Monday, April 27, 2009

Meet and Greet:

The next few days (March 24 – 29, 2009) were spent meeting with my family members and friends and making telephone calls. Explaining and discussing why I was back in the country. Basically, it was just a time of relaxation and fellowship. Some brought traditional African gifts (palm wine), chickens (see attached picture), and prayed for God’s blessings upon my endeavor – the establishment of a Peace Education Program for Liberia.

Also while home during the week, I begin to observe children of grade school age just wandering around the neighborhood without being in school. I wanted to know why these children were not in school, since the government has made primary and elementary school free in all public schools. My sister and cousins then informed me that these children do not have the financial means to pay for their registration fees or buy their school materials (books, uniforms, shoes), lunch, let alone transporting themselves to school. So, I decided to select one of the youth randomly from among the group. It happened to be a boy. He told me his name was Matthew. Then I asked him why he wasn’t in school. He replied, “I do not have the money”. I asked Matthew to visit me over the weekend so we could better discuss about his school situation.

With unemployment levels in the formal sector estimated to be around 80% of the population, it is difficult for the poor to afford their basic human needs (food, safe drinking water, health care) let alone sending their children to schools. Ordinary citizens cannot afford a decent place to call a home. Most of them were uprooted from their homes which were destroyed during the war. Today, they are known as internally displaced people without a place to call a home.

Let’s take my case for example. My parent’s home was completely destroyed by Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia in 1990. My mother and sisters fled to Sierra Leone where they sought refuge. Upon returning to Liberia from Sierra Leone in 1997, my mother and sisters had nowhere to call a home. They lived in a displaced hut. For four years, I sought assistance from friends in United States who helped me to construct a two bed room home for my mother. A special “Thank You” to Bea from Door County, Wisconsin who basically financed the construction. Indeed, there are many displaced people who do not have a “Ebenezer” in their lives, who do not have a area to sleep, they are unemployed; as a result, they cannot afford the school fees for their children? For now, most parent first priority is finding food for their children.

The reality on the ground has created a condition where in the minds of the youths is an ideal workshop for violence – without formal education, without lessons of peace education. Notwithstanding, I believe “Yes We Can Change This Condition” by helping out one school child at a time….

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