Karrus Hayes, the founder of VAAFD met me on the way to visit the Carolyn A. Miller School. He had traveled to Monrovia from where he currently lives, about three hours outside the city. On our taxi ride to the school, Karrus told me a little about his life and his motivation for starting this organization. He told me about how he had escaped Liberia’s war and traveled to Ghana by boat. As he grew up in the Ghanaian refugee camp he noticed children idling and playing games in the street during the hours that school was in session. When he asked them why they weren’t in school they replied that their parents could not afford the school fees that were required. This inspired Karrus to start the first Carolyn A. Miller School for the Liberian refugees in the camp where he lived in Ghana. The school is completely free to students and has been running successfully for several years.
After Karrus returned to Liberia, he noticed the same problem happening in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. Refugees that were returning to Liberia were not able to afford the school fees and many children were not attending classes. He set up another Carolyn A. Miller School in Liberia targeting the growing stream of returnees from Ghana.
This school, also free, currently has about 450 students between the ages for 4 and 29. They teach kindergarten through 12th grade, and about half of their students are former refugees returned from Ghana.
As we approached the school, children of all ages dressed in orange and black streamed down the road. School had just ended and the students were happily heading home. I met with the principal and many of the students and they showed me the classrooms. Broken chairs and tables lay around the room. They are being used, but many of the students must sit on the floor during their lessons. But there is no money for new desks, so the students make due.
Karrus explained that raising funds for the school in Liberia has proven to be a much more difficult task than raising funds in Ghana. In Ghana the school gets visitors from the US and other countries regularly, who provide volunteer support and donations. This is not the case in Liberia, which does not yet attract the type of tourism that Ghana does. GlobalGiving is currently the school in Liberia’s only means of support, but these donations do not always cover the monthly budget it takes to run the school.
Currently the school operates on a budget of about $1700 a month - $1440 goes towards teachers’ salaries, $225 toward rental of the building, and the rest towards food for the free daily meal that the school provides to every student each day. Currently they are several months behind on teachers’ salaries and the teachers are threatening to not give the students their final exam.
The principal is looking for creative ways to make the school sustainable – selling crafts or agricultural production are possibilities they’ve suggested – so that they can continue to provide education free of charge to repatriated Liberians. Until then, they will continue to rely on their GlobalGiving donations. A donor can cover an entire teacher’s salary for only $40 a month. After talking with the teachers and staff, I see the real benefit Karrus and the school are providing to these students, so I am setting up a monthly recurring donation on GlobalGiving to help the school continue their work.
As an added incentive to support this school, on June 16 GlobalGiving is matching all donations up to $1,000 per person at 50%!
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1001 Monrovia 10,
1001 Monrovia 10,