Be the Change You Want to See in Liberia: The Story of Eric W. Wowoh and Change Agent Network￼
Most of the present breeds of Liberians are mostly just noted for hanging around on social media, radio talk shows and drinking spots talking loosely about all the happenings in their country, and on many occasions, proffering or doing nothing tangible to mitigate all the ills
that they see in their country. All of what they do is to blame everyone else but themselves for their own backwardness and lack of action. They become reactive instead of being proactive. The change and development of Liberia is the sole responsibilities of the Liberian people themselves; the outside world can only help in the process.
But one Liberian man, Eric Willise Wowoh, who decided to completely break away from the usual way of doing nothing and playing the blame game, has made, and is making tremendous strides to change and make his country the way he wants it for the better for generations to come.
Eric, who is a Social Entrepreneur, an author, a humanitarian, and a philanthropist, began changing Liberia when he was in his early 20s.
In 1990, Wowoh, the founder of Change Agent Network was captured by rebel fighters during the brutal Liberian civil war. Eric and some of his childhood friends were returning home from a two-day fishing trip to help provide food for his siblings and parents at home in Bong Mines, Lower Bong County, Liberia.
Rebels captured Eric to turn him into a child soldier, but he refused and was severely beaten, tortured, and left to die. Eric was set free by the grace of God with both of his arms broken. Eric left Liberia alone and went into exile, probably around the age of 12 and not knowing the whereabouts of his parents. He is not quite sure of his actual age because he doesn’t have a birth certificate. He was delivered by a traditional midwife in Fissibu Town, Zorzor District, Lofa County where there was no hospital at the time, and his parents did not document his birth date. Eric became an international refugee as a child and lived in over a dozen refugee camps for 14 years in about 10 different nations in West Africa.
In 2003, when Eric was probably 23, he was given a desktop computer by a very good Nigerian friend and brother, Mr. Desmond Ovbiagele, as a gift with the intention of Eric learning how to use the computer. Mr. Desmond hired a fellow Liberian refugee, Mr. J. Edward Tamba for a few months to train Eric in basic computing. Eric took that single desktop computer and multiplied it into a conventional community-based computer school for his fellow refugees and members of the surrounding host communities. Wowoh, with no prior training in anything, persuaded, organized, provided funding, and joined efforts with his fellow refugees to build two computer training schools in the refugee camp. By 2006, Eric and his dynamic team of refugees had trained, and graduated about 700 students from all over the continent of Africa such as Sierra Leone, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia including citizens of the host country (Nigeria). Eric and his partner called the computer training centers in the refugee camp, the 842 Technologies Computer Training Center.
Eric’s Personal Impacts and That of CAN in Liberia
Before he relocated to the USA in 2006 on a refugee resettlement program, he came to Liberia in 2005 and purchased one acre of land to build his first computer school in the country. In 2008 upon his first return home from the US, he donated 17 computers to the Liberia National Police (LNP), yet he was still a refugee.
Even though he arrived in the US with no luggage, no passport, no ID, no phone, no money, no home, and no friends, by the grace of God and with the help of many, he established Change Agent Network (CAN), an international nonprofit organization, that is contributing to the world in big ways and massively transforming Liberia through education.
From the origins of that single desktop computer, Eric and his organization have built over 20 schools in six counties in Liberia, educating over 5,000 under-served and vulnerable children, over 300 employees on payroll nationwide and graduated more than 2,000 students, many of whom have become meaningful contributors to society. One such former student from the computer school in the refugee camp is Mr. Jerolinmek M. Piah, the former Presidential Press Secretary to former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia.
Also from that single desktop computer, Eric and his team established CAN University in Fissibu Town, Zorzor District, Lofa County, Northern Liberia.
“We are all called to live our lives for a cause greater than ourselves, serving others and making the world a more peaceful, stable and prosperous godly place for every human being,” Eric says.
He added: “We must leave the world better than we met it for the generations to following. We can either choose to let tragedy and hardships to turn us into bitter, self-serving individuals or into humble servants who want no one else to experience what we have.”
As he travelled tirelessly across the US convincing Americans to raise funds for the building of more schools to help Liberia, Eric was accompanied on some of those trips by the former Liberian Ambassador to Washington D.C., Amb. Jeremiah C. Sulunteh. He has won many international awards for his humanitarian works in and outside Liberia.
Eric and his organization CAN have shipped many school materials to Liberia. Among them are four school buses. Shipped 14 40-foot containers of educational, medical, and relief supplies to Liberia. Raised over US$3.5 million for infrastructure, education, and human development purposes in Liberia.
Brought over 100 global partners on short-term mission and volunteer- impact trips to Liberia. Built and donated nine houses to homeless families. Out of the 20 schools, only five campuses belong to Change Agent Network (CAN)/Opportunity Network-Liberia (ONLIB) and are under the leadership and direct management of Mr. Eric Willise Wowoh and CAN/ONLIB. The others are owned and managed by CAN/ONLIB’s partner organizations and individuals in Liberia.
The five high schools that are directly under the supervision of Eric and his CAN/ONLIB are:
- Heart of Grace School encompassing Nursery through grade 12th The school located in Jacob’s Town Rehab Community, Lower Johnsonville, Montserrado County.
- CAN Leadership Academy operates from Nursery through grade 10th. It’s located in Fissibu Town, Zorzor District, Lofa County.
- Alexandria A. Andrews Academy runs from Nursery through grade 12th is in Gbarnga, Bong County, Central Liberia.
- Wyatt Leadership Academy encompassing from Nursery through 10th grade. The school is in Neegbein Town, Gompa/Ganta City, Nimba County.
- Mississippi Leadership Academy is in the works. It will run from Nursery through grade 12th. It will be in Holder’s Farm, Kakata, Margibi County.
On July 29, 2020, the Liberia Business Registry (LBR) granted Change Agent Network USA, the authority to do business in Liberia as an International Nonprofit Organization using the name Opportunity Network Liberia, Inc. (ONLIB).
This academic year, 2021/2022, at least 224 students from CAN’s operated schools sat the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
Three of the primary and secondary schools in the CAN/ONLIB School System sent a total of 224 students in all categories to sit the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), which began on May 31st this academic year. Of this number, 109 were 12th graders, 60 ninth graders, sixth graders – 30, and third graders – 25. Many students in 9th, 6th and 3rd grades didn’t sit because their parents couldn’t afford to register them. Of the total number of students, 97 females sat the tests in all categories.
CAN Partners with Grand Gedeh Association in The Americas (GGAA)
Dr. Stefania Forte, the board president of CAN-USA was invited to serve as the guest speaker of the Grand Gedeh Association in the Americas (GGAA) annual convention in Kansas City, Missouri. This is the largest and oldest Liberian diaspora organization in the United States. The event extended into a partnership with CAN to construct an education and empowerment village in Grand Gedeh County, Southeastern Liberia. This project will be funded by the GGAA and this facility will consist of a school, clinic, resource center, library, guesthouses, etc. The groundbreaking of the Leadership Academy is expected to be in August 2022. This historical program will be established on 5 acres of land and will be funded and implemented by Liberians, for Liberians.
Dr. Forte and Mr. Wowoh also visited Des Moines, Iowa, which is one of the largest hubs of the Grand Gedeh Community in the United States. A successful town hall meeting was held at the Tubo Wlu Jeh Gospel Ministry Church to discuss the details of the Leadership Academy and provided attendees the opportunity to ask questions and connect with the leadership of Change Agent Network.
Learn more about this great Liberian organization in the USA at: https://ggaa.us/
“Transform Liberian Youths Through String Music Education”
One of CAN’s longtime, treasured and valuable partners, Julie McGhee, Founder and CEO of the Liberian Youth Orchestra (LYO) will restart her music program at Heart of Grace School with a possible extension to Alexandria A. Andrews Academy in the coming school year which starts in September 2022. Mrs. McGhee is an extraordinary musician who has presented our Liberian children the greatest opportunity to learn string instruments. She will be departing for Liberia in the next few months and the local and international leadership of CAN will continue to support her work and efforts in the country aimed at transforming lives, adding value and sharing the hope of the Gospel with her students and the communities in which she serves.
Before the Liberian Youth Orchestra (LYO) was established, there were no string music programs for children in Liberia, until Mrs. McGhee, a violinist and her husband first visited the country in 2013. Julie was immediately entranced by the Liberian children but was dismayed by the conditions in which they lived. When she returned 2016, she brought her violin with her and played for the children who attended four of our Change Agent Network’s schools. They had never before heard a stringed instrument, and their faces lit up with delight. From that moment on, Julie has actively partnered with CAN to bring hope and a future to under-served Liberian children through music education. With her help and others, Eric and others have began to fund-raise in earnest.
Eric narrated that in January 2018, they introduced the LYO project to Shar Music in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Shar not only donated twenty violins and five cellos but also helped promote the LYO project at the American String Teacher Association Conference. It wasn’t long before we received another major donation of a carbon fiber violin from Glasser Bows New York, as well as gifts of music, music stands, instruments, and financial support from music teachers, string students, and generous people all across the United States.”
“Two months later, we received a shipment of everything we needed to launch our music program! It took five more months to secure a duty-free privilege status on the shipment, but finally, due to the intervention of the Honorable Jewel Howard-Taylor, Vice President of Liberia working on our behalf, it was obtained. Since then, she has been a valuable ally in so many ways! We had no idea that string music would play such an important role in the lives of Liberian children.”
On November 12, 2018, the LYO project debuted at CAN’s mother school, Heart of Grace School located in City View, Jacob’s Town Rehab Community in Lower Johnsonville, Montserrado County. It didn’t take long for the students to play symphonies and melodies composed by the world’s greatest musicians.
The first graduation concert of the Liberian Youth Orchestra held on July 7, 2019 was nothing less than spectacular! LYO students have since been invited to play at numerous events including the dedication of the new Ministerial Complex on July 25, 2019 and the 172nd celebration of the Independence of Liberia on July 26, 2019.
Due to our successful program, all 11 girls in the Liberian Youth Orchestra received full scholarships for the 2019/2020 school year from the Jewel Starfish Foundation (JSF). This is a huge blessing to these families and a wonderful motivation for these girls to continue to work hard. JSF has also provided scholarships to more than 20 additional female students from the AAA School in Gbarnga, Bong County, Central Liberia.To learn more about this incredible program, visit: https://www.liberianyouthorchestra
CAN Established New Partnership with Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
One of CAN’s newest partnerships has been established with the Epsilon Epsilon Omega of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. During this partnership, CAN will set up the first vocational education program in the Alexandra A. Andrews Academy (AAA) in Gbarnga, Bong County, Liberia. This tailoring program will benefit the students of AAA and the women of the local community by providing them with a skill that will help empowered them economically. The mission of Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) is to cultivate and encourage high scholastic and ethical standards, to promote unity and friendship among college women, to study and help alleviate problems concerning girls and women in order to improve their stature, to maintain a progressive interest in college life, and to be of “Service to All Mankind.”
“We are excited to have established this partnership with one of the oldest African-American sororities in the United States.”For more information about Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, visit: https://www.epsilonaka.com/home
CAN Partners with Foundation For Women (FFW) to Introduce Safe Conversations in Liberia
Safe Conversations was co-created by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D, and Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D. They’ve taken their experience working with couples for 40+ years and simplified best practices so your relationship can stay strong in any situation. Harville appeared on Oprah 17 times as her relationship expert. Helen was inducted to the Women’s Hall of Fame for her leadership in the global women’s movement. Together, they have authored several New York Times best-sellers including Getting the Love You Want, Keeping the Love You Find, and Giving the Love that Heals. Safe Conversations (SC) is making major strides in Liberia as a relational competency and peace-building tool.
Under the leadership of the Foundation For Women and Change Agent Network, SC is being piloted in two schools where the dialogues and SC tenets will be a part of the schools’ curriculum that would extend to the communities and school culture. The SC team, spearheaded by Dr. Stefania Forte, Mrs. LaSheryl Walker, and Mr. Samuel Mayson will travel to Liberia in August 2022 to cement the presence of SC in Liberia and prepare for the expansion of this relational competency tool throughout Liberia.
Learn more about this Safe Conversations at: https://safeconversations.com/
What CAN Is
Change Agent Network (CAN) is a registered nonprofit organization whose goal is to transform Liberia through Education, Mentorship, Sustainable Development, and the Hope of the Gospel. Its mission is to connect Under-served Liberian Communities with Global and local partners to Launch Locally Sustainable Schools to Break the Cycle of Poverty Through Education in Liberia. For their vision, they want to see a new generation of patriotic Liberians, who will secure a new and better Liberia, Free of Corruption, a Breeding Ground for Innovation, Creativity Entrepreneurship and Resounding Success for all.
To achieve these feats, in the USA, they pray and fund-raise to provide materials, professional advice, training, plus moral and spiritual support to their Liberian recipients. “This ‘walk alongside’ approach, combined with their valuable contributions to land, and labor, allows us to build and expand affordable schools in Liberia. We do not pay for sustainability. That is the responsibility of the local community as they begin to see the powerful effect schools have on their culture.”
You too can help change Liberia for the better
Eric Willise Wowoh is one of many Liberians, who are today residing outside Liberia: some in the West, where opportunities abound.
Just as Eric didn’t sit and is not sitting idly but continues to do all in his weak ways to make Liberia a better place than he met it, you, too, can do likewise.
It should not be about waiting to be a millionaire before you can give back to help transform Liberia for the better. What you can do now, like Eric has done, is doing, matters.
website: www.canintl.org Email: [email protected] Phone: USA: +14694185663 Liberia: +231886547917