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By Stephanie Vickers
LEAP Site Administrator

A team of Friends of Liberia LEAP advisers/trainers (Joan Hamilton, Mike Waite, Susan McIntyre, Clifflyn Bromling and myself, Stephanie Vickers) went to Liberia in August 2004 to help the small group of 13 LEAP trainers establish its own board of directors and train 35 new LEAP trainers.  Andrew McIntyre, Susan’s son and a filmmaker, traveled with us, recording our activities to make a video for FOL/LEAP and AIDS education.  Returning to Liberia, where many NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) are buzzing about and making plans for Liberia, for an ambitious and challenging workshop was hard work but very rewarding.  The LEAP program, started in 1999, has survived and thrived and is stronger than ever in spite of all the civil unrest and the constant challenges of daily living. Meeting one’s needs is still quite difficult, and yet these teachers we have trained are amazingly enthusiastic and continually asking for more training and support so that they have the means to spread LEAP methodology all over Liberia.

Our mission was to assist the LEAP teachers and principals become more self-sufficient and self-sustaining.  With help from an educational foundation that has supported LEAP since 2000 and funds raised by the membership of FOL, we were able to conduct a three-week training of trainers at BWI in Kakata and spend a week and a half before and after the workshop networking with agencies and ministries that can help the new LEAP NGO. During the workshop we taught LEAP curriculum (methodology for understanding early childhood education in language arts, science and math), other teacher management activities, organizational development for the new board of directors, and HIV/AIDS education for teacher leaders.

 While at BWI during a very wet rainy season we shared space with UNMIL and a DDRR program of vocational education for ex-combatants.  We even had the opportunity to try and teach some of their participants some of our early childhood songs, shared a HIV/AIDS video and hired the home arts and technology departments to assist us with snacks and some technology assistance. 

The group of 13 LEAP trainers chose its own board of directors and established themselves as an NGO. The new organization retained the acronym LEAP (formerly Liberian Education Assistance Project) and established its own identity by changing the words to be Liberian Educators for Action and Peace.  This marks the end of the old LEAP and the beginning of the new LEAP.  With this shift FOL changes its role to more advisory and a future fiscal agent for the new NGO when it writes funding requests. Before we left Liberia, the new LEAP Board of Directors had begun to work on possible contracts with UNICEF and Action/Aid and hopefully there will be ways to continue to work with the Ministry of Education in various capacities.

 I would like to thank the members of FOL who have supported LEAP over the years. Your investment has paid off and LEAP is stronger than ever and growing. The new LEAP Board of Directors and its members hope that FOL will continue to raise money to support the new Liberian Educators for Action and Peace and help it grow, prosper and spread all over Liberia.

Stephanie Schnabel Vickers
President Friends of Liberia

Peace Corps 1971-1974, Saniquellie, Nimba County
Retired Teacher
svickers@teleport.com