It was about this time of the year 30 years ago that Liberia’s Peace Corps volunteers started a little social group called Friends of Liberia. The idea was to get together once in a while in Washington, share news of Liberia in an infrequent newsletter and, of course, stories from Peace Corps service. Once in a while, we would use our collective dues to donate books to a school or grant a scholarship.

Four years later, the unthinkable happened. Liberia was invaded by a group of homegrown insurrectionists and the country we knew began a steep slide into civil war. FOL’s leaders realized that the big players, including the U.S. Embassy, were leaving Liberia and the name “Friends of Liberia” took on new meaning. FOL opened membership to anyone who cared about Liberia. We began a Liberia news service, which would become a call to action as well. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf would later say, “Friends of Liberia became our voice when we couldn’t speak for ourselves in Washington.” Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has called FOL “One of the best things that ever happened to Liberia.”

To jog your memory about all the things our small determined group has accomplished in the last three decades go to: http://fol.org/history/. Capitol Hill advocacy for a U.S. representative in Liberia, mediation sessions with leaders of warring factions, election monitoring, school and clinic building, 14 years of teacher training and more than $120,000 in aid to communities for Ebola relief, and now a signature project to help children and their parents get ready for school: The Family Literacy Initiative. We are out ahead of the World Bank and UNICEF on this one.

WASHINGTON, April 14, 2016 – World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake today jointly urged global and national leaders to step up and accelerate action and investments in nutrition and early childhood development (ECD) programmes as a critical foundation for equitable development and economic growth.

FOL is already 12 weeks into a Family Literacy intervention that brings learning activities into homes in three communities with pre-school youngsters and trains parents or caregivers how to do the activities with their children.

Our partners in the Family Literacy Initiative are WE-CARE Foundation of Monrovia and Home Instruction for Parents and Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) International. HIPPY Director Miriam Westheimer personally trained our two national coordinators, Gbima K. Bahtokpah and David R. Sonjor and our first team of home visitors. You can read more about the program and see photos here.

The enthusiasm of WE-CARE and the coordinators and home visitors is such that they have overcome initial reservations on the part of families and community leaders by holding community meetings and evangelizing about the importance of early childhood development.

After a year of no school due to the Ebola pandemic, FOL’s Board and its Education Working Group felt this work was so urgent that we started the Family Literacy Initiative while still raising funds for it. The first year’s budget is $90,000, and we are just $7,000 short of that goal with four months to go in the program for this year.

With your help, FOL and our partners can complete this first year’s funding while we continue to seek funding partners for HIPPY International’s only program in Africa.

We thank you for your interest, support and donation!

Stephanie Vickers
President Friends of Liberia