After the Ebola outbreak in 2014, the African country of Liberia was at a standstill.
To help prevent the disease from spreading, Liberian schools shut down for an indefinite period of time. With no plans in place for reopening, students roamed the streets every day, putting both education and safety at stake.
That’s when Brenda Brewer Moore knew she had to make a change.
Moore is a mother of two, ages 8 and 11, whom she decided to home school after the outbreak. Every morning, she would prepare worksheets and assignments for her children and then head to work. But on her daily commute, she saw the other children playing and roaming the streets, with no means to receive education.
With the help of her children, Moore began making packets with worksheets and supplies to give to Liberian children. Within just 6 months, she had provided aid in 52 communities and reached over 7,000 children. But she knew she if this was to continue, she would need help. So in 2015, Moore registered an official organization called Kids Educational Engagement Project (KEEP).
An avid reader, Moore wanted KEEP to collect books. The community helped significantly with donations for the organization. In June 2016, KEEP was able to open its first Reading Room, which is a safe space designated for underprivileged children in rural and urban areas in Liberia to help build vocabulary and reading skills.
This year, two seventh-grade classes at Concord Middle School worked with KEEP for months to collect books for the Reading Rooms. On Tuesday, Moore came to the school and watched as the Concord Middle students loaded over 2,000 books onto a truck to ship to Liberia.
“I’m really excited,” Moore said during a recent visit to Concord Middle School. “First of all, it shows that the kids here care. The fact that they worked on this tirelessly for several months, it shows commitment. For the types of projects that (KEEP) is doing, books are our main commodity.”
As the students loaded the boxes of books onto the truck – which headed north Tuesday to ship out the books from Maryland – the smiles showed that all the hard work had paid off.
“I read every day,” said seventh-grader Carson Richards, who was busy stacking boxes. “I take it for granted sometimes. To know that these kids are excited about reading and that they’re going to get to do this too, I think that’s just really special. It makes me feel really happy, and it makes me feel really good to be a part of that.”
Jusu Gow works with KEEP from Cabarrus County as a U.S. liaison, though he is originally from Liberia. Gow was the one who initially told Moore about Concord Middle’s interest in helping with the organization. He said that he was excited about a U.S. school helping, because education should be global.
“I think this was a wonderful thing out of that situation of despair (from the Ebola outbreak),” Gow said. “I believe for the children – with all of the trauma they had – reading a book about somebody, somewhere, in a foreign land of a fairy tale story, just kind of broadens their imagination. It says, ‘Hey, there are better things out there.’”
Because of donation initiatives like the one at Concord Middle, KEEP has been able to open seven more Reading Rooms in Liberia since 2016.
Moore said that in coming years for the organization, she hopes to expand outreach efforts by setting up a pen pal system with U.S. students and pursuing partnerships with more schools. Her goal is to have two Reading Rooms in every county in Liberia within the next three years.
So far, these Reading Rooms have aided in overall literacy for Liberian children. With schools such as Concord Middle, the impact is only expected to grow in coming years.
“I believe when people are educated, they make good choices,” Gow said. “Education is supposed to be a global thing. Everybody deserves to be educated.”
Source: The Independent Tribune