Friday, October 14, 2011

If You Go To Liberia

If you have been following the news, you’ll know that three women won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia; Leymah Gbowee, Executive Director for Women Peace and Security Network Africa; and Tawakkul Karman, “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

What you may not know, is that I spent 10 days training and providing professional development to the teachers in Monrovia, Liberia in August 2009. The trip was a most memorable one. I still feel as though I left part of my heart in Monrovia. In addition, the teachers we worked with still contact us with questions and updates.

How did I end up in Liberia?

It’s a long story, so I’m going to shorten the version. Three groups worked together to coordinate the trip and training. Humanity Unites Brillancy provided the funding, Kimmie Weeks, founder of Youth Action Internationalinvited us and coordinated the event, and StarShine provided the training and professional development materials. That’s where I came in. Trish McCarty, founder of StarShine; Amber Halverson, our assistant; and I traveled to Liberia and provided three incredible days of professional development to over 800 teachers at city hall.

When we were first approached to travel to Liberia, Trish and I were very hesitant. The school year was just starting and we had schools in Phoenix, Arizona to supervise, plus Liberia is a long way from Phoenix. In addition, I’m not sure either of us really knew where the country was located. And – we’d have to get more unpleasant shots, a VISA and develop a training manual all in about two weeks. But then, we started to research the country of Liberia and the unbelievable needs of the Liberian people. All the kids who live in Liberia are truly ‘Kids Without Stuff’ to the tenth degree. We talked with Kimmie and could hear his passion about improving the lives of the Liberian children through improving their education.

So --  we started to work. We ordered our VISA’s, got more immunization shots, and developed a training manual for the teachers based on the guiding principles and core curriculum at StarShine.

Two week later, I was sitting on a plane bound for Africa.

The flight took 30 hours; we flew from Phoenix to Atlanta, Atlanta to Brussels, and Brussels to Monrovia. By the time, we arrived almost two days later we were tired, a little beat up and hungry, but completely exhilarated about this epic journey. As we walked out of the airport, we were greeted by a large group of Liberian well-wishers. We climbed into SUV’s and began to make the hour-long journey into the capital of Liberia, Monrovia.

I’m including one of my favorite photos from our trip. That's me with a microphone in my hand, stretching and teaching brain exercises.

Would you like to hear more about our journey and our opportunity to change education in Liberia? Let me know and I’ll write more posts about the trip.

Have a great weekend!