Where We’ve Been

Except from the story of Eric N. Karmee, 2017 9th grade graduate from Dougbe River Presbyterian School Liberia who has a dream to become a pilot:

‟At first the children of the Twarbo and Glio region struggled for education. Some were engaged into early marriages, some were wandering without any reasons, while others were involved in criminal activities. All these acts were done by children because there was no school, and they knew nothing about the importance of education. Fortunately for us, one of the sons of the soil, Mr. Isaac Monah, saw the need of building the first school Dougbe River Presbyterian School Liberia (DRPSL) in the region”.

IsaacBorn in Zwedru City, Grand Gedeh County, Liberia, as a third child to Willie and Annie Monah of Konobo District, Twarbo Region, Delhjelah Town on 3rd January 1970, Isaac grew up in Twarbo where he never had access to a local school.

At the age of 11, his uncle came to visit the family in the rural area and was asked by his mother to take him to Todee, Margibi County, to attend school. Isaac then travelled to join his uncle’s family of 13 people living in a two-bedroomed apartment. Life was not easy for everyone especially for his uncle who was working in the army as a soldier and had to provide food and clothing for such a big family. After two years of going to school, Isaac requested that his uncle send him back to his parents in the village because he was feeling sorry for his uncle.

On his return to Twarbo, Isaac was sent to River Gee County (formerly River Gweh) to stay with a friend, Abbot Passaway, to attend school from 1984 until 1986 when the friend lost his job and moved to Monrovia. Again, Isaac returned to his parents from where he was sent to Zwedru to live with his aunt and later his uncle to go to school. In 1989 at the age of 19, when the civil war in Liberia started, Isaac was still going to school and was now living alone and taking care of himself. Due to the civil war he was forced to leave Liberia and fled to Ivory Coast. Between 1990 and 1995 he worked at Tai National Park studying deer and later tracking monkeys. During his stay at Tai National Park, Isaac met and made friends with Scott McGraw, one of the research students from Stony Brook University. Isaac still had dreams to complete his formal education and therefore he resigned from the national park and moved to Ghana in 1995 to attend high school. He graduated from high school in 1997 and in 2002 Isaac moved to the USA with the help of his friend Scott, a Presbyterian, who is now anthropology professor at Ohio State University. Isaac was moved by the act of his friend who promised to assist him when they first met and kept and fulfilled his promise close to 10 years later. This made Isaac develop an interest in the Presbyterian doctrine and he made the decision to become a Presbyterian. Through his new church he came to understand more about the love of God for humanity, the equality of everyone in the eyes of God and the spirit of reconciliation.

In 2007 after 18 years, Isaac went back to Twarbo to see his family and it was then that he realised that nothing in his place of origin had improved since he left the country in 1989. The children of Twarbo and Glio region were facing the same difficulty to access education as he did way back in the 80s. From his experience, Isaac concluded that education is the key to development and for prosperity for the region. Through the movement of the Holy Spirit, Isaac felt convicted to work with the community to plant the Presbyterian faith in the region and to build a school to provide the first opportunity for the children in Twarbo and Glio region to access education. In response to this call, the community leaders willingly gave 150 acres of land to Dougbe River Presbyterian Church of Liberia at no cost provided it is used for the agreed purposes. This is the land on which Dougbe River Presbyterian School in Liberia was constructed. After the initial discussion with the community in Liberia, Isaac went back to the USA and shared his dream with the pastor of Noble Road Presbyterian Church, Rev Francis Miller. The pastor immediately accepted the vision and was eager to see the dream come through. Pastor Miller together with Isaac and the church at Noble Road then went on to share the vision with all the Presbyterian churches in Cleveland. More churches stood up to support the vision, the land offer was finalized and the Land Deed was issued in Liberia. With the support of thirty worship communities and four schools in Cleveland, Ohio, the school in Liberia was constructed between Sayou and Buway towns. In 2011, Dougbe River Presbyterian Church of Liberia was registered and incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in Liberia. At the same time, the school was also registered with the Ministry of Education in Liberia as a mission of Dougbe River Presbyterian Church of Liberia. In November 2012 the first classes were held at Dougbe River Presbyterian School Liberia with the first enrollment of 78 students, recruitment of 5 teachers and 2 support staff. Since the opening of the school, children have had access to free education and free lunch daily at the school campus. During the same year DRPSL was launched in the USA as a mission of the Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio.

Since the beginning of classes in 2012, the school has continued to grow and develop. The school is run by a board of directors based in the USA which includes Dr Scott McGraw and Reverend Francis Miller who are also cofounders with Isaac Monah the Executive Director. Presently, the school has an enrollment of 200 students, 11 teaching staff and 6 support staff. The school is also developing a farm to provide food for the students and a total of 17 acres has been cleared and planted with 5 acres plantain, 2.5 acres cassava, 2.5 acres yum, 2.5 acres eddoes, 2.5 acres vegetables and 2 acres of pineapples. Recently the construction of a cafeteria for the school was completed.

Being a Child Hurts, a mission partner from Ohio founded by Reverend Mary Hall, built a dormitory on the school campus to accommodate 10 girls between the ages of 9 and 12. The dormitory has 6 girls and more are expected to come.

Apart from the assistance from the community in Ohio, the school has also received support from other donors including Welthungerhilfe, a German international NGO (16 bridges, agriculture support and 2 wells constructed) and Last Mile Health, an American international NGO (medical supplies and support in communications).

At inception, the school was set to benefit children from 12 villages in the region and to date children from 4 villages only have been enrolled. The remaining 8 villages are a long distance from the school and children from there will only be able to enroll if boarding facilities are made available. This remains a challenge for the board and the local community to ensure that funding is made available for building dormitories, expanding the school, providing food and keeping the school in operation. The current focus for the board and the community is to explore the avenues to make the school sustainable in the long run.