Thursday, August 29, 2013

Back To School...

By now, families in the US have settled comfortably into yet another school year – parents have successfully adjusted schedules to accommodate drop off/pick up times, professionals have altered their work commutes to account for the additional traffic, school supplies have, in bulk, been purchased and put to good use, summer reading has frantically been completed, new college students have begun adjusting to dorm life and a diet of mainly ramen noodles, and teachers have commenced their yearly initiative to prepare their students for the increasing standardized testing criteria. Our country’s challenges as they relate to educating our children are hectic but manageable. The popular grievances are the ever-growing supply list for elementary school students (“Honestly, two reams of computer paper?!” Sound familiar?), class sizes, transportation, scheduling conflicts and the like. Ultimately when the dust finally settles, the reward outweighs the challenge and all is right with the world.

CCH students at the 2012/2013 graduation.
As the children of CCH begin their school year, the challenges faced are quite different. School is not guaranteed to any child or adult in Liberia. In fact, all schooling comes with a fee, to the tune of anywhere from $100-150 per year for elementary school and $200-300 per year for secondary education. With a large majority of household income below the poverty level (less than $2 USD/day earned) the idea of schooling is a distant dream for most children and their parents. There are few public schooling options in Liberia. Most schools are supported by charitable organizations, and it’s estimated that 62% of the country’s teachers are under qualified. What’s more, about 85% of students in elementary school range from ages 8 – 20 with 50% being between 11 and 20 years old. For the citizens of Liberia, the question of “Will I ever graduate?” is not just a complacent student’s response, but rather a harsh reality. An overwhelming majority do not.

 During HALO’s June visit, our team was able to witness and partake in two major milestones for education at CCH.

Our six graduates, three from Kindergarten to 1st grade
and three from 5th to 6th grade.
6 of the children graduated from either kindergarten to 1st grade or 5th grade to 6th grade.  Graduations are a considerably different, very formal ceremony in Liberia. Each grade put on a performance for the audience, including several songs and skits. In turn, the staff spoke about their pride in their position as well as the accomplishments of individual students and their plans for the future, and the caregivers put on a performance for the audience of a traditional Liberian dance. Nyempu, Fungbeh and Neyor’s daughter, put on a performance dedicated to all the students and encouraged them to be silly sometimes and enjoy life.

2012/2013 graduation. Note the kids anxiously awaiting an exciting performance!


 Aptitude Evaluation

Katie and one of her favorite students,
Jerry, at graduation.
Hannah and Josiah. Josiah
had the highest grade
in the school for last
Hannah Brittain and Katie Eaton are both teachers by profession and volunteered their summer to stay behind and give the kids some individual time after the rest of the group had gone back to the states. During the month they were there, they administered standardized testing to each child based off of their respective grade level. The results were varied but there was marked progress for each child. Remarking on the progress made, Katie said, “Just the individual time with the younger kids was so important – even more important than their test results. We were able to identify several learning disabilities just based off of the time it took certain children to answer questions, watching how they calculated certain math problems, or what level they were comprehending their reading assignments.”
Lorenzo helps with a graduation presentation
on the Liberian holidays.

Neyor helps the kids with a graduation presentation on
high blood pressure, a very common condition in Liberia.
 In addition to these accomplishments, Hannah and Katie were able to build a functioning library for the kids with books donated from several of our ambassadors, organized by subject and age target. Several supplemental materials were also brought and shared with the teachers. The Liberian government has an established curriculum for grade school that is relatively comparable to the US curriculum (with cultural differences such as Science mainly being geared towards horticulture and farming), but most schools lack the resources to give children practical application for the material they are learning. Several workbooks in varying subjects were supplied and explained to the teachers, which will benefit the children’s educational development greatly in the new school year. Each teacher was also evaluated for capacity to teach their designated grade and it was determined that all are qualified to teach the material they are responsible for.


For more information about our children and their educational progress, visit

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

First Thing's First - Malaria.

The HALO team has made two trips to Liberia so far this year. In an effort to not overwhelm you the reader with information, over the course of the next several weeks, information will be posted in segments about the details of the trips we’ve taken in 2013 as well as facts about the country itself.

HALO Ambassador Kelly Steckelberg with the local children
during the June 2013 Medical Mission.
The HALO Project’s goals are simple – give hope and a future to a community otherwise devoid of resources through the loving care of orphaned children and others left to fend for themselves. Our message is clear – you, Liberia, are not alone.

Medical treatment in Liberia is lacking at best. Most families would not be able to afford proper medical treatment if they were even aware any was available. Routine checkups are out of the question and many Liberians suffer daily with medical issues easily and commonly treated in the United States and other countries.