“I read with utter shock and a deep sense of hurt, the demolition of the New Dimension of Hope Free School in Troyah Town, Fendell, Liberia,” says Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Ms. Gbowee was there for the dedication in July 2015, when the U.S. based nonprofit A New Dimension of Hope opened the school in Troyah Town, Liberia. In one of the poorest areas of Liberia, the school provided free education and meals to 102 students, ages 5-9. In addition, the school was a valuable community resource providing two free meals to all students and their families daily. On May 28th Troyah Town residents were displaced as the town, residents’ homes, and the new school, were demolished in less than 48 hours.
Ebenezer Norman, the founder of New Dimension of Hope in Denver, Colorado, which has been spearheading fundraising and shipping materials for the school, said, “I received a call from the Principal of Troyah Town School that the school building had been de-roofed and looted by some unknown people. I asked him if he had any idea why they had done so, and he said that the town had received a letter from the University of Liberia authorities in collaboration with the government that Troyah Town was within the boundaries of the university property.”
The $25,000 recently-constructed modern elementary school is located in a small town 25 to 30 miles from Monrovia. It was trumpeted as a signal of hope for residents in a small community lacking education opportunity when it was first dedicated in January 2014. The opening of the school was delayed due to the Ebola crisis in that country.
“It was looted. They took all the doors, zinc, documents and everything,” says John M. Sumoiwuo, the school’s principal. He explained that looters raided his office and made away with books and other reading and learning materials for the school.
“There is nothing left of their school nor their homes. You destroyed a free school built for the world poorest children? This doesn’t make sense!! This is a human right issue,” says Rosana Schaack, the Executive Director of Touching Humanity in Need of Kindness (THINK) who toured the demolished facility Monday.
“I am trying to write down my thoughts but I can’t find the right words. All I remember is the joy and celebration in the community during the dedication ceremony. Mothers expressed the joy and relief that their kids would no longer walk long distances to get an education as the closest school was about an hour or few minutes away by foot,” says Gbowee. “Who would give such instruction, what are these poor people and their children going to do? I am just so sad, sad that a young Liberian Ebenezer Norman choose to give back to his community and his people and his hard work ends this way. Lord save Liberia!!!”
American Anthony Angelini went to Liberia, from his home in Ventura County, California, to help open the school. He serves on the board of the nonprofit and read the first book to the children for their library, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss.
“At first I chose not to believe it when I heard the news,” says Angelini. “I thought about all the people in the village being displaced and it made me remember the moment when we first brought the desks into the school. They arrived comically piled up on the back of an old pick-up truck and every kid in the village ran towards it with so much joy. So ready to help out and learn. Then I saw pictures of the school’s ruins. No desks to be seen.”
“The entire vicinity of Fendell campus up to Troyah Town had been demolished. It is raining now as we are in the rainy season and people were uprooted from their homes putting them at risk of exposure and displacement. I found other victims of the destruction looking around at what was left along with only two women, residents of Troyah Town, that I knew”, says Schaack.
A New Dimension of Hope will continue to provide education to the children of Troyah Town. They are in the process of relaunching the school to accommodate the students, and have already shipped a $1,000 worth of supplies to assist the displaced community members. As residents of Troyah Town look to relocate, they will need continual support because they have lost both their homes and their livelihoods.