When Greg and Kristi Zimmerman decide to have house guests, don’t count on meeting some folks from Northern Wisconsin. Liberia is more likely.
Langley and Quita Kialain are enjoying their visit with the Zimmermans, who have spent time in Liberia helping with educational training and now have become very appreciated and valued friends.
The Kialains had something important in common with the Zimmermans before they even met. They are all educators.
Langley is the Principal of the Borto Early Childhood Elementary and Junior High Academy in Liberia and Greg is the principal of Hillsboro’s Junior-Senior High School. Quita is the Director of Borto and Kristi is a teacher at Wonewoc-Center.
Both of the visitors speak English and offered a very enlightening history of Liberia, a country that was founded by freed slaves from the United States after the civil war. This resulted in a solid connection between the two countries and, even to this day, the Liberians look upon the U.S. as sincere benefactors and continuing supporters.
The Liberians had to overcome their own more recent civil wars which left the country torn apart physically, monetarily, and emotionally.
The United States, however, became a much appreciated ally and after the overthrow and execution of several dictators, the U.S. proved to be a friend in need and, according to Langley, a mentor for Liberians.
“Some folks in the U.S. are unfamiliar with Liberia, but the children there study about George Washington and his leadership in the American Revolution before becoming the first President,” Langley noted.
Obviously, the Liberians not only admire and respect America, but also see it as a friend that is helping them grow and improve their country.
The Kialains were also very thankful for the American assistance in the recent Ebola scare, citing the bravery and helpfulness of U.S. soldiers in building much needed medical facilities that made a major difference in Liberia’s relatively minor setbacks.
Educationally speaking, Americans also are a big factor in Liberia’s continual struggle to improve educational opportunities. And that is where Greg and Kristi play a major role, both in personal trips to Liberia to train teachers and also fund raising efforts back home.
This has been accomplished through the cooperation of the Hillsboro Wesleyan Church and the Hillsboro School District.
The church has been a conduit for monetary contributions to “Hope’s Cause,” and tech students at the school have sent over many homemade school supplies, such as small, framed chalk boards that substitute for “high tech” equipment taken for granted in the U.S.
Their fund-raising campaign is named “Hope’s Cause” for a child orphan who was adopted by a friend of Kristi after she visited the orphanage in Liberia.
Quita explained that a family with six children can only afford to send two of them to school and supplies are always needed.
“The first time I came to the U.S., I visited a school and was shocked to see that every student had a computer and Ipad,” she recalled. “If those children ever visited a school in Liberia, they would be forever grateful to their own country and parents.”
Talking to Langley and Quita, it was apparent throughout the somewhat emotional conversation that education was the key and the dream to their long-term goals.
Hope’s Cause to Liberia follows a mission statement: “Every child in Liberia deserves a high quality education so they can be given hope, empowerment, and the necessary skills to create a better future for themselves and their country.”
With this in mind, Hope’s Cause to Liberia is partnering with Borto School to help raise funds to build a new school, buy necessary curriculum and supplies, offer teacher training, and provide the community children with a quality education.
The Borto School is located in a suburb of Monrovia, the capital of Liberia.
The building, of course, needs a lot of work, but it states it’s motto on a large sign on the side of the old building: “Education is the light of the world.”
The enrollment has grown from 40 to 167 in two years. The goal is for an enrollment of 2,000 in 20 years.
They would like to also move in the direction of instruction in skills training for immediate jobs in the work force for more mature students ages 18 to 21.
The current large costs are mostly from rent, teachers’ salaries, teacher training, and daily meals. They consider the meals very important because for many of the students it is the only nutritious meal they will receive all day.
It is, of course, a private school since, unlike many countries, in Liberia there is no public education.
Here are some other eye-opening facts about Liberia:
• Its population is 4.6 million.
• 250,000 people were murdered during the 14-year civil war.
• Eighty percent of the people are unemployed.
• Ninety five percent of the people live in poverty, making $2 or less a day.
• Average wages are $1 a day.
• There is no electricity, no landlines, no running water, and no sewage system.
• 73.3% of males have basic reading and writing skills.
• 41.6% of females have basic reading and writing skills.
• 40% of girls and 42% of boys are in primary school.
• School fees are $100 to $150 per term.
• 25,000 high school students failed a basic college entrance exam.
A meet-and-greet fundraiser will be held Sunday, June 28 at the shelter in Field Veterans Memorial Park along the lakefront at 5:30 p.m. Food will be available.
Donations to give hope to Liberian children through education can be mailed to Hope’s Cause, Hillsboro Wesleyan Church, P.O. Box 445, Hillsboro, WI 54634.