Lofa County

Change Agent Network Extends its Development Programs to Lofa County, Liberia

This is a quick update specifically on our on-going school human resource development projects in Lofa County, Liberia. This school project started in 2012 with the donation of a five acres of land space from the village people from Fessibu Town for the construction of a multipurpose leaning center. LOFA SCHOOL PROJECT 2013

This new school project is located in a town called Fessibu within the Zorzor District area of Lofa County Republic of Liberia. Both Zorzor and Fessiibu towns, are just about 15 minutes drive apart from each other.

Construction work on the first building which is 100 X 70 ft in dimension was expected to be completed by December last year (2012). Unfortunately, we could not complete the building within this time frame due to financial constraints, the lack of water and bad land road conditions in the country which made it difficult to transport building materials across the nation.

However, the project is nearing completion. The roof and zinc or tent has been placed on. The remaining work is to plaster the entire building and put the ceiling up. We intend to complete this project by the end of 2013.

What we need at this moment, is 400 desks and blacks for our classrooms at this new school facility which is about 9-12 hours drive from the nation’s capital city of Monrovia.

This piece of property have a school facility running from Nursery through twelve grade.  There is also a public library and a computer training center The facility will be used by at least 2,000 persons including students, teachers, professionals and ordinary citizens for research, training, and capacity building programs as well as peace making and conflict resolution.

This project is very crucial to the work we are doing in Liberia. Lofa County is the second largest county in the country; comprising six of the sixteen tribal groups of Liberia. This is one of the second county in the country that was mostly affected by the 14 years civil war.

The completion of this project will go a long way in bringing hope and creating educational and employment opportunities for the local people in this under-resourced part of the world. We look  forward to your  continuous support  and  generous  contribution  as  we strive  to provide opportunities for  the  poor and oppress people of Liberia, one child at a time and one step at a time as we put hands together to build a nation.

WHY LOFA COUNTY?

THE FLAG OF LOFA COUNTY

When Liberia's civil war finally ended in 2003, there were no more than 1,000 schools in operation: over 50% of the country's schools had been destroyed. The post-war population was 2.5 million, but that has now increased to 3.5 MN. following the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees, who had been displaced in neighboring countries. About 1.75 MN. Of the population is under 15 years-old with 5%-6% suffering from HIV/AIDS. The challenges facing post-conflict Liberia are immense: with only 2,000 teachers, 62% of whom have no formal training, how do the politicians immediately meet the educational needs of the country's children without letting down a generation?

 Lofa is a county in the northernmost portion of the West African nation of Liberia. One of 15 counties that comprise the first-level of administrative division in the nation, it has six districtsVoinjama serves as the capital with the area of the county measuring 9,982 square kilometres (3,854 sq mi).[1] As of the 2008 Census, it had a population of 270,114, making it the fourth most populous county in Liberia.[1]

Lofa's County Superintendent is Galakpai Kortimai.[2] The county is bordered by Bong County to the south and Gbarpolu County to the west. The northwestern parts of Lofa border the nation of Sierra Leone and the northeastern parts borderGuineaMount Wuteve, the highest mountain in Liberia, lies in the north-central part of the county.

THE MAP OF LIBERIA WITH THE LOCATION OF LOFA COUNTY HIGHLIGHTED

 As of the 1984 Census, the county had a population of 199,242.[1] Many people left the area as refugees in 1999 and the early 2000s as it became a main focus of fighting during the Liberian civil war. The Red Cross said that in January 2004 many people had begun to return from refugee camps in neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone. At that time the county's population was estimated to be 34,310.[3] The largest city and county capital is Voinjama with a population of 4,945.Foya is the second largest city (population 1,760). Lofa produced one of the nations most respected leaders in the late vice president Dr. Harry F. Moniba who served from 1984 - 1990.

Report on My Incredible Visit to Liberia 2012

Ms. Fran ClarkeFor some reason, it seemed like such a natural thing for me to do—travel to a remote jungle village in Lofa County, Liberia. Perhaps it is because I’ve been enthralled by the reality tv show ‘Tribal Wives’ and trekked alongside adventurers while watching National Geographic. Regardless, when the invitation came, it did not occur to me to not go.

Many immunizations later and with a suitcase packed with uncommon items like snake bite kits (do you know that snakebite is the leading cause of death in Liberia?!), peace flags, hundreds of Wet Ones and disinfectants, a lot of snack bars, twenty pounds of batteries and flashlights, three cameras and a recorder, and gifts for my ‘Sisters’ and I was ready to depart. Shuck...I was three pounds underweight! It is a long flight….seventeen hours on the airplane.

Immediately upon our arrival at Heart of Grace School (HOG) in Lower Johnsonville we were greeted with the most enthusiastic welcome I’ve ever received and, by a father with his five year old daughter The young child and her father at the schoolI quickly realized that he was telling us that her mother had died and was asking us to take her home with us. This was the first of very many times when my reality would be shaken and my heart torn open.

After a few days spent at HOG we began the nine-hour journey into the heart of the jungle on dirt roads with potholes large enough to swallow a bus.  We were told that those who break down often have to wait two weeks for help to arrive. Along the way we stopped to visit the sites of two additional CAN projects.

At one site, women had cleared the road in two weeks with axes and machetes. Notice that it goes uphill! When that job was finished they carried buckets of sand from the river to mix with mortar and mold into building tiles. Then they carried those on their heads to the site being cleared for the buildings.

I hardly noticed that it was 10:30pm and we were still traveling. Iron gates appeared out of nowhere, and Eric announced that this is where we would be staying for the night—the Pakistani Military Base! Well, last time I checked relations between Pakistan and U.S. weren’t too good! I didn’t have time to be scared, but the thought of being kidnapped did cross my mind! I wondered how much I would be worth and, I thought of how much I love my children. Once again, perceptions shattered. The men there couldn’t have been nicer or more gracious! We stayed for three nights, and left having made new friends and an expanded world view.

The next morning, we drove to Zuwulor Village. As we approached the village I got out of the vehicle and walked alone, across the river where women and children were doing the wash. It was the most sacred walk I have ever taken. It felt strangely familiar since I had studied photos from Eric’s trip many times.

Krubo (who I recognized from her photo) came running to me. During my first conversation with Yassah Ford, she gave me the African name, Krubo which means ‘leader’. My namesake was hugging and bringing me to her house. “What’s mine is yours,” she said in Loma dialect. After picture taking with her family, we continued walking until we found Yassah and other women. This was the moment I had long waited for. Hugs and squeals and then she put me on her back. The tradition is one of honoring. It means, “I will carry you anywhere. You are that important to me.” We exchanged a few gifts and then the dancing began!

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DSC09222Soon after, with a drummer and percussionists and more women joining, we danced our way to the open-air community building where I was greeted by the village chief and presented with the gourd and kola nuts, a tradition passed down from the ancestors, and the white chicken. It is a ritual of being honored and welcomed. Thankfully, my chicken was rather tame and had its feet tied! The celebration of drumming and dancing lasted for over six hours both days. This was the second celebration in the history of the village, the first being after the harvest of the peanut crops from our initial $700 investment.

Little known to me at the time, we are the first people who have come to help them since the fourteen year brutal war ended six years ago. Yes, it was a big celebration, and over six hundred people participated!

We presented Yassah’s Sisters with a palm oil press, cassava mill, three universal nut shellers, and thirty solar lanterns. This equipment will revolutionalize the processing of crops grown and substantially enhance their ability to cultivate sustainable livelihood.

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 We were gifted with beautiful gown of hand woven country cloth, indigenous to that region. What an honor that was! More gifts, more dancing, more drumming…I wanted to savor every moment of this incredible experience!

 We received beautiful gown of hand woven country cloth

Fran & EricA group picture of our team

The African heat was intense as we toured the various headquarters where crops of peanuts, rice and palm oil are stored until they can be brought to market. The degree of organization, skill, and resilience of these women is profound! Each group prepared a lovely display of their produce, complete with the money they’ve made thus far. They are so very grateful for the assistance of their American friends, happy to be given the opportunity to work to feed their families. Our women walk two and a half hours to the farm every day and then back again. Back at the village they then take care of gathering wood and water, and serving the needs of their families.

To date we now have four groups of women and one group of men, totaling 110. We accepted more women from a neighboring village who have been waiting for over a year, with their initial start up money of $700. As with the original group of twenty five, these women will put in place a pay-it-forward program so that other women from their community can benefit.

An extraordinary gift from the village chief was a donation of fifteen acres of land for future development. Our plans will be to build a school and clinic, A Place for Women where they can gather and heal, and a regional market where the women can sell produce. We have already begun to build a storage facility for the equipment and produce with an attached house for Yassah. The women of Yassah’s Sisters have far exceeded our expectations and we are determined to exceed theirs!

Another group of women that we are assisting in Lower Johnsonville are the City View Women’s Group, eighty women all eager to learn and work hard. They are not part of the agricultural cooperative. Instead, they learn skills of tailoring, tie dying, soap making, and bead making.

This culture thrives on community spirit. Anything they have is shared, and decisions are made with the good of the community as the primary goal. Nestled in between the obvious differences I found what we all share in common. Like mothers everywhere, the women of Liberia dedicate their lives to their families; they want food and education for their children.

When it was time to leave the village we were escorted with ‘royal’ procession. It is tradition for dancers to block the vehicle and for its occupants to throw money to the dancers. In such a short time, we had come to love each other. Departing was bittersweet and already I long to return. It is easy to absorb that we are one world, one people, one heart beating to a synchronistic universal rhythm.

Repeatedly, I heard the phrase “TIA….This is Africa”. Yes, this is Africa, a land of contrasts of great joy in the midst of profound poverty, natural beauty in the midst of squalor….a place where time has no meaning and schedules are non-existent. The people in Liberia are gracious beyond description and even though their need for basic necessities of life is overwhelming, it is rare that one will ask for anything.

War has torn apart their families, destroyed every aspect of their country—infrastructure of roads and bridges, education, medical—to name a few. In most areas, illiteracy is ninety percent, unemployment almost as high, poverty is rampant and disease takes lives unnecessarily. But, all of these hardships have not broken their spirit. There is a determination to work tirelessly and selflessly to rebuild the country through education of its children, the future leaders of the country.

The women of Yassah’s sisters are strong, determined, resilient, passionate, bright, and hard-working beyond comprehension. It is the women who brought peace to this country and it is the women who will rebuild it. They are grateful for the sun, the rain, for those of us who come to be among them, and for the hope that is in their hearts for a better life for their children. Always, they send blessings to us and our families. And I, having experienced the beauty of their spirit and goodness return home grateful for clean running water and for the opportunity to know and walk with them.

To get involved with this all-important women development program and how you can help, please click here: http://canintl.org/our-programs/yassahs-sisters-program/

 

Make A Difference In Rural Women's Lives in Liberia

Yassah's SistersIt is amazing that a small amount of money can make such a big impact! The women of Lofa County, Liberia celebrated their first harvest of peanuts and sale of palm oil, made possible by the generosity of people in Acadiana through the Yassah’s Sisters program. This beginning initiative was the result of our first investment of funds given to a group of 15 women. The hard work of these amazing women is matched with their dedication and conscientious fulfillment of responsibilities. Eric’s subsequent visit to check progress and plan for the next phase of the program was cause for a 2-day celebration—the first ever in the history of the village. Never before had these women had something to celebrate. Never before had they had a reason to have hope. Click to continue reading more…