Pens and Pencils Project for Liberian Children

By Alvin Peabody

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

February 23, 2004

A Liberian native living in the United States has launched a project to aid thousands school children in her war-torn country.

Ms. Kate S. Peabody, in collaboration with Archbishop Michael K. Francis of the Catholic Diocese in Monrovia, has launched the Pens and Pencils project for Liberian Children.

The project hopes to seek donations of school supplies to help make a difference in the lives of children and young adults, some of whom are for the first time in their lives going to school.

“I’ve always wanted to help the children of Liberia,” said Ms. Peabody, who lives in Gainesville, Georgia.

“Basically, you have children as young as 6 or 7 who have fought in civil war over the past 14 years,” she said.

“During that entire time, they were out there. And some of these kids have never been to school, ever.”

The departure of former leader Charles Taylor paved the way for a peace deal last August between Liberian government and rebel forces, ending 14 years of almost continuous war.

Charged on a United Nations indictment for war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone, Taylor was granted asylum in Nigeria.

An interim government, headed by Gyude Bryant, has been installed. Nearly 15,000 international peacekeepers are to be in place when elections are scheduled for next year.

Ms. Peabody was born in Kpain. She moved to the United States in 1980 to attend Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA., with “every intention of returning home” someday. The civil strife forced her to change her plans and she remained in America.

Over the years, Ms. Peabody said she has always been passionate about helping children and the elderly so it was hard to live in a country “that had so much” and ignore one that had so little.

So far, she has collected several boxes of supplies, including erasers, pens, pencils, crayons, rulers and notebooks. She hopes to send the items to the West African nation the summer.

Ms. Peabody remains confident that the Pens and Pencils Project for Liberian Children will be successful.

In November, the U.N. International Children's Educational Fund started its Back-to-School for Liberian Children program. It aims to train some 20,000 teachers and rehabilitate 3,700 schools for up to 750,000 students throughout the country.

Today, most Liberian children scrawl illiterate graffiti to express themselves.

“We one 2 Peecee,” meaning, “We want to have peace,” is a common message on the walls in Liberia.

Archbishop Francis, who stood up to Taylor, described his native land as a “failed state that needs to rebuild the very fabric of its society.”

“How can we expect people to vote when they can’t read?” said Archbishop Francis.

“It’s a dangerous kind of psychological war when people don’t have the right to an education,” he said.

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