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Reducing Liberia’s Alarming Illiteracy Rate

Alfalit, The Driver In Literacy Program In Liberia 12 Years On Now

Rev. J. Emmanuel Giddings, Executive Director, Alfalit International Liberia

Background of Alfalit

Alfalit began in Liberia in 2006. Alfalit Liberia started so small: its first office space was half bedroom size within the Education Department of the United Methodist Church. It could only pilot one literacy center in the Soul Clinic Community and later extended to West Point, Careysburg, and Firestone Company among others.  Alfalit started with one literacy center in one community, but in twelve  years, there have been 400 literacy centers established that have benefited more than 100,000 students facilitated by nearly 4000 teaching facilitators across Liberia.

Remarkably, Retired United Methodist Bishop, Rev. Dr. John Innis while in active service engaged President of Alfalit International then, Reverend Roberto Perez in Washington DC in 2005 with an appeal to extend Alfalit program to Liberia, to help redeem Liberians from the social disease of illiteracy. In 2006, Rev. Perez and team visited with The United Methodist Church consenting to setup literacy program in Liberia. The United Methodists organized the first meeting, inviting other Christian leaders including Dr. Benjamin Lartay, former General Secretary of the Liberia Council of Churches.  A Liberian United Methodist cleric about to take on reassignment in the United States unpremeditatedly accepted an invitation from Rev. Emmanuel Bowier who served the United Methodist Church as Education Director.  Rev. Bowier led Rev. Emmanuel Giddings, who had no idea about Alfalit, to the meeting.  As the team from Alfalit International presented to the gathering the work and achievements of Alfalit International in North America and elsewhere, Giddings’ passion for people’s empowerment arose.

He imagined the link between supporting education for refugee children in Ghana and offering literacy to hundreds of Liberians in communities. An economically unreasonable task fell in the hands of Rev. Giddings. He reasoned within himself to let go the US offer and lead a campaign meant to redeem Liberians from the stern of illiteracy.  God uses people as instruments to accomplish His redemptive plan. Rev. Giddings dedicated himself to this task that has won for Liberia the biggest and \most successful literacy institution with enviable profile in mixed cultural, religious and socioeconomic setting.  Alfalit literacy program for ten years has been sustained through partnership with several organization and individuals who believe in the cause of education as a vital empowerment tool for everyone. Some of these partnerships will be detailed in our subsequent reflections on the work and achievements of Alfalit Liberia.

The first support for Alfalit Literacy Program came from Jose Milton & Associates through its President and CEO, Dr. Joseph Milton, who served Alfalit International as vice President and has now ascended to the position of President for Alfalit International.  A donation of Forty Thousand Dollars (US$40,000) planted the seed of literacy on Liberian soil as the first English program of Alfalit International. To date, Dr. Joseph Milton visits Liberia annual, except the Ebola outbreak in 2014 that prevented him from coming until 2016. Mr. Milton supports Liberia personally as his ‘second home’.  He has proven extreme generosity to Liberia through Alfalit’s programs that have since gone beyond basic literacy.  Other equally important partners and funding agencies like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), McCall McBain Foundation that funded the Southeast Literacy Project (SELP) in six rural and hard-to-reach counties of Liberia, the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund, and SEGAL Foundation among others have contributed immensely to the ten years of mass literacy education in Liberia. We are expected to separately treat the impact of each of the projects funded by Alfalit Liberia’s partners.

What Programs or Services Does Alfalit Provide The Liberian Society?

The runs a literacy program for adults and underprivileged persons across the country, basic education and job skills. Others are, Microfinance and Education Assistance through its L-GM support to schools, organizations and individuals.

Currently, Alfalit Liberia operates in 5 counties, Montserrado, Bong, Margibi, Bomi and Grand Bassa County with 50 literacy centers or classes these counties with an enrolment of 3,280 students. On the overall, 90% of Alfalit beneficiaries are women.

Alfalit Liberia has as its mission to eradicate human suffering caused by illiteracy while its vision is to teach illiterate youths and adults basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills (Functional Literacy skills

Microfinance Beneficiaries are 174

L-GM Beneficiaries over 6,000 students each year in more than 500 grade schools and nearly every university, technical and vocational institutions.

Alfalit’s Achievements

Over the past 12 years, since the inception of the organization from 2006 to present, Alfalit Liberia has had the following as achievements:

It has directly Enrolled over 100,000 direct beneficiaries while Established 500 literacy centers at the time in the 15 counties of Liberia from 2008 -2013 and have since trained 1,500 facilitators (teachers) in the Laubach Literacy Methodology.

Additionally, it has established a Micro Finance Program whitch empowers women and struggling people. Alfalit currently has 3 functional skill training centers (tailoring schools in Montserrado and Margibi)

Testimonies of beneficiaries of the Job Skill Program Beneficiaries

A 44-year-old mother of five children, Madam Yangai G. Mulbah of the 72nd Alfalit Job Skills Training Center # 3 has an interesting testimony as provided here in this narrative.

She began this way: “I want to be grateful to God for Alfalit being in Liberia. Before I share my testimony, let me first of all say who I am. I was illiterate when I met my husband in Ghana at the Buduburam Refugee Camp. He is an educated man who had a degree, many days I sat and said to myself that since I was not educated my husband at the time was not going not married me because I was illiterate. The woman I lived with when I was a girl did not send me to school until I started having children

The first day I attended class after my husband encouraged me, the teacher wrote the notes and filled the entire blackboard to the point that I did not know where to start from on my first in a classroom. It was impossible for me for the first time in a class to copy such huge notes. That’s how I dropped, from that day I never went back to that school until I came back to Liberia.

When I came back to Liberia, I heard about the Alfalit Literacy Program and I joined Alfalit that same year. From the literacy program, I later started the tailoring program where I graduated in 2016.

Impacts/changes

“After my graduation, I managed to raise money and I bought a used tailoring machine and I got a spot in the community where I started sewing clothes for people.

From the one machine, I now make my own money; some of which I contributed to the construction of the house we now live in. From the same tailoring money I earn, I helped my husband pay our 3 children school fees because at the moment he is not working.

Right now, I am constructing a shop that can take up to 10 tailoring machines. The shop when completed will be a fashion/tailoring company where I will hire about 9 persons to work for me. The shop is at roof level, but the project has slowed down for months due to the lack of finances to complete it. I am in search of a loan to complete the project and buy the number of machines I need and I will pay back my loan, but it has not been possible.

Another great thing Alfalit program has done for me is that, I am now an educated woman. I now help my children in lower classes with their lessons and assignments after their school hours.

When a person is illiterate, he/she is like almost nothing in the society. Alfalit has me valuable to society, I can sew all types of clothes, I sew for men, women children and I even sew uniforms and wedding clothes.

God first, second-Alfalit has changed my story around”.

Yangai’s Husband’s Testimony of her transformation

Mr. Alfred Z. Mulbah, Yangai’s husband has been very supportive of his wife’s transformation, in spite of his degrees (qualification) as he narrates.

“When I met Yangai, she was illiterate and could not even identify her own name, but one thing I see in her was her intelligence. She’s very smart and farsighted. Though I was educated than her, I said to myself I could make her the kind of woman I wanted her to become, that’s how I encouraged and supported her when she heard about the Alfalit school in 2010.

Some days, when I came home from work and saw her sitting while she was supposed to be in school, I would make her take her books and go to school; and today, she’s a literate woman and a great help to the family financially from the skills Alfalit gave her.

From her one used tailoring machine, she now makes money for the family out of which, she helps to pay the kids tuitions and greatly helped in the construction of our house.

If you love something or someone, you will do all the best it takes to make that person what you want them to be, and that was the case with my wife and I.

she’s so intelligent, somedays I wish her parent had send her to school when she was a child, but I am grateful to Alfalit International and Alfalit Liberia that she is now able to read a write and a productive woman for me.

Another beneficiary of the same job skill category is Mercy Kurza of Unification Town Alfalit Skills Training Center # 3 48 years that is always sang by beneficiaries of the institution with wordings like Alfalit took me from the darkness and bring me to the light.

“Alfalit is really bringing us from Darkness to Light. I am a single mother with two children. I attended the Alfalit Literacy School and later into the tailoring Program.

When I started the Alfalit program, it was difficult for me from the beginning, many people dropped, but I said to myself that I am a single woman so I must put seriousness.

Last year I graduated from the skills program, as time went by I managed to purchase my own tailoring machine and I am now making my own money.

Impact

From the sewing machine I kept saving my money little by little and I was able to purchase a plot of land valued at $ 600.00 United States Dollars for me and my children to build a house and stop renting.

I must admit, the skills Alfalit gave me and the sewing machine are really helping me and my children so greatly to the point that I no longer think about the frustration I encounter with my children’s father as other women would do. Right now, my children are in two of the best private school in the Firestone Concession area, in Harbel and these schools are very expensive, but because I earn money from the machine from the contracts I get, paying my children fees in private schools is not a problem anymore for me.

Alfalit really changed my life. I am right now trying to start purchasing materials to start laying the foundation of my house. We pay rent for the house we are currently residing him and the money comes from tailoring machine. When I look at my life just from benefiting from Alfalit I can be so happy and wish other women and men see the importance of the Alfalit Literacy Program to take advantage. It pains me when I see young women who started the program drop out when older woman like me could start and complete it. Even the clothes I ware, I make and design them myself like this one I am wearing here. I have started engaging schools now to do their students uniform next academic year 2018/2019 and one school has accepted my proposal to them. When I get the money, I will sew some to get my children in school and save some for my building project. I don’t know how to thank Alfalit International and Alfalit Liberia for making me to be an independent woman.

                   Alfalit Micro-Finance Loan Beneficiry and Impact

Alfalit Loan Has Increased My Business

Women access to micro loan is one of the best ways to helping Liberian women being lifted out of poverty and help them become economically empowered and self-sufficient.

This is the case of 54 years old Mama Johnson a mother of five children in the Fiama Community of Monrovia. In mid-2016, Mama Johnson was among the first batch of 120 women from the solidarity group under the umbrella of the Women in Peace Building Network (WIPNET) that benefited from the Alfalit Micro Loan.

Mama said the loan awarded her by the Alfalit Micro Finance Department in the sum of $24, 000 Liberian Dollars has helped immensely transformed her business thereby allowing her to live a stress free life.

“Before Alfalit awarded me the loan, I was selling only biscuits and candy, the income was nothing that could allow me pay my grandchildren school fees”

Each day madam Johnson says she earns not less than $ 1,000 Liberian Dollars from her daily sales which enables her to pay a daily susu while profit or earning from her sales also help grow her business.

With the total of 19 members of her daily saving, at the end of every three days Mama and her members receive the sum of $5,700 Liberian Dollars that is used to add to their businesses.

“Since it’s hard to keep money on hand, we do daily susu (saving).

In order to grow a business, one needs to save, and that’s exactly what I have been doing with my business”

Mama says, from her business she now proudly supports her family and at the same time still successfully manages the business adding that she thanks Alfalit International for the loan.

By the end of 2017 Mama and other women in her solidarity group that received the loan have successfully paid back their loans and are now standing on their own with their individual businesses.

Through the Alfalit Micro Finance Program about 150 poor, and less fortunate women out of the total of 215 recipients benefited from the loan scheme.

 

 

 

 

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