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!

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Lindsey Schurman and Her Time in Liberia

“I can only hope I go through my everyday life caring about others in the ways I saw Liberians do” – Lindsey SchurmanLindsey Int Photo

The EHG Funds’ commitment to helping the community and the world abroad is a direct reflection of the employees of DentalXChange. Their unparalleled passion for wanting a better future for the children of our world has lead us to find like-minded organizations to help support; organizations like the Full Circle Learning Center.

Full Circle Learning was launched following the civil unrest of 1992 in Los Angeles, to help children caught in the maelstrom of the times. Its early volunteers from various community organizations served the Baldwin Hills neighborhood, working in space donated by the Baha’i community. They found the need for long-term, organic change and designed a curriculum that would help students develop a deeper sense of purpose for their learning and in their lives. The research-based, time-tested educational approach that was developed quickly attracted the interest of the broader learning community and is now taught all over the world.

In 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.

We sat down with Lindsey and asked her to give some details about her trip.

How did you get involved with the EHG Fund?

I had been aware of the EHG Fund throughout working at DentalXChange and encouraged providers to donate based on their claim submission throughout my history with DXC but my involvement has been more recent, when I took the time to find out what Full Circle Learning is doing for the global community. In Liberia, I was aware of the difference they were making with girls in a community that is deeply impacted by gender violence.

What is the EHG Fund doing to help Full Circle Learning?

Teachers LibThe EHG Fund has helped to facilitate Full Circle Learning’s exponential growth over the last 10+ years. Specifically in Liberia, the program has only been in the country for 6 years and has grown to 81 schools with many more on the horizon. In August, they expect to hold a training seminar for 3000 teachers and school administrators, which will bring the school count to over 100 in Liberia.

What is the age range of the kids in school?

I met children of all grade levels K-12.

What is the curriculum that they are teaching these children?

Kids School yardThe curriculum is what is required by the state but when teachers are trained in the Full Circle Learning program they are able to shape it to include ideas that promote community building, leadership and humanitarianism.

Did you participate in any activities while at the conference or with the schools? 

I did participate in some activities at the conference. I sat with the Non-Governmental Officials at the conference and had an open guided discussion about how we can help kids incorporate the theme of the conference into their lives outside of the classroom. We also discussed facilitating the growth of the Full Circle Learning ideas in the classroom by getting involved with the teachers and administrators. We had 2 projects planned for our trip, 1 agricultural project and 1 marketplace project, but both were unfortunately canceled due to rain..

What was your favorite part of your trip?

It is hard to pick a favorite part. I think if I had to narrow it down, I would choose watching people (the ministry, teachers, school principals, and FCL) speak so passionately about what they want to change in Liberia’s current education system and what needs to change. It was inspiring!

What more can people do to help?

Be A CandleDonations are key for Full Circle Learning. Currently in Liberia, they are planning to host a training seminar for 3000 teachers and require funds to set this up and provide each school with Full Circle curriculum. Funds from the program go toward training teachers, providing them with the curriculum books and other resources needed to continue the program, transportation and food for the trainings, and a small stipend for staff of the program.

How did this trip affect you personally?

Lindsey withComing out of the trip, I have a much better understanding of life in Liberia and Full Circle Learning. On a personal level, there were multiple times during the trip I had to step outside my comfort zone in order to move forward with my day. One example, there was no running water is most of the buildings I visited, which meant putting water in your own toilet. I was able to see firsthand how communal their society is and how they work together for the betterment of their children. I can only hope I go through my everyday life caring about others in the ways I saw Liberians do.

 

We thank Lindsey for her efforts with the EHG Fund and for taking the time to talk to us. Lindsey has written a daily log for her adventures in Liberia and we will be featuring them each week on this Blog, starting next week.

If you would like to donate to the EHG Fund or learn more about whom we support, click here.