Moving to Liberia: A Volunteer's Reflection

Claire is a volunteer on Liberia Mission who joined the team last summer. Enjoy this reflection she wrote about her time in Liberia so far:

Claire helping prepare our grounds for our 15th anniversary celebration in November.

Claire helping prepare our grounds for our 15th anniversary celebration in November.

During my sophomore year of high school, the Caudle family who I knew from church, moved to Liberia Mission for 2 years (Greg Caudle was Liberia Mission’s former Director). They packed up their family of 6, left their jobs, and came to Liberia. They were so excited about coming to Liberia Mission, that they made the whole process seem easy.

I think that was the same time that God started working on me. By the time all of my peers were deciding where they were going to attend college, I had decided to take a year off. I graduated in May 2018 and left for Liberia in August. I have been in Liberia for 5 months now, and I’ll be here for one more month. My time here has been so exhilarating that it feels like I’ve only been here a month, and the sadness of my coming departure is slowly growing.

I’m often asked about what I like best about living here, but I never have an answer. There’s simply too much here to love.  If Liberia Mission had a marketing brochure, I’m sure it would provide the details of the residential program for the poorest of the poor, the school for 435 students, and the Catholic values that inform all that we do. But what’s far more difficult to describe is the excitement that fills this place, the community culture that cultivates personal growth, the energy of the students, and the unconditional love we have for one another.

Claire picking fruit on Liberia Mission’s farm.

Claire picking fruit on Liberia Mission’s farm.

My days here on the mission are spent in a wide variety of ways. I don’t have a specific job but I help kids with homework during study hall time, work on short term projects, and assist in the office. I sometimes “help” in the kitchen, where I’ve learned a lot about African cooking.

Then there are all the things that would have worried me if I had known about them before I came. From being awakened by a rooster or a donkey, to the persistent ant bites and the constant heat, I see that it’s these differences that make living here so special. When you add in Saturday water fights, volleyball, working in the community outside our walls, and quiet evening conversations, living here feels like paradise.

There were some routines I was not prepared for, like waking up at 5:00 for Morning Prayer, but the longer I am here, the more I love them. When our voices break the morning silence, God is present. Coming half way around the world has not been easy every step of the way, but it has given me the opportunity to see how people outside of where I have grown up live. I have seen a single motorbike carrying an entire family, gas stands selling fuel from old mayonnaise jars, and people living in houses made from corrugated zinc. I’ve also seen people filled with a joy so uncontrolled that they break into song and dance.

When our voices break the morning silence, God is present.
— Claire
Claire (on right) with Grace, our Financial Manager, celebrating graduation at Booker Washington Institute.

Claire (on right) with Grace, our Financial Manager, celebrating graduation at Booker Washington Institute.

There is so much more I could say about Liberia Mission and my experience here. I’ve learned to love all the pigs, cows, dogs and everything in between. I’ve felt God’s ever-present love through prayer and in worship. So when my day ends with three new ant bites and I’m longing to eat something other than rice, I think about how lucky I am to have had a day full of laughter, smiles, friends and unforgettable memories.

I don’t know of any place else like Liberia Mission; it’s truly special and will forever hold a special place in my heart.

How Our Students Spend the Afternoon

New Ideas for a New Year

We have lots of new and exciting activities going on in our afternoon program at Liberia Mission! Students attend school in the morning, eat lunch and have a few minutes of rest and then join our afternoon program. The students first work for one hour on our farm each weekday. In addition to learning how to plant and maintain crops, students also learn how to raise and take care of animals, such as cows, pigs, goats, donkeys, and sheep.  

Students start each afternoon with an hour of work on Liberia Mission’s 13 acre farm.

Students start each afternoon with an hour of work on Liberia Mission’s 13 acre farm.

While gaining appreciation of a job well done, students develop the work ethic required to be successful, particularly in the area of agriculture—a very important sector of Liberia’s growing economy. We also supplement this physical labor with various activities introduced below that serve to enrich our students’ appreciation of faith and education.   

Here is what are students are up to each afternoon:

Students studying the Bible at their Monday Faith Talk.

Students studying the Bible at their Monday Faith Talk.

Monday

On Monday we start the week off right with our Faith Talk, led by our lay missioners Grace Miller and John Young.  It is a moment that the students can ask questions and get to know more about the Catholic faith. We will soon be heading into the season of Lent, so we really want our students to have a clear understanding of its importance to the faith.  

Students work on a science experiments together on Tuesdays.

Students work on a science experiments together on Tuesdays.

Tuesday

On Tuesdays we utilize our science lab for our Science Activity.  So far we have all learned about electromagnetism by making an electromagnet from batteries, electrical wires, and nails.  We also learned the science behind spiciness as we investigated which substance—water, milk, soda, or bread—has been proven to cool the effects of hot pepper…milk won!  Right now we are still waiting for our “depression flower garden” to grow from our salt, bluing, water, and charcoal mixture. So every Tuesday we try to have a little fun learning about simple scientific concepts that we can demonstrate with materials we can find around the mission.

Students enjoy reading novels on Wednesday.

Students enjoy reading novels on Wednesday.

Wednesday

On Wednesdays we go into our mission’s library to read novels for one hour.  The students have all selected a book appropriate to their respective reading levels, and they read them in silence during our Reading Hour.  At the beginning of the activity, we usually review some tips on how to become better readers. When someone finishes his/her book, they will give a book report and receive a special prize!  So we thank God for the opportunity to have a library with so many books!

Thursday

We strengthen our spelling on Thursdays during our Spelling Bee.  The students form teams and go head-to-head in a competition that, in addition to making us all better spellers, is also a lot of raucous fun!

Students taking their quizzes on Friday.

Students taking their quizzes on Friday.

Friday

On Friday the students take a quiz on all the material covered during the week’s activities.  If they score well enough, then they receive a sweet reward (candy!). So far the vast majority of all the students have always received candy, and this is definitely encouraging!

It Is Not All Work…

The spirit of the new year and new beginnings is alive and well here at Liberian Mission, and our afternoon program really reflects a collected effort to strengthen our core values.  But, we have a lot of fun, too! We play volleyball, soccer, kickball, and even basketball sometimes! There are many ways for us to enhance the quality of our lives; and for that opportunity, we give all thanks and glory to God!

2018 Impact Report

2018 was a year of celebration in honor of our 15th year serving the poorest of the poor in Liberia, West Africa. In addition to our anniversary festivities the year was marked by many accomplishments.

Thank you for making all this possible:

God

  • St. Michael’s, our chapel, was open 24/7 for prayer and quiet time with Jesus.

  • Weekly Mass attendance has grown to 85.

  • Liberia Mission students volunteered over 1200 service hours to the Blacktom Town community, visiting the sick, bereaved and elderly.

  • We welcomed our new parish priest, Fr. Yao, from the Missionary order of St. Paul.

Education

  • Our school had an enrollment of 470 students with 53% girls and 47% boys.

  • 100% of our students received some type of financial aid.

  • We broke ground and completed a new school bathroom, in a country where, according to UNICEF, only 56% of schools have functional sanitation facilities.

  • Liberia Mission Mission provided 41 full ride high school scholarships, with 6 students graduating in October.

  • We have 9 students in our university scholarship program, with the 6 who just graduated high school preparing for college entrance exams.

Work

  • 18 of our high school seniors did their internships at various companies and government departments around Liberia. The students were placed in jobs according to their area of study including Plumbing, Electrical, Drafting, Accounting, Agriculture, and Construction trades. They were placed in Bomi, Bong, Lofa, Margibi, Nimba and Montserrado counties. Six of our BWI seniors did their internships on the Mission.

  • Our student managed agriculture program brought in over $12,700. The program includes both animal and plant agriculture.

  • Our Student Work Program provided our students with hands-on training while improving the mission. The 2018 Student Work program projects included: building a new septic tank for the girl's dorm, replacing the water storage tanks, building the school bathroom, renovating the piggery and replacing ½ the roof, painting the school, fixing the church roof, welding the school fence, fixing all the dorm bathrooms, repairing and replacing all nonfunctioning electrical sockets, outlets and switches, and building a new garden fence.

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Thank you for another incredible year of service and growth. In the words of St. Francis, "Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." Thank you for helping us accomplish the impossible during 2018!