEP volunteers.  Experts in audiology and teaching children with special needs, LOEP volunteers back here in the U.S. will examine the data and make some recommendations to Hope School administrator, David Worlobah, for developing resources for student hearing aids. Our ultimate goal is to determine how we can assist Hope School in meeting educational and hearing needs of Hope's students.
LOEP trainers will be working with teachers at Hope School using bean bags and sign language instructional materials in the classroom.
Stay tuned for posts from Liberia!
Battery-powered audiometer