A few weeks ago, I read a story on Front Page Africa that touched my heart. The story was about a boy in the Island Clinic Community who, due to the closure of schools in the country, had started teaching other kids in his immediate surroundings.
The boy’s name is James Fahnbulleh (aka Jimmy) and he is in the 8th grade.
A few of us are currently doing a project called Kids Engagement Project. The intent of the project is to provide educational materials (pencils, sharpeners, erasers, notebooks, etc.) and math and English worksheets to children to keep their minds engaged academically during the Ebola crisis and the closure of schools in the country. The worksheets are simple and easy to do and understand and are all aligned with the Ministry of Education’s curricular for each grade level. We target kids in primary school (Pre-school to 6th grades). We also engage the parents or caregivers in the home to make time to teach the kids during this crisis period. We do a biweekly check in with the parents and the children to see if they are utilizing the kits. The idea also is for parents or caregivers in the home to make time to tutor the kids and not to bring in “study class teachers’ to teach the kids during this crisis period.
On October 30, Kids Engagement took a few educational packets to Jimmy and the children in his immediate neighborhood. His mother wasn’t home, but we met his aunt.
We also met Jimmy and most of his students.
They were excited about the kits but also requested that we assist with blackboard chalk to help them continue their studies.
It is rather remarkable how we Liberians adapt and “make do”.
Thank you Jimmy for thinking about others and wanting to learn.
There is a running saying in Liberia that Liberians are all mostly talkers. That we like to talk a lot, but tend not to put our money where our mouths are. Since we commenced the Kids Engagement Project, I can happily refute that old adage as 95% of the support we have received thus far has been from all Liberians.
I like to tell people that “even Jesus, the Son of God, wanted thanks when He healed the Lepers, what more about mere man?”
There is also a saying we have in Liberia that “Give a man his flowers while he is alive” and so I would like to highlight a few of the material donations and support we have received over the past weeks starting with the most recent going backwards.
When the project started, I emailed several friends and family. Some responded, some didn’t. Some replied with “thank you Brenda, nice project, keep it up”, others responded “I will get back to you”.
Mr. George E. Taylor was one of those who simply replied “ I will get back to you”. Several weeks passed and I didn’t hear from him. Last weekend I got a surprised text from him. He told me he had sent a few books and supplies for the project and to collect from a friend. I was happy. To have gone thru the headache of sending exercise books, pencils, crayons, erase, reading and coloring books, etc. from all the way from the United States, I was appreciative and thankful.
But, that wasn’t all.
He also sent me a money transfer number with cash donation for the kids’ project. The amount blew me away. Let’s just say that George, my old college mate from the University of Liberia days, is the highest donator to our project thus far. He didn’t want me to do this but I convinced him that I would in order to motivate others to help and to prove that indeed, Liberians do support each other and that Together, We Can. Thank you so much George.
Lawrence Morris taught me when I was in grade school in Gbarnga, Bong County, on Cuttington Campus during the civil war. I think it was 5th or 6th grade. cant remember now. But I remember saying to myself that when I grew up, I wanted to be smart just like him. I wrote my “Prof” and he has come through. Not only did he bring a lot of these supplies from the USA in his luggage, but also met with several organizations in the USA about the project and got more items coming via ship in the next few weeks/months. Lawrence aka prof. thank you so much, the book bags are very handy and timed right now as we use them to carry the packets around the communities.
I also want to say a special thank you to Madam Korto Williams and ActionAid Liberia and the Leader Fund for donating a lot of reading books and worksheets to the project from the very beginning. I remember she told me “Come by, I have few books to give to you”. Got at her office and was beyond surprise and happy. The readers and story books are really helpful as they help the kids reading skills, improve their reading comprehension and enhance their vocabulary.
Jackie Parsons was also one of those I wrote who said ” oh I got some things at home, I will give to you, Brenda”. She continues to be a great support and I really appreciate her efforts. She has driven all the way to our home on the highway twice now to bring supplies and knick-knacks for the project.
I also want to say many thanks to Mr. Anthony Wilson. All I can say about Anthony’s donation is that, it was of such magnitude that it is only in the last 3 weeks I have had to purchase exercise books. He also got us about 20 dozen pencils. Tony, thank you so much.
Then there is Nat B. Walker, my former boss. Whenever I tell him thank you for his supporting to reaching out to more kids, he says, “yes, thank me for helping to give you more work!”. He always comes thru when we are in a snitch with pencils, crayons, cash, notebooks, etc. Nat, thank you so much.
I would also like to say thank you to Relief Inc. (Phebe Dennis Fortt) and Mr. John T. Richardson and Sis Josephine Salee of Feed the Future for the donation of some books and supplies to the project. They have come in handy for places like Orphanages that have reading rooms/spaces for the kids to read and keep their minds active during this crisis period. Thank you.
I met Wadei Powell online. She sent me a message asking how she could help. I give her the list of supplies we needed and also complained about the production. She said “I will see what I can do”. Since she got back, she has become a core member of the project (more on that in another blog later) and has worked a lot from behind the scenes in helping us get copies, talking to her friends for supplies and even digging deep to bring some when we are jammed. Ma Wadei, thank you ya?
Ambassador Miatta Fahnbulleh (Aunty Miatta), has also blessed the project with supplies. She asked me “what all do you need?” I said “pencils, notebooks, erasers, sharpeners… ” she said “oh, the pencils I got lots of pencils”. We only just exhausted her donation of pencils this week. She also sent some biscuits that I now use as “rewards” for the kids who complete all their activity sheets. Thank you so much Aunty Miatta.
Then there is my childhood friend who resides in the UK. She and her family saw my numerous posts on facebook and made contact with someone in Liberia to bring these items for us. Thank you So much Attia and Scooby.
I am saying thanks to all of you publicly for your material, cash and moral support. There are many others who have really blessed this project in many ways that I will highlight as we go along. People who commit their time, effort, resources. But, that is a story, for a different blog.
Today during the course of distributing educational packets to children in the Red Hill community (just after the St. Paul’s bridge), we came across a group of children that had lost both their parents to the Ebola Virus Disease. I counted about 9 of them. Their ages ranged from about 2 years old to about 15 years old.
They had been under quarantine for 21 days and today was their last day and so they were in a joyous and thankful mood.
I saw these children and started crying. I couldn’t imagine what they must be feeling. Their mother’s sister has taken them in and told us that the rest of the family were waiting for the 21 days to end to make a decision on how to how take care of the children.
Our community liaison told us that the community has been very supportive in providing food and supplies weekly to this family and supporting in many ways to ensure they don’t feel ostracized, stigmatized or alone.
I looked at these children, so happy, gleeful and excited over receiving (among other things) coloring pages and pencils and whatnot and just said a silent prayer of thanks to God for life. For health. For being good to me and my family.
I cannot imagine what these children must be dealing with. The confusion of not knowing where both their parents are. Of being told to stay in their home all day, not interacting with anyone else. Not playing with the other children. They seem too young to grasp the enormity of all of this.
I asked their aunt if she wouldn’t mind us taking a few pictures to share with you all and she said she didn’t.
We have been to many communities, and I must say I am very impressed with how organized the red Hill community leadership is in dealing with and responding to the Ebola crisis. The level of support I am told they give to this family and 3 others in similar situation is really amazing and laudable.
If you are able to help them, please let me know and I will forward the contact info of the family and the community liaison.
you can follow our daily activities on the facebook page facebook.com/KidsEngagementProjectLiberia
Its indescribably fulfilling when you notice that parents are taking heed to your message. While out distributing and doing follow-up with parents in the community for the Project Kids Engagement, we walked on this father taking the time to tutor his kids at home. He says he drives a taxi cab during the day and doesn’t usually have time every day to tutor his kids, but leave daily “assignments” for them to finish using the worksheets we provided and reviews their work on Sundays.
The message continues to be: Schools are closed indefinitely in Liberia due to the Ebola Virus Disease crisis. Do not let the time go to waste, make time to tutor your kids so that they are kept engaged academically so that they aren’t too far behind when schools do reopen.
Really happy that one father at least is heeding our message.
The response to the project has just been amazing.
Not only are some parents actually making time to tutor their kids, but the kids themselves are excited about learning. We ran into a few parents who sell by the road side whose kids had received educational packets and…see for your self. These pictures, these moments just made all the hours of work worth it. Keep it up family.
We did a follow-up trip to some of the homes we had initially given packets to and the kids were excited and anxiously displaying their completed assignments/worksheets.
Sadly some parents didn’t have the time to help the kids with their lessons but promised to do so this week. We will check back to make sure.
We also saw the need to target some markets around the city as there are also many children of school going age that are roaming the market all day idle, which isn’t also safe for them during this Ebola Crisis period. The reception and feedback from the parents was amazing. We held discussions with them on not only keeping their kids safe, but also to keep them engaged academically whilst we await the reopening of schools and started off at the Rally Town market. There are so many pictures and stories from this trip that I will need a separate blog post just to capture most of the fun, but here are a few for now:
We will be going to another community in the next few days and will update the page as we go along. Please help support the initiative with exercise books, reams of paper, pencils, erasers, crayons, sharpeners, cash, etc.
You can follow the project activities on the facebook page set up here: facebook.com/KidsEngagementProjectLiberia.
Thank you for the many kind words of encouragement and I would like to say special thanks to those who have contributed towards the project and who continue to invest time and energy into this initiative.
A few weeks ago, I was tutoring my kids and a question ran through my head: how are other parents keeping their kids busy and engaged during the compulsory schools closure?
Later that day on my way to work, I passed many kids in my community who were just sitting around idle, or playing or just walking around in the community looking like they had nothing to do. Then the thought hit me: why not print a few worksheets that you could share with them to keep them busy.
Thus was born Project Kids Engagement. The idea is to provide weekly school exercises to the kids in my community (the Baptist Seminary/Gbengbar town area) and create an awareness for parents to make time daily to tutor their kids and not allow the indefinite closure of schools due to the Ebola outbreak to keep their kids behind in their lessons.
The target was 150 kids initially but after I did the first distribution on September 14, 2014, I quickly realized there are a lot more kids in my immediate neighborhood than I estimated, so I took the number to 200. They were really happy and excited and their parents were receptive to the initiative and promised to work with their kids to do the exercises.
A brief discussion is held with the parents to encourage them to make time during the day to teach the kids and check up on their progress and efforts.
The start-up kits for K1 & K2 include:
• 1 box of crayon
• 2 pencils
• 1 sharpener
• 1 erase
• 1exercise book
• 1 Disney character coloring book
• 1 So-GO-LO book
• 1 ABC tracing book
• 1 ABC coloring book.
• 1 assorted math worksheet (counting, number sequence, etc.)
For the 1st – 3rd graders, the sets are a bit different with more math, reading comprehension and other helpful worksheets, but also include the crayons, pencils, etc.
I sent out emails to several friends asking for their support and the feedback has been amazing. So far, I have done two distributions with the first actual follow-up distribution scheduled for this weekend.
Once again thank you so much for helping to make this possible and putting smiles on the faces of these kids and helping to keep their minds busy and engaged during these difficult times.
I intend to do this weekly till end of December. We are all optimistic that the Ebola crisis would have been brought under control enough by then for schools to be reopened by January 2015.
I would like to thank the following persons for their support to the project:
1. Blidi Elliott
2. Maria Harrison
3. Angelique Weeks
4. Masah Sobboh
5. Ernest Gaie
6. Cornelius Poneys
7. Musu Doe
8. Georgene Wilson
9. Jennifer Anderson
10. Arnold Johnson
11. Wilfred Passawe
12. Kweme Clement
13. Gyude & Lakshmi Moore
14. Alimata Johnson
15. Jackie Parsons
16. Sametta Togba
17. Nat Walker
18. Korto Reeves Williams & ActionAid Liberia
19. Anthony Wilson
20. Nada Adjami Tondo
21. Massah Sobboh
22. Emmanuel Payegar
23. Alexander Swen
24. Richardson Ndorbor
25. Wil Baku Freeman
26. Siah Manobah
27. Hugh Collins
28. Ne-suah Beyan Livingstone
29. Tuma & Evita Johnson
30. Alyce Anderson
31. Barbara Cooper
32. Solomon Vincent
33. Yuade Merab Moore
34. Varfee Siryon, Jr.
35. Omar & Jeanne Fahnbulleh
36. Wyanie Bright
37. Tanya Weefur
38. Aubrey Winkie
39. Denise Barrette
40. W. Moore
41. Brian Watson
42. Terence Sakor
43. Francis Gibson
44. Dr. Joseph Baysah
45. Joyetta Satiah
46. Musu Wangolo-Stewart
47. Elvira Cooper
48. Nellie Sando Beyan
49. Pah Suku, Jr.
50. Vicky Ward
51. Monique Morrisey
52. Alvina Smith
53. SELF Liberia (Friskies Fest)
54. William Ward, III
55. Vivian Ward
56. Jle Tarpeh
57. Wede Wallace
58. Josephine Lee Brapoh
59. Florence A. Akins
60. William E. Ward, II
61. Mercedes Martin
62. Hannah Gardiner
63. Weahde Greaves
64. Peter Jackson
65. Linda Strange
66. Lisa Warfield
67. Tanu Dworko
68. Miatta Fahnbulleh
69. T. Nelson WIlliams
70. Delmeza Honeyborne
71. Tony Ichel Salifu
72. Salikri Sayeh
73. Josephine Lee Brapoh
74. Florence Aikins
75. Miatta Fahnbulleh
76. Min. Axel & Fatu Addy
77. Musu Redd
78. Judge Richard Klah
79. Deddeh Howard
80. Deddeh Supuwood
81. Caleb Dormah
82. Rufus Berry
83. George E. Taylor
84. Jeanine Cooper
85. Pearl Jardia
86. Theodora N. Brooks
87. Vickie Jackson & Run For Liberia (RFL)
88. African Cultural Student Association – St George’s University
a few weeks ago, I wrote about the closure of schools in Liberia and the effect this is having on kids in the country.
schools are still closed and looks to be closed for another few months. this means kids are idle and left behind with school compared with kids in other countries around the world.
A few friends have become concerned and thought to raise funds to get school supplies, worksheets, etc to kids in the country. any help and support you give will go a long way…