Tuesday, May 21, 2013


We always talk about the importance of education, of completing high school (at the very least) and of moving onto higher education, if possible.  Most people value education, not just in the US, but around the world.  Throughout the 15 years I lived and worked in W. Africa, in a variety of settings (very much in the countryside, in small towns, and in larger cities), education is a concern many people came to talk with me about.  They worried how they’d pay school fees for their kids, they worried about completing their own high school education, they wanted to take some technical classes (computer/anything to give them additional knowledge and skills), they wanted vocational training (sewing, shoe making, etc.) - - they wanted to learn!  They wanted opportunities!  And, as in the US, it’s expensive and not easy to meet those expenses.  Elementary school requires uniforms and other hidden fees; high school also has uniforms, books, other supplies and exam fees; university – where to start?; vocational training – an entire list of supplies that are needed.

I’ve been back in the US for a year and a half, and there are still a handful of people who, with some help that came through me thanks to friends, family and other donors, started school while I was there.  We started a process, and their dream (and my dream) is to finish that process.  But, it’s a struggle.  Every few months, I get reminders that fees are due.  I feel the weight of these dreams – but I’m thinking dreams should lift us up and carry us away.  I’m feeling not just weighted down, but sinking.  Where and how will I find what’s needed this time?  In addition, over the past few years there have been a handful of other people who have asked about going on with school, one who even has started to follow this dream - - - but, I’ve told them there’s nothing I can do.  I’m totally jammed with the handful of people who are finishing.  Anyway . . . these are the dreams – to be able to take care of their kids, fulfill their potential, and live their lives with dignity.

I could give several specific stories of people who dream of bringing their lives forward through education – and some are ones I’ve written about before – but I’ll only give two examples – familiar examples (if you’ve read the blog before).

Benedict, about whom I’ve written a few times, is the guy I mention above who has started to pursue his education with money he had in savings and a donation I’d received.  But, that’s gotten him through one semester, and the beginning of semester 2.  And now he’s jammed.  He’s getting to the time when they’re putting people out of the school for not paying the balance of the tuition, and at the same time confronting them with exam fees. Then there’s Jethro, who I’ve also written about before – and he’s been doing some amazing things with the education he’s received so far – yet, he still has a couple more payments to come up with before he finishes.  

I also want to give an update and education example about Samuel – someone I have known for 20 years.  He was a refugee in Cote d’Ivoire when I met him, and then also in Ghana when trouble came to Cote d’Ivoire.  His dream was to complete high school – and we were able to help him to do that.  It wasn’t easy for him – he definitely pulled his weight in earning his own upkeep and other education-related expenses.  When we were once again together a decade later in Ghana, his dream was to complete University.  He’d started it on his own while employed at the embassy and living in Cote d’Ivoire, but that dream crashed down when he had to flee due to the turmoil in Cote d’Ivoire.  I wrote about him in my blog, and a friend responded, helping him to go onto university in Ghana and complete his education. 
This picture was taken with his wife last year, when I was doing a field visit to our lay missionaries in Liberia.  Samuel and his wife moved back to Liberia when he completed his university education.  He found a job in a development agency and with his salary was able to pay for his wife to complete her university education in Liberia.  The agency he works with helps women in development, giving small business loans.  His wife is a social worker, focusing on abused and orphaned children.  This is what education does.  It allows people to build up their country and to touch lives and make a difference.


At 8:35 PM, Blogger MJ said...

I always enjoy reading your updates on the people you and all your contacts have helped and continue to help. It's such a warm, fuzzy feeling to know that they haven't been forgotten and also haven't forgotten you once they have completed their education--and I know that it gives you such a good feeling to see them able to complete their education, and unfortunately such a frustrated feeling when some aren't able to finish due to finances---but you have done so much for so many already that you have definitely left your mark on the people there.

At 8:35 PM, Blogger MJ said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

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