Dear AE Team, Family, and Friends,
Thank you for your prayers and support during our May 5-30 Liberia trip. Dozens contributed to the success of this venture. Most of the U.S. team from Ambassador Enterprises, Sinoe County Association in the Americas, Taylor University, and Northwest Nazarene University are now safely home. Our IEL staff and team mates remain on the ground to follow up with the schools and our local partners.
Below is a compilation of the six trip reports. Feel free to share this email with others who may have an interest. With each trip we feel the momentum growing. The program is receiving favor at all levels, including the Ministry of Education and the Senate.
As funding partners are identified, we will begin deploying the program nationwide. May a generation of Liberian children be equipped to lead their country into the future with skill, courage, and integrity.
Gary, for the entire team
REPORT #1 - MAY 11, 2016
Dear AE Team,
We had some big wins yesterday. Early in the morning we put on our dark suits, ate a quick breakfast, spent an hour in heavy Monrovia traffic, dropped in at Exxon Mobil for a quick meeting, and then headed to the congressional building for the 10:00 plenary session of the Liberian Senate. Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor, chair of the Senate Committee on Education, had worked her magic to get us on the program. Our presentation was scheduled as the last item on a long agenda.
As we were setting up our technology, we were informed that the session was delayed for an hour. Then word came from the senate pro-tempore that the start time was further delayed to 1:00. This presented a conflict as we had a 1:00 meeting scheduled with the Ministry of Education. We called the MOE and they were able to reschedule for 3:30.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Senator Taylor was doing some maneuvering on our behalf. When the session opened shortly after 1:00, another senator made a motion to move the IEL presentation to the top of the agenda! The motion carried, and within a few minutes we were down on the floor presenting our program to the chamber full of distinguished senators from the 15 counties in Liberia. The press was present and the gallery was full.
Elijah introduced the Innovative Education Liberia (IEL) team, and I presented the Samuel Morris Scholars Program. You could have heard a pin drop when I was describing how young Sammy Morris had impacted his world back in the 1890s. We were given nearly an hour. During the Q&A time, there were good questions and favorable comments. One senator stood up and said, “We Liberians need to fund this!”
And we made it to our 3:30 appointment with the MOE. We have had several engagements with Dr. Romelle Horton, Deputy Minister for Instruction, and her fine team. For an hour we discussed how IEL and the MOE could work together to obtain funding for the program. We feel strong support, and anticipate good things to come.
On Monday we had a great day at CWA High School. We completed the end-of-year NWEA MAP testing. We increased our set of testing laptops to 30, and the technology worked beautifully. Charles shared with passion a story from his Samuel Morris Life Lessons book.
We ended the day with a high-energy awards ceremony honoring the students who made the largest gains in their MAP scores. Senior student, Erick Kiawen, was the grand champion and was awarded a tablet loaded with learning content! T-shirts, Morris biographies, pens, and certificates were given out. Every student walked away with something.
IEL just purchased a new Toyota Landcruiser to be used by Elijah and the team. We’re hoping this means no more breakdowns. Joe, our driver, is on the road right now, driving the new vehicle down to Sinoe. At 3:00, we’ll be boarding the MAF plane, and Joe will be waiting for us at the landing strip in Greenville.
God is with us, and your prayers are being heard!
REPORT #2 - MAY 15, 2016
Dear AE Team,
Yesterday we had a wonderful time at Juarzon High School and Whylie Christian Academy. These two schools are way out in the bush. There is no electricity and no telephone service. Here you see Elijah addressing the 9th and 12th graders that are participating in the pilot.
Both schools had gone to great lengths to prepare for our visit. Juarzon’s computer room was beautifully equipped with hand-made tables and chairs, metal door, security bars, and signage over the door!
A team of 11 from Northwest Nazarene University (Idaho) has joined us, including six students, an ordained minister, and four PhDs! While we were testing the students, the NNU team engaged the remaining children in various learning activities. We fed everyone a good lunch, and then Elijah made some special presentations.
Each school received a large trash bin, a generator, and our new 20-laptop case! On the left you see the principal from Whylie Academy. He could scarcely hold back his tears as he received his school’s computers and delivered an emotional thank you speech.
We have added to our program an environmental stewardship component. Charles shared a lesson from the Samuel Morris Life Lessons book, recounting Morris’s love for the world around him. The NNU students put on a skit. We then sent the students out for “campus cleanup.” We had done this on Friday at St. Paul School. As the principal and his band of students made their way through the classrooms and school yard, it was like watching a human vacuum cleaner. In less than 30 minutes the campus was clean.
This will be a full week of testing and activities in the schools. On Saturday, we’re kicking off a football (soccer) tournament for the eight schools.
Thanks for your continued prayers. Some kind of a bug is going around the NNU team. Please pray for a quick recovery for several of the students and adults.
REPORT #3 - MAY 18, 2016
Dear AE Team,
TEAMWORK has become one of the themes on this trip. We are stressing with students that teamwork is required to keep their campuses clean.
Using a “train the trainer” model, we are investing in a team of gifted young Liberians to surround Elijah and Alex. Here you see Shadrach teaching what he saw me model the day before. Friday, he will pass on his expertise to a young instructor at another school.
Northwest Nazarene University has added a unique element to what the IEL team is bringing to Liberia. NNU’s engineering team is exploring alternate energy sources to power school computer labs. It is still a rough prototype, but this evening out on our guest house balcony, their “bicycle generator” lit up a light bulb!
Here you see Dr. John Stotz and one of his three engineering students, Heather, demonstrating their energy machine. The used bicycle was purchased in Monrovia for $50, and they paid a local shop $20 to weld the frame. Their goal is to develop a model that can be replicated locally at a low cost using car alternators and other easy-to-find components.
Thank you for being a part of our ever-widening support team. Working together, and with God’s continued blessing, we will build a better future for the children of Liberia.
REPORT #4 - MAY 22, 2016
Dear AE Team,
Rainy season is here in Liberia. It can come down in buckets! Yesterday we kicked off the IEL Sinoe County Football Tournament for the eight schools in our pilot. The rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of over 500 fans who filled the Greenville stadium to cheer on their teams. Liberians are passionate about football (soccer) and this was a big event for the community.
Alex organized the tournament. His team from Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) competed in the opening match. GVL vs. Seebeh - you would have thought it was the World Cup! These kids can really play, and they went all out on the rain-soaked field.
Earlier in the week Rev. Dustin Metcalf, Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) chaplain, spoke to the students at St. Joseph Catholic School. There is a spiritual element to life far more important than education or sports. Dustin used a multi-colored soccer ball to share his message: God has given us light (yellow) through his Word, which tells us the good news that our sin (black) can be forgiven because of the sacrifice of Jesus (red), making us pure (white) so that we can experience eternal life in heaven forever (green). This is truly good news!
St. Joseph is one of the testing sites for the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) examinations. Grade 9 students must pass this exam to be promoted to high school. Grade 12 students must pass the exam to graduate. These are high stakes tests, and the entire country feels the pressure during the two weeks they are administered. Here you see Dr. Paula Kellerer, Dean of NNU’s School of Education, discussing the exam procedures with one of the site facilitators.
Yesterday our friends and partners from the Sinoe County Association in the Americas (SCAA) arrived in Greenville. Without their vision and efforts over the past ten years, none of these initiatives would be happening. Our team now numbers over 30. We’ll all be worshipping this morning at the St. Paul Episcopal Church. Rev. Eric Kellerer will be preaching.
Thank you for your continued prayers. This will be a big week. Wednesday morning, the nine-member Taylor University team will arrive in Greenville, in time for the Samuel Morris Scholars Program Celebration scheduled in the afternoon. Thursday will be the dedication of the Samuel Morris Educational Resource Center.
REPORT #5 MAY 28, 2016
Dear AE Team,
May 25, 2016! It was a wonderful celebration in Greenville, culminating IEL’s year-long pilot of the Samuel Morris Scholars Program.
The Greenville City Hall was packed with students, teachers, and administrators from the eight Sinoe County Schools.
Awards were presented to the five students from each school who achieved the greatest gain in their test scores from January to May. This little girl, Joyce Wonnelcar, was the overall winner from GVL school. She was presented with a certificate, pen, T-shirt, and tablet loaded with KA-Lite and the RACHEL Library! In one semester, Joyce gained 23 points on her NWEA MAP assessment, equivalent to a two-year grade level jump in her math proficiency. Her sister, Cynthia, received the second place award, just a few points behind.
Over 600 students received certificates of participation, and forty students won individual awards. Harrison Grigsby United Methodist High School won the trophy for the school that attained the greatest improvement in scores, and GVL Elementary School placed second.
What a celebration of the efforts of these dear children in one of the most remote regions of Liberia. To God be the glory!
REPORT #6 - MAY 29, 2016
Dear AE Team,
What a day it was! May 26, 2016.
At 10:30 am, Dr. Eugene Habecker, President of Taylor University, his wife Marylou, and the TU team, touched down on the Greenville airstrip.
As the team stepped out of the small arrival building …
… they were greeted by a crowd of enthusiastic students who had walked several miles to greet the dignitaries. There was singing, and there were cheers. This was a big event for Greenville!
At 11:30 am, a quick visit was made to St. Paul School where the students were hard at work in their new digital classroom.
The President and First Lady were fascinated by the laptop cases. Recent technology advances have made it possible to deploy a set of laptops that can run all day on a battery charge.
2:00 pm was the culminating event of the trip – dedication of the Samuel “Kaboo” Morris Educational Resource Center. Hundreds of students had gathered outside for this historic moment.
Inside the newly-finished lobby, one hundred school administrators, teachers, and government officials crowed in for the ceremony. For years, Dr. Charles Kirkpatrick, Taylor University professor emeritus, has kept the story of Samuel Morris alive.
After nearly 125 years, the story has found its way back to Liberia. Samuel Morris has returned home!
The Spirit of this humble Kru man that transformed Taylor University so long ago, will soon inspire all of Liberia.
And yes, there was a football game. As the sun was setting, St. Paul defeated Methodist 1-0 in a thrilling battle for the championship. Former Indiana state representative and TU American football player, P. Eric Turner, presented the trophy.
The celebration went on and on!
For this trip, the mission has been accomplished. By God’s grace, the continued efforts of the various partners - SCAA, TU, NNU, IEI, IEL, AE - will be multiplied in the days ahead. A future is beginning to unfold for Liberia.