School in Liberia is open and growing
A project that originated in Cleveland Heights is bringing education and hope to a remote part of West Africa. The Dougbe River Presbyterian School is the first school in Grand Gedeh County, Liberia, the birthplace of Isaac Monah, an elder at Noble Road Presbyterian Church.
The school opened in November 2012 and now has 130 students: 69 girls and 61 boys, from kindergarten through seventh grade. Most walk about a mile and a half from one of two villages that donated 150 acres of land for the campus midway between the villages.
Monah realized the need for a school in 2007, when he visited his home village in Twarbo Region for the first time since he fled from a civil war 17 years earlier. His refugee journey took him to Ghana, where he finished high school, at the age of 27, before coming to the United States and landing a job at the Cleveland Clinic.
Last May, six months after the Dougbe school opened, Monah finally had the opportunity to see his dream in operation. “I felt like it was something the whole community was celebrating,” he said. “Not only that the school was open, but that it brought the whole community together.”
What has happened in Twarbo is the result of partnerships with organizations ranging from elementary schools and small congregations to the United Nations Mission in Liberia and Welthungerhilfe, a German hunger-aid agency that spent $180 million in 39 countries last year. In Cleveland Heights, contributions came from Noble and Roxboro elementary schools, as well as Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Church of the Saviour, Fairmount Presbyterian Church, Forest Hill Church, Grace Lutheran Church and Hope Lutheran Church.
The Dougbe School is growing rapidly, as eager parents send their children to live with relatives in Sayuo and Buway, the two villages in Twarbo Region that are close to the campus. The children eat breakfast and lunch at school. Some live in Sayuo or Buway during the week and walk several miles to go home for the weekend. Eventually, the plan for the school calls for the construction of dormitories to enable children from a wider area to attend.
The staff of seven teachers, all Liberians, is led by the principal, Bob Nueita, who moved across the country from the town of Gbarnga to take the job. This fall, Twarbo Region residents, eager to make the teachers feel welcome, built simple houses for them on campus.
The school is helping to lead a wave of development that is improving the standard of living in Grand Gedeh’s Konobo district, which includes Twarbo Region.
Solar generators at the school are producing the first electricity in Twarbo. Welthungerhilfe installed hand-pump wells, including one behind a Dougbe River classroom building, around the district. Welthungerhilfe is also building concrete-and-metal bridges throughout Konobo to replace the wooden planks that repeatedly rotted. Tiyatien Health, known in the United States as Last Mile Health, is training Konobo villagers to provide health care in the region, including at the school. In October, cell phone service returned to the area after the tower in Zieh Town, the city that is Konobo’s hub, had been inoperative for several years.
Learn more about the school at a fundraising event on Nov. 24 at Rockefeller’s restaurant, 3099 Mayfield Road (at Lee Road) in Cleveland Heights. The event, which costs $35 per person and will include food and music, will celebrate the school’s first anniversary. Advance ticket purchases can be made by contacting Noble Road Presbyterian Church at 216-382-0660 or by using a PayPal link on the school’s website, www.drpsl.com.
John Luttermoser is the secretary of the general board for the Dougbe River Presbyterian School.