New Liberia Partner Shines!
Computer lab dedication at Kingdom Embassy School (June 18, 2021)
In January 2021, Westminster's humanitarian focus in Liberia moved about two miles down the road! To be clear, we still are working to improve educational opportunities and access to healthcare and clean water for children in the community known as Bernard Farm. However, our twelve-year long relationship with Hope Mission School has ended and we are now serving the youngsters of Kingdom Embassy School, which has served Bernard Farm for almost a decade since its founding by Pastor David Kpadeh.
We are pleased to report that we are off to a very strong start. In addition to providing scholarships, we are engaged in several exciting initiatives which include computer literacy classes, a micro loan program, and a new partnership which is developing approaches to address the nutritional deficiencies of Bernard Farm's youngest residents including preschoolers and primary grade students.
Student Scholarships: We currently are supporting fifty students on full scholarships who represent the neediest youngsters in the community; these are children who would not be attending were it not for our assistance. Without an education, their chances for anything more than a very difficult life as adults would be greatly diminished. The scholarship recipients were chosen by a joint committee with school & community members and Westminster's regional representative, Joseph Dorbor Kpangbala, who has served as our eyes and ears on the ground in Liberia since 2012.
Computer Literacy: The Computer Literacy classes have been made possible by the arrival of our shipment of 30 refurbished and fully loaded laptop units which were donated by the Elfun Society of GE Schenectady. Although the school does not yet have an adequate facility to set up all of the laptops, they have created a temporary computer lab with a dozen work stations and had a ceremony to open the lab on June 18th. First to be trained will be all staff members, faculty, and some community volunteers. The goal is to have a larger lab in place by the Fall 2021 semester. In reporting on the June 18th dedication program Pastor Kpadeh wrote: “It was a joy today for our students and staff to sit behind computers for the very first time in their educational journey. They are so grateful! Many thanks to all who made this possible.”
Micro Loans: The Micro Loan program is another new initiative. It was seeded with an initial bank of $1,000 funded by Westminster. It has since grown by an additional $500 thanks to a generous donation by the Presbyterian-New England Congregational Church of Saratoga. A committee of school staff and Mr. Kpangbala reviewed dozens of applications for the initial loans to be distributed and chose twenty community members as the inaugural recipients of $50 per person, interest free, to be repaid according to a basic plan agreed to by the committee and loan recipients. In most cases, these loans are providing funds to folks who otherwise have no access to traditional assistance such as a bank loan. They tend to use the loans as seed money for inventory to sell in open air markets, to pay for medicines, or to cover the cost of school expenses such as supplies and uniforms for their children. Initial reports have been very encouraging and a second round of loans will be distributed this summer.
Addressing Nutrition Deficiencies: Our part-time nurse, Korlu Jallah, RN continues to provide “sick call” visits for minor injuries and ailments. She has also been able to administer tests and, when appropriate, treatment for those afflicted with malaria which remains a major problem in coastal West Africa.
Korlu, Pastor Kpadeh and Joseph Kpangbala also teamed up to conduct a rudimentary nutritional survey of the youngsters in Bernard Farm. They learned much about the eating habits of students and preschoolers and the opportunities (which are negligible) for kids to supplement what nutrition their families can provide. Nurse Jallah also took weights and arm circumference measurements on the majority of students and we were able to compile a report for Dr Mark Manary, Professor of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO., who has promised to assist us in developing a basic program to improve students' nutrition. Dr. Manary heads the international initiative known as “Project Peanut Butter” and is considered one of the world's foremost experts on childhood malnutrition. More details will be reported in future blogs.
As you can see, we have been busy. The needs are many and everything we do is predicated on the support of this congregation and many additional members of the wider Capital District and beyond. We thank you all!
By John Kucij on behalf of the African Mission Committee, Westminster Presbyterian Church – Albany, NY
John and Lyn are Schenectady residents who volunteer at Westminster on Liberian Projects. They both have over 50 years of experience with Liberia and have chaired numerous US-based Liberian activities and organizations. John Kucij authored the successful grant application for funding from Presbyterian Women and is overseeing the implementation of grant activities and management of grant funds. Lyn is a retired Physician Assistant and John retired from Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC).