Construction of VET center is 99% complete
Construction of the Vocational Education & Training (VET) center is 99% complete! The final step is the installation of water and sanitation facilities, for which we are currently comparing bids from local companies. We anticipate this will be completed by the summer’s end.
Our office, library, and tutoring classes will be moving into the building in the coming months. The VET will also house the Women’s Weaving Cooperative. The weavers can now set up their looms under cover, just as the rainy season begins.
The community is excited about their new space…and so are we! Thank you to everyone who donated to make this happen. In particular, we want to thank the people of the German Democratic Republic who, through a grant from the German Embassy in Monrovia, made construction of the VET possible. Vielen danken!
finding resources for a deaf student
Inside the sweltering rental car, Juliana sits wedged between her parents in the rear seat. The vehicle zigs and zags along the bumpy road, trying to avoid the large pot holes. No one speaks. We pass small villages of one-room, mud-brick houses with warped, rusty metal roofs. The landscape alternates between remnants of rainforest, parcels of land cleared for cultivation, and tidy groves of rubber trees and African oil palms.
Juliana is thirteen years old. Her stern gaze is fixed on the road ahead. Her facial expression is blank. There is not the hint of a smile.
What is she thinking? What is she feeling?
Juliana is at the heart of this 45-minute trip from Kolahun District to Voinjama: She is deaf.
Because of her inability to hear or converse, Juliana meets RESTORE HOPE: LIBERIA’s criteria for beneficiary enrollment in the RHL program that supports children who are disadvantaged by childhood disability, parental loss or parental disability.
In recent months, both James Kpangbai, RHL’s Field Coordinator, and Margret Gieraths-Nimene, RHL’s then Country Program Director, have been exploring suitable schooling options for Juliana. In Liberia, schools for the deaf are rare. Although RHL has supplied Juliana and her family with sign language books and although she’s enrolled in a conventional local school, it’s clear she needs more resources.
A nun, Sister Ann Kelly, had recently told James about a new school for the deaf in Voinjama. Today we’re going with Juliana and her parents to visit this school.
In Voinjama, we stop to get final directions to the school. I catch a glimpse of Juliana; her face still emotionless. Is she nervous? Scared? Apprehensive? Excited? Unsure? Eager? Reluctant?
It’s been seven months since Juliana enrolled at the Voinjama Academy for the Deaf. James in Kolahun has called to tell me he’s sent photos of some of RHL’s beneficiaries, including Juliana.
I open the file of photos and read the first caption: “Juliana and her school mates.” She has friends, she is connected to the world through relationships. And she’s smiling! A sign of HOPE.
“There is substantial evidence in the psychological and sociological literature that individuals with richer networks of active social relationships tend to be more satisfied and happier with their lives.”
Loss of our friend and teacher
It is with great sadness that we report the death of our friend and brother, Francis Kanneh, on January 31, 2019. Francis was a teacher who for the past several years served as RESTORE HOPE: LIBERIA's head tutor and head of our after-school tutoring and adult literacy programs. In spite of increasing health challenges, Francis was ever present, always with an easy smile, always helpful no matter the task. He was courageous and dedicated and was beloved by the children, the RHL families, and his friends and colleagues.
Francis was originally from the Vahun District of Liberia; he grew up and attended primary and secondary school in Kailahun, Sierra Leone. He received his initial teachers’ certificate from Bonumbu Teacher’s College in Sierra Leone. Later, after two years at the International Rescue Committee’s Refugee School in Kountaya, Guinea, during the Liberian Civil War, he earned a Diploma for teaching the Integrated Course of Study based on the Secondary School Curricula for Liberia & Sierra Leone.
After the war, Francis returned to Kailahun where he taught at St. Joseph’s Primary School for 7 years, and then for another 3 years at the Musu Kanneh Public School in Kolba City, Kolahun, Lofa County, Liberia.
Poor health forced Francis into an early “retirement” from public school teaching but did not slow him down much. He joined RESTORE HOPE: LIBERIA in 2013 and continued his teaching and meeting with our many students, parents and caregivers, and many area teachers and school principals. His responsibilities as our “Principal” included assessing student needs and coordinating our tutorial curriculum with the curriculum in more than a dozen different schools in the Kolahun District.
RHL and the Kolahun community have lost a friend and dedicated teacher. But we are heartened that Francis' spirit and determination live on in the members of the communities we serve who will take this work forward. His memory prompts us all to rededicate our efforts.
To all our friends and colleagues: you may not have known Francis, but when you see his work, see him in action among the vulnerable kids and families of Kolahun, in rural Lofa County, Liberia, you will recognize the face of dedication and service, compassion and resilience, a man who was gentle yet strong and determined. And you'll see the work of recovery and development based on a holistic, community-centered, grassroots model that has emerged in the aftermath of war and disease.
We hope you’ll enjoy this short video vignette of Francis' work and time with RHL in Kolahun.