Michelle Walker in Zambia – Day 7

In June of 2017, Michelle Walker, Content Developer for DentalXChange, attended Full-Circle Learning Center’s Conference in Lusaka, Zambia to represent the EHG Fund and see how the program’s influence has shaped the school system and to learn what more we can do to help the Zambian people. Michelle wrote a daily log of her trip to help us experience her adventures. Here is Day 7:

Today is shaping up to be another long day. Davidson tells us to be ready to head out around 10:00am. We are going to the Cry Community School, which is a section of town that is even more run-down than Chibolya. After visiting this school, we’ll return to Blessed Vale in the afternoon for the first session of the Full Circle Learning teacher training.

Porsche stays behind on this day in order to visit the Zambian Consulate in order to extend her stay into the following week. In her place is Baffour, who seems less than enthused to take pictures, but is interested in the training.

The driver picks us up and we head to the ShopRite to pick up some items for the children. Teresa and Baffour pick out soccer balls, pens, pencils, and notebooks, while Davidson and I grab a snack at the hot food section of the store. We basically get the same thing: a donut-type pastry, and some savory fried rice.

As we head for Cry Community School, our driver repeatedly tells me (I am in the passenger seat) that he does not like going to this part of town. We are headed into Misisi Compound, which is one of the worst slums in all of Sub Saharan Africa, where HIV and AIDS make the life expectancy less than 35 years. The school we are visiting is made up of AIDS orphans, of whom there are hundreds, if not thousands, in this community.

When we arrive, one of the teachers pushes the gate open for us to pull the car into. Beauty has gathered several different schools together for the purpose, not of evaluation, but to show us a service project. The children have put together songs, poems, and even a dance for us. They are also presenting the elders in their community with shoes, as the final part of an earlier community project.

There were about a dozen elderly people, some of whom are the grandparents of children at the school, who received shoes. As a surprise, Teresa presented the students with the gift items we had purchased. After saying brief goodbyes, we got back into the car and headed for Chibolya and Blessed Vale, to prepare for the first day of training.

When we arrived, Teresa, Beauty, and Davidson, planned the structure of the training. Beauty decided to shorten the training so that there would be time for us to do some tourist things on our last day in Lusaka, Friday. Thus, the training was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, all day Thursday, and then all day on Monday. We had downtime of approximately 2 hours waiting for the teachers to arrive around 2:00pm.

Close to 2:30pm, Beauty began the Day One training session, with approximately 50 teachers in attendance. Due to the lack of electricity, the training needed to end by 4:00pm, as the sun set shortly thereafter. The session lasted until around 4:30pm, and we headed to Bridget’s house for a special post-wedding ceremony.

When we arrive at the house, Bridget’s mom greets us and explains that all of her family has been at the house for hours cooking a special meal. I see various people that I met at the wedding, as we wait in the living room to eat. It is taking longer than usual to make dinner because the power has been out for several hours now, and they are cooking on very small coal burners out behind the house. As the sun sets, Porsche and I turn on the flashlight apps on our cell phones to light the living room. Around 6:00pm Peter arrives, and the ceremony is performed in which Bridget is officially given to Davidson (and Teresa). It is announced that dinner is ready, and Teresa, Davidson, Porsche, Peter, Baffour, and I sit at the dining table to eat. Just as Mabel brings us some water to wash our hands, the power comes on, so we do not need to eat by cell phone light.

There are so many dishes (at least 13), that I do not get to try them all. Basically, if a dish is on the other side of the table, I am not eating it. Towards the end of the meal, I remark how no one is eating the two bowls that contain the cooked caterpillars. Porsche and Peter state that they have eaten them, and Porsche tells me I should try them—that they are delicious. I say that I will try the ones that do not have the heads on, because I do not want to see caterpillars eyeballs as I bite down. Porsche hands me a bowl of the “juicy” caterpillars, and I empty a few onto my plate. Without hesitation I pop one in my mouth, and am pleasantly surprised—it’s delicious. Teresa asks me what it tastes like, and I tell her they taste somewhat like pork rinds: lots of seasoning and salt. Unfortunately, she cannot eat salt, so she passes on the caterpillars, and I eat a handful more, for good measure.

Once we finish dinner, we do not linger at Bridget’s house because there is a long day of training planned for tomorrow. When we return home around 8:00pm, I head directly to bed, as usual.

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Michelle Walker in Zambia – Day 6

In June of 2017, Michelle Walker, Content Developer for DentalXChange, attended Full-Circle Learning Center’s Conference in Lusaka, Zambia to represent the EHG Fund and see how the program’s influence has shaped the school system and to learn what more we can do to help the Zambian people. Michelle wrote a daily log of her trip to help us experience her adventures. Here is Day 5:

I wake up around 5am, and think, “Today is my husband’s birthday!” But I cannot send him a happy birthday text because his clock is 9 hours behind mine, and it is not yet his birthday in Orange County. I set an alarm on my phone for 5pm later tonight, so I can text him happy birthday, and send him a picture of me in front of a (birthday) cake.

Today we will visit Mildred Academy, and Davidson said that we actually get to meet Mildred for the first time. We are supposed to be ready at 9:00am, and at 9:30am we head into the courtyard in time to see the car drive in. Me, Teresa, Davidson, and Porsche climb in and head through Chibolya, to the other side of Lusaka, where we will meet Mabel and Beauty at Mildred Academy. On our way through town we pass an industrial section of Lusaka, full of seed factories (including Monsanto), soda bottlers, copper and mining companies, and large construction firms. We turn off the main road and onto the rocky dirt mess that takes us (slowly) through the neighborhood. When we reach the school, several boys push the gate open and we drive through the courtyard. I think Mildred’s courtyard is beautiful: it’s large and although dusty, several low palm trees sway in the breeze. There are few people in the courtyard because nearly all of the kids are in class. Mildred comes down the stairs from her administrative offices, and greets us warmly.

We all shuffle up the open steps to Mildred’s one-room office upstairs. It is clearly an addition, and the stairs are made of metal slats, each about six inches wide. I am used to the standard rise and run of stairs in the US, so trying to climb these steps is daunting, and not just because the space between each step is large and wide open to the ground below. No one wants to fall, so we all hold onto the railing tightly.

Like at Blessed Vale, Teresa conducts a group interview because we do not have the time nor the space to do this separately. Teresa moves through the set of interview questions for administrators and teachers, while Mabel and I record some additional notes. Porsche takes pictures, and Beauty and Davidson help to explain to Teresa some of the projects the school has undertaken. The evaluation interview lasts approximately 45 minutes, and then we take a break. Porsche and I walk out onto the open landing and scan the neighborhood. Because of the wind, it is a clear day, and we snap lots of pictures of roof tops and far-away people.

Next, we head downstairs to a classroom directly below the administrative offices, to view a presentation that some of the students put together. A group of girls stands in the room, and sings several songs, including the Zambia National Anthem, and a song they created themselves.

After this, we tour each of the classrooms, and Beauty introduces us (we can only spend about 5 minutes maximum in each class, because there are so many). Teresa asks the kids what they are learning, and tries to get them to state how they’ve applied their lessons and the Habits of Heart. Porsche takes photos of each class, with the teacher, before we move on to the next room. There are so many students and classrooms, it seems like a monumental task to get through each one. I really like being at Midlred Academy because the campus itself is nice, but the students are also polite and really curious about us.

Once we’ve toured each classroom, we gather in the courtyward, next to Midlred’s SUV, and prepare to depart. Many of the children are on a classroom break, and gather in various spots in and around the courtyard, waiting to see what happens next. Wherever Porsche and I point our cameras, the children smile, wave, and jump in front of one another to get their pictures taken. A boy, about 11, asks me to take a picture of me and his friend, but when I turn the camera on him he seems incredibly shy and hesitant to look directly in the camera’s lense. An older boy, probably about 13, taps me on the shoulder and says his friend wants me to take his picture. When I lift my camera, the boy strikes a pose, grinning, He asks to see the what his photo looks like, and I show him, as his friends let out a cheer. I like to wave to the kids, and they almost always wave back. Some of them look so forlorn, and when I wave they don’t wave back, as if they are not sure I’m waving at them. So I make a point to look each child in the eye, and when they see that I see them, then I wave. Some are still shy, but they always wave back.

After approximately 10 minutes in the courtyard, we all climb into Mildred’s SUV, and head out of the gate. We drive back the way we came towards downtown Lusaka, and turn into a strip-mall with a pizza parlor, frozen yogurt shop, and a mini-mart. We say our goodbyes to Mildred, and Davidson negotiates with two drivers to take us back to the John Howard neighborhood to re-visit the John Howard Community School.

When we arrive at John Howard, it is mid-afternoon, around 2pm. Frida once again greets us out in front of the water tower, where a little girl with wild hair and no shoes is swinging back and forth on the supporting bars of the tower.

Unlike when we visited on Friday, there is a full afternoon session of classes, but the Women’s Group is not meeting, so the courtyard in front of the school is empty except for the ever-present roosters. We head into the school, and Frida ushers us into her office. As with the other schools and classrooms, the room is fairly dark because there is no electricity, although the windows that let in light are fairly large. The wind blows through the glass-less windows, making and already dungeon-like room feel even colder.

In the room along with Frida are four teachers and two parents. As usual, Beauty explains to Teresa what projects the school has worked on, as well as provides translation. Porsche takes a few pictures, and I take notes while Teresa asks interview questions. Teresa wants to know more about how the Women’s Group operates, and what kinds of projects they work on. Frida, Beauty, and the teachers describe the Women’s Group agricultural project, as well as how they’ve worked hard to promote education and school attendance among girls who marry early. Teresa asks about how the teachers (none of whom have been through the Full Circle Learning training) integrate the Habits of Heart with the Zambian curriculum. Frida explains how this is very difficult for them, not just because most have not received the FCL training, but because the school is too poor to have the Zambian curriculum book, or text books that the Zambian education ministry requires them to use. Instead, Frida has to use her connections at a local public school to borrow the curriculum book and the text books, which she can copy only one section at a time. Seeing them struggle with the basics, and yet have such a great impact on the children and families in the John Howard neighborhood is pretty awe-inspiring.

The group interview lasts for approximately an hour and a half, and Frida takes us to the three rooms where there are classes. We see some of the same children from our Friday visit. There are approximately 60 children in the large classroom, sitting at picnic-table desk. The teacher explains what the class is learning. Two of the children sit on a table to the side, where they watch a video related to today’s lesson on a laptop. We move through the second room, and then into the third, where we see a student who is clearly older then the 10 to 12 year olds surrounding her. Frida introduces this non-traditional student, explaining that she is the mother of another student in that very class. The girl, who is about 10 years old, gets up from a desk at the back of the room, and comes to stand at the front next to her mom. The mom explains that her daughter is the her youngest child, and that after seeing her children thrive at the John Howard school, she decided that she too needed an education. So, she became the oldest 5th grader in the school.

We make our way out to the front of the school, standing near the water toward. It is 5pm, and many of the students are let out for the afternoon. About 20 students are playing a version of dodge-ball in the courtyard, and Porsche recognizes the game as one she used to love as a kid. She hands me her camera and asks the girls if she can play. They excitedly tell her to jump in. The game involves two people, standing opposite one another about 20 feet apart, throwing a make-shift plastic ball. Their aim is to hit the third person person standing in the middle (the player) with the ball. If the ball touches the player, then the player is declared “out.” But if the player catches the ball and throws it back, the player earns a point. At the end of the round, when all the players have had a chance, the one with the highest score (most number of catches) is declared the winner. After hopping and jumping and throwing the ball for about 5 minutes, Porsche is declared out. She comes over, laughing and gasping for air, explaining that she thought the kids took it easy on her in the beginning, probably because she was old.

As the sun begins to set, the wind picks up, and the temperature, which had been in the low 70s all day, plummeted. By the time our car arrived, it was downright cold. As we piled in, ready to head home, we crossed a set of train tracks. There are several sets of active tracks running through John Howard, and while we were doing the interview a train zoomed past, horn blaring. As we crossed over the tracks, I look northward up the rail line and could see the faint glint of a train light heading our way. But before the train, there were probably 60 or 75 people using the tracks as a path to get to wherever they were going. Here, there are no lights or arms at train crossings, so everyone really needs to be mindful of the trains. I ask the driver if people get hit sometimes, and he says that happens very rarely because people are aware of the trains at all times. I explain that, in the US, people are hit and killed every day by trains, despite the fact that trespassing on tracks is illegal. He seems confused by this, wondering how people cannot see or hear a train. I don’t have any insights for him.

When we arrive home, we discover that the electrician has repaired the lights in our room and bathroom, so Teresa and I no longer have to find our way in the dark. Bridget and Peter also made various items for dinner. We all sit around the living room, sans furniture, and eat. I send my husband a birthday text at 10:00am his time and head to bed around 8:30pm, sleeping until the next morning.

Michelle Walker in Zambia – Day 5

In June of 2017, Michelle Walker, Content Developer for DentalXChange, attended Full-Circle Learning Center’s Conference in Lusaka, Zambia to represent the EHG Fund and see how the program’s influence has shaped the school system and to learn what more we can do to help the Zambian people. Michelle wrote a daily log of her trip to help us experience her adventures. Here is Day 5:

School evaluation of Blessed Vale

I wake up early, around 5am, and am excited that today is the first day of school evaluations. The room is cold and dark, and I can hear Teresa getting ready in the bathroom, so I use my cell phone’s flashlight to search for the day’s tentative itinerary (which Davidson emailed to me a week before I left). The schedule says that we’re supposed to visit Mildred Academy all day today, but I overheard Davidson say on Friday that we were going to Beauty’s school (Blessed Vale) today, because we did not have the opportunity to visit last week. The schedules says that whatever school we visit, we’ll be there from 9:30am until 4:30pm, basically all day.

I decide to try to remember to bring a piece of fruit with me, so that I can have a snack between breakfast and dinner. I’m starting to realize that middle class Zambians usually eat two meals a day, and that many of the teachers, parents, and children that we encounter may only eat one meal per day. It’s a hard reminder for me that I take food for granted. I’ve only been here for three and a half days, and I’m already thinking about the politics of food: Did I take too much food, or not enough? Will I be hungry later? How do I eat food in front of children and adults who are also hungry? How can I avoid wasting food? Can I be more generous with the food I have? There are a lot more logistics involved than what I am accustomed to dealing with. I decide to take a banana with me, because it’s easy to store and I won’t have to clean it.

Teresa placed the interview questions in a folder for me, so that we can split up and conduct simultaneous interviews. I am not sure how well the teachers understand the evaluation process, that FCL’s support is not influenced by the findings in any punitive way. Teresa stressed that this is a way for FCL to determine strengths and challenges, and to identify needs, where they exist.

We are ready to depart by 9:30am, and Teresa, me, Davidson, Porsche, and Kyei Baffour climb into the car once it arrives. We head towards Beauty’s school Blessed Vale, the first FCL school in Zambia. Blessed Vale is near the city center, in a rough neighborhood, considered a slum, called Chibolya. It was only three years ago that the police and military had to entirely take over Chibolya in order to root out the drug dealers and other nefarious characters who were essentially running that part of town.

Our driver rolls up all of the windows, locks the doors, and tells me not to draw too much attention to myself by taking pictures with my cell phone, because there are lots of thieves and opportunists in this part of town, some of whom have been known to try to break into moving cars. When we reach Blessed Vale one of the older students is waiting for us at the gate, and begins pushing it open so we can pull into the small courtyard. As soon as well drive inside, the gate is pushed closed behind us.

The courtyard is made of dirt, and is wide enough for a car to turn around in, probably the size of two two-car garages. As we exit the car we can see the faces of some of the smaller children peering out of the glass-less port holes. Beauty greets us and ushers us into a small administrative office that is probably 10 by 10 feet. The room has a red concrete floor, plastered walls, and a wooden door. There are two small window opening, and a corrugated roof, which I can see some sky through. There is no lighting. Again, I find myself wondering how cold, wet, and dim this room must get during the rainy season, and I am inspired by the dedication of Beauty and her teachers, as well as the children, just for showing up in such uncomfortable conditions.

Beauty takes us on a tour of the school, which has 6 classrooms currently in use, and one classroom that is bare. The students range in age from 4 to 14. Beauty introduces Teresa and I to each of the classrooms. While the students do not seem surprised to learn that Teresa has come to visit them from America, they seem downright gleeful to learn that I, too, am American. Later I learn that, for most of these students, teachers, and parents, I am the first Black American they have ever met in person. Everyone knows who Will Smith is, or has heard a Beyonce song, but most people in Zambia have never met a Black person from America. Plenty of white people, but no black people. I reflect on this realization for a long time, and while Beauty has a meeting with Davidson, Teresa, and Mabel, I talk to Kyei Baffour about the African experience.

Baffour was an Archeology major in college in Ghana, and shared stories with me about doing archeological digs along the coast of Ghana, where major slave ports existed. We talked about how slaves who (according to my genetic profile) were likely my ancestors were shipped to the Americas from those ports. Baffour has never been to the US, but he noted that I am lucky to be American, that Africans, if they are really honest with themselves, wish they could be born as Americans in a next lifetime. I think about the struggles of African-Americans in the US, and how it’s ironic that many of us identify with a continent we know nothing about. The fact is that, for most of us, we are far more American than we could ever be African. The mere fact that black Americans are so rare to see in Africa is a testament to the cultural and psychological divide, as much as it is to any physical distance.

Davidson, Beauty, and Mabel come into the room, along with a gentleman and woman who both appear to be in their 50s or early 60s. The man, John, is essentially the head of the parents administrative organization, and is a liason between the school, parents, and the community. The woman, Anastasia, is the head of the PTA. They’re here because Beauty asked them to represent the parents, for evaluation purposes. There are three sets of interview questions: one for teachers, one for administrators, and one for parents and alumni. Teresa moves through the set of interview questions for John and Anastasia, and at times Beauty translates. I take additional notes.

Once this first interview is complete, I head out into the courtyard. Teresa mentioned that she does not have a good shot of Blessed Vale’s sign out front, and that she thought that would make a good picture. I notice that the door in the gate is open and that several people have stepped outside onto the driveway, including Baffour. I head for the door, clutching my DSLR, and step through. Chibolya looks different as a pedestrian, as opposed to a passenger in a car. In the car I could not experience the sounds, smells, and even the taste of the air the way I could standing on that sidewalk. It is a busy street with vendors located on either side, and across from, Blessed Vale. I take long glances up and down the sidewalk to check for safety, and carefully step over the uneven cobbled stone driveway. To get a good picture of the sign for the school, I need to straddle the ditch that runs down the middle of the sidewalk, which I do as I take a few pics. I surreptitiously snap several phots of the road, vendors, and even Baffour—trying not to make myself noticible. Just as I’m ready to take a couple of last photos I see Mabel step through the door out on the driveway and come towards me. In almost a stage whisper she says, “It’s not safe here—you need to go inside!” She said it too quietly for most of the people on the sidewalk to hear, but certainly loud enough for me. She waves Baffour back and tells him he needs to go inside as well. I am glad that I got my pictures of the Blessed Vale sign, and of Chibolya.

Back in the administrative office, Teresa interviews Beauty, and I interview Mabel. Once this is complete, we take a 15 minute break, and stretch. It is later afternoon now, and I am very hungry. I consider reaching in my bag for my banana, but confide in Porsche that I feel the need to hide while eating, so the kids can’t see me. She says she’s also hungry, so we huddle in a corner of the room cattycorner to the door so the kids will be unable to see us as we eat.

10 minutes later I resume the evaluation process, and start interviewing the longest standing teacher (besides Beauty) at Blessed Vale, a very quiet woman named Wilness. At the same time, Teresa begins to interview another teacher about her involvement in Girls United, an organization that is somewhat similar to the Girl Scouts.

After about an hour, the sun is beginning to set, and we wrap up the interviews. It would have been nice to interview all of the teachers (there are 6 or 7), but there simply isn’t time for that. As we await a car, Beauty introduces us to one of Blessed Vale’s graduates, a girl who successfully went on to complete her first year at public high school. I chatted with her and Teresa, and she told us she wanted to be a doctor, which is a reasonable goal because Lusaka has several well-regarded medical schools. It is interesting that so many of the children we meet want to be doctors (as opposed to engineers, builders, mathematicians, lawyers, accountants, etc.).

As we leave, Beauty lets us know that, when we return on Friday, the Blessed Vale students have a special presentation planned for us. The car drives through the gate and picks us up. On the way home we once again stop at Hungry Lion for dinner. This time I order a lot less food, but still manage to have a full container of coleslaw leftovers. Total fail.

 

 

Lindsey Schurman In Liberia – Day 4

Lindsey Int PhotoIn May 2016, Lindsey Schurman, Manager of Client Services atDentalXChange and a representative of the EHG Fund, went to Monrovia, Liberia to attend Full Learning Center’s Conference to see firsthand, the changes and challenges the Full Circle Learning has had to deal with to help that community. She was king enough to write a daily log so we can read about her adventures. 

Day 4 

20160527_104823We were lucky to start day 4 without rain. This allowed us to visit two schools outside of Monrovia, Korto and New Hope. The schools were about an hour’s drive away. This was not because it was a long distance away but required a large distance of driving over unpaved roads to get to the school. These roads were difficult to drive along and required much care. This is the case for most roads that lead to villages in Liberia. Davidson explained that the road to Korto had been slated for paving multiple times but when it came time to pave the road they were told by the government there was no money.

The school in Korto had planned to do a service project in town this Friday but was unable to due to the weather of the week. This is an area that has faced a great amount of gender based violence and one of the classes had planned a project to go out in to the community to ask about what ways they could do something in the community to prevent it. Instead we were able to visit the classrooms of each grade to meet the students. The school was no bigger than the 2 floors of our office building but there are currently just over 500 students enrolled. Additionally, the principal shared that over 100 students had left over the course of the year due to the inability to afford tuition.

Each class welcomed us and we had the opportunity to see some of the lessons. We entered the preschool class as they practiced their ABC’s, the first grade class as they practiced reading and the twelfth grade class as they spoke about the age of imperialism. We got to speak with teachers from all grade levels during a quick recess and watch the children play.

kids-school-yardWe then went to New Hope, a school that has remained tuition free to allow students the ability to attend school when they would otherwise be unable to. The director of this school was sick with typhoid at the time and was not able to make it to the school to meet us. Unfortunately when we arrived, school was done for the day but several children remained for the afternoon. Two girls were preparing for a performance on Saturday and we got to see them dance in traditional African outfits. I received a tour of the school from one of the teachers. Each of the classrooms I saw was small with only a few desks; in some cases, 2 or 3 grade levels were taught in the same room. After the tour I was told about what the school had done to assist with learning during the Ebola crisis. At the time, schools, business, government programs, etc. were closed and people were very afraid to go outside and interact due to the easy spread of the disease. It was described as a ghost town. In order to continue educating students that wished to continue learning, this particular school held classes underneath the mango trees just outside the grounds. The classes were so popular students had to be turned away when class size got to big to maintain.

After visiting schools, we drove to central Monrovia where we went to a library run by a program called We Care Liberia. This program and library were started to encourage pleasure reading, which would assist with the literacy problem in Liberia. The program also publishes books by Liberian authors to promote writing from the community. Several students were using the space to study and a volunteer with the library was giving a talk on Early Childhood Development and the necessity of literature in this process.

20160527_172453It was a very enlightening day that ended with pizza in central Monrovia followed by reviewing the newspaper articles that published a review of our conference from the day before with glowing remarks!

Lindsey Schurman In Liberia – Day 3


Lindsey Int PhotoIn May 2016, Lindsey Schurman, Manager of Client Services atDentalXChange and a representative of the EHG Fund, went to Monrovia, Liberia to attend Full Learning Center’s Conference to see firsthand, the changes and challenges the Full Circle Learning has had to deal with to help that community. She was king enough to write a daily log so we can read about her adventures. 

Day 3 – Education as Community Transformation

Today was such an inspirational and information packed day that I don’t know where to begin…

20160526_095438After arriving at a wonderfully decorated hall done by the volunteers of the FCL we started off by setting up the presentation then attempting to assist with registration as people began to flood in right before 10am. Once again, we had been hit with very bad rains overnight that made the attendance of so many that much more special. By the time we began, most of the seating was full and we were still waiting for 2 schools to arrive.

The conference started with a bang featuring speeches regarding the current state of education in Liberia and how change begins with programs like Full Circle Learning, as well as a speech focusing on the integrity of the community and instilling this in the children beyond the classroom.

20160526_105134Next, children from all 5 schools in attendance sang a song together. Davidson then walked through the program, thanked all those in attendance and spoke of the goals of the day. We were then able to see a presentation by two schools, one a quiz setup by elementary school children about modes of transportation and a role play portraying the importance of personal character.

Teresa then gave a speech about the Full Circle Learning organization. We were taught so much about the history of the curriculum, the locations and projects made out of Full Circle Learning, as well as the ideals that impact students, teachers, and parents alike in building a better community. It was inspiring to hear about the growth in Liberia alone! Since 2010, Full Circle Learning has been brought to 81 schools in Liberia with more wanting to be involved! The programs impacted by the EHG Fund stretch 5 counties in Liberia and impacts so many lives. Besides Liberia, this program has reached so many other countries as well. The impact of the program was felt in the room as so many people came together to hear and learn more.Teachers Lib

After Teresa was finished we heard from a student and two teachers about the service projects completed in schools. Beauty shared a story about the death of her mother and the initiative and compassion shown by her students in her time of mourning. The children collected food and helped raise funds and brought it to the funeral home and mourned with Beauty during her time of need. The story brought many people to tears, me included.

The day continued on with an open discussion about changes that can be made by the teachers, organizations looking to enhance education and the students themselves. More powerful speeches were given relating to changing the community that included ideas from different sectors. The entire day flew by as we played clapping games instead of applause and heard jokes from the emcee.

The conference was such a success across the board! You could see the excitement for participation from each group of attendees. It was such an honor to be a part of today. And the next one is already in planning!

IBe A Candle finished my day by quizzing Teresa about her life experiences and the journey Full Circle Learning has taken over the last 24 years. Tomorrow, we visit schools and hope for no rain so we can complete a service project with the kids.

Lindsey Schurman In Liberia – Day 2

Lindsey Int PhotoIn May 2016, Lindsey Schurman, Manager of Client Services at DentalXChange and a representative of the EHG Fund, went to Monrovia, Liberia to attend Full Learning Center’s Conference to see firsthand, the changes and challenges the Full Circle Learning has had to deal with to help that community. She was king enough to write a daily log so we can read about her adventures. 

Day 2

Delegation of NGOs meet at conference (1)Last night there was a torrential downpour that washed out our agricultural project scheduled for this morning and delayed the arrival of Dr. Teresa Langness, the President and Founder of Full Circle Learning. Davidson, Justin, Beauty (the director of the FCL program in Zambia) and I started the morning discussing the conference with a number of people involved in the planning. We went over the scheme of events, made any changes to the plan and brainstormed creative ways to manage the great number of people expected to attend. Davidson is still receiving calls from new individuals that want to be involved and the expected number of attendees is over 300 including the Minister of Education in Liberia! They are anticipating at least 50 students and up to 200 teachers.

We spent the next couple of hours compiling the packets for tomorrow’s attendees while the fans attempted to cool us (me) in the heat of the day. Several stories were shared of the positive experiences that have come out of the program. I was brought to tears by the teamwork and leadership of the children that are taught by teachers like Beauty. I know I will hear so many more stories at the conference tomorrow.

20160526_084359We then adventured to the venue and planned all decorations needed from town.  The available pieces and options were very limited and I will be surprised to see how so many people will fit in such a small space tomorrow. The five of us followed up this trip with another adventure to town where I got to try some rice with greens and fish Davidson had and I got to see how people drive, as if road lanes are a suggestion. I also got to experience the different cityscapes Monrovia has to offer. The streets were crowded with vendors and people. Monrovia has not been what I expected but also not what I am used to.

Today has been an experience in learning so much more of the curriculum Full Circle Learning is teaching, the difference it is making and learning about daily life in Liberia (and Zambia from Beauty). I even had Davidson teach me some words in their local language! The language uses English words and shortens them by taking letters off the end.

20160528_131724The day ended with dinner with Dr. Langness, where she told me about the beginnings of Full Circle Learning and her individual experiences with each of the different communities that have become a part of the FCL family. She is an inspiration to all.

 

To read about Lindsey’s Day 1 adventure click here.

Lindsey Schurman In Liberia – Day 1

Lindsey Int PhotoIn May 2016, Lindsey Schurman, Manager of Client Services at DentalXChange and a representative of the EHG Fund, went to Monrovia, Liberia to attend Full Learning Center’s Conference to see firsthand, the changes and challenges the Full Circle Learning has had to deal with to help that community. She was king enough to write a daily log so we can read about her adventures. 

Day 1 

I am now in Liberia! After 3 long flights, I’ve finally made it.

Getting off the plane we walked out onto the tarmac to board a bus and I instantly noticed the incredible humidity. It is very hot and rainy here. During my journey I was lucky to meet another man traveling to Liberia to see his wife. He really helped by getting me through the customs process. Upon reaching the terminal, we washed our hands and had our temperature taken; these are new requirements due to the Ebola outbreak over the last few years.

20160525_160316After getting through customs, I was a bit lost and confused. Thankfully, I was quickly greeted by Davidson, the Program Director of the Full Circle Learning – Liberia and Justin, a volunteer for the program, who helped me to the car to begin our drive to Monrovia.

20160525_160926We drove for about an hour from the airport to Sinkor, where the hotel is located, just outside Monrovia. Over the course of the drive, Davidson showed me different sites along the road. I asked questions about the war that took place up until 1995 and the impact Ebola had on the Full Circle Learning program as schools had been shut down at that time.

Due to the overnight flight I spent the afternoon resting. I look forward to meeting the other Full Circle Learning friends that will be arriving today.

After a wonderful resting period and dinner, I went for a walk with two of the girls that volunteer with Full Circle Learning. I was able to walk by their office and see the hustle and bustle of the early evening in Monrovia. The girls told me about the seasons and some about life in Liberia.

Tomorrow we will be participating in an agricultural project and I have planned another walk to see some more of the city with Betsy.

Check back next week to read Day 2 of Lindsey’s adventure in Liberia.