Liberia: Foundation for Women Partners with Change Agent Network to Introduce Safe Conversations to Liberia
–Launched First Ever Relational Competency and Peace-building Tool in Liberia
The Foundation of Women (FFW) in partnership with Change Agent Network (CAN) has begun liaising with authorities at the Ministry of Education (MOE) for the introduction of “Safe Conversations” (SC) into the Liberian educational curriculum. The goal is to teach SC dialogues and tenets in all schools within the borders of Liberia. This remarkable relational competency and peace-building tool was introduced to Liberia in 2020 through a partnership between Change Agent Network – USA (CAN) and the Foundation for Women (FFW), both organizations currently operating in Liberia.
By Press Release
SAFE CONVERSATIONS (SC) – Educating people with the skills to move from conflict to connection
SC is the leader in relational education which empowers youth, families, couples and professionals to talk without criticism, listen without judgment, and connect beyond differences.
Founded by Relationship Experts and Authors Harville Hendrix, Ph.D, and Helen Lakelly Hunt, Ph.D, Safe Conversations is a global initiative promoting a new way of talking and listening that elevates curiosity and lifts up difference. Working off the principles and practices they developed with couples, Harville and Helen have created Safe Conversations in an effort to move these transformative tools out of the clinic and into the public, prioritizing relationships as the key to progress.
As the resident “relationship whisperer”, Harville appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show a record-breaking 18 times. 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 is being practiced on every continent and in most every country in the world.
FOUNDATION FOR WOMEN (FFW) – Eliminating Poverty Through Microcredit
The Foundation for Women (FFW) is a registered non-profit, non-government organization working to end poverty through microcredit programs and its mission is to serve women living in poverty locally and globally by funding and creating microfinance programs that help generate sustainable income, offer education and business support, and create economic prosperity. Learn more at: http://www.foundationforwomen.org/
Safe Conversations was introduced to Liberia by Deborah Lindholm, founder of FFW. Thanks to this introduction many people will have the opportunity to build human relational competency especially in post-war Liberia.
The Safe Conversations and Foundation for Women partnership was launched in April 2021 due to long-time friendship between Deborah Lindholm and Helen Lakelly Hunt.
In June 2021, a 5-hour workshop was offered by Helen Hunt and Dr. Harville Hendrix to FFW staff and staff/students of two FFW partner schools which are Heart of Grace School located in Jacob’s Town, Rehab, Lower Johnsonville, Montserrado County, and the Alexandria A. Andrews Academy in Gbarnga, Bong County, Central Liberia.
But due to COVID -19, the two schools had to close and Ms. LaSheryl Walker, a trainer of Safe Conversations in Dallas, Texas, USA, conducted two online trainings after COVID_19 ended to keep the momentum of the program going. Safe Conversations pilot program was relaunched in April 2022 when schools reopened after the devastating impact of COVID_19.
Ms. Deborah Lindholm and her friend of 25+ years, Helen Hunt, made this great program possible for Liberia. FFW then invited CAN’s two schools to join in a SC pilot partnership. This is a Seat at the Table for Liberia’s collective impact story, which FFW has been creating and leading for years.
CHANGE AGENT NETWORK (CAN) – Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Through Education in Liberia
Change Agent Network (CAN) is a registered nonprofit organization which goal is to transform the entire nation of Liberia through Education, Mentorship, Sustainable Development, and the Hope of the Gospel. CAN is operating in Liberia as Opportunity Network Liberia. CAN’s mission is to connect underserved Liberian communities with global and local partners to launch locally sustainable schools to break the cycle of poverty through education in Liberia.
Safe Conversations – Liberia
For post-war Liberia, Safe Conversations is not only a relational competency tool but an innovative and effective approach to peace-building. When Safe Conversations tools are applied correctly, safety and connection occur, which promotes respectful and healthy relationships. Unfortunately, it is the lack of connection that perpetuates many of the communication issues that emerge in all relationships. When Liberian students, teachers, parents and people learn how to talk without judgment and listen without reacting, conversations become safe, which should be the norm for a healthy local community.
In order to achieve this, a Safe Conversations team, being led by Ms. LaSheryl Walker, Mr. Samuel Mayson, and Dr. Stefania Forte, who is also the Board President for CAN-USA, travelled to Liberia. The team also included Ms. Deborah Lindholm, Founder and CEO of Foundation for Women and Mr. Eric Wowoh Founder and Executive Director of CAN/ONLIB.
This was a very special trip of Mrs. LaSheryl Walker. It was her first trip to Liberia and this opportunity allowed her to share the following experience:
“My trip to Monrovia, Liberia to teach Safe Conversations was amazing. I had the opportunity to teach the workshop at The Heart of Grace School and Triple A Academy. At the Heart of Grace School, we were scheduled to have the workshop with the faculty and staff but there were many youth onsite that day as they were out of school for their summer break. The students wanted to attend the work and I was impressed with their desire to participate. This made me see how eager they were to learn. Even though I had taught a couple of workshops to the adults, it was a special feeling to teach in person. It was so special to be in the room with them, to look at their faces, to see the smiles, the curiosity, and to make that connection in person. Seeing them one on one was moving. I was impressed with how well they really got the concept and was able to articulate what they learned back to the group. It was also nice to hear how they have been putting the skills learned via the zoom workshop to practice. Many gave examples of how they used it at home, at work, and with their friends.
“As my trip to Liberia came to an end, I was happy to participate in a celebration of my last day in the country. We had a big celebration of good food, dancing and performances from authentic African drummers and performers. I was honored with a very beautiful dress made from fabric that is normally given to dignitaries or people of high honor. I admired their gesture of honoring me with such a fine dress. Being able to go to Liberia and connect with my people, my roots was very humbling. I feel very honored to have even had this experience. Visiting the museum there was enlightening and I am grateful for the opportunity, and this is only the beginning of a lifetime of learning and connecting across the globe.”
Mr. Samuel Mayson, a Liberian Safe Conversations trainer, was also impressed by the reception of SC in the country. He recognized the importance of having SC in the school by expressing the following:
“Safe Conversations is needed in the schools, especially the curriculum, to change the lives of your children. Liberia is a post-war country; SC will help our young ones see a bright future by equipping them with a tool to help them authentically connect with each other. We are developing future leaders, who will be ready to serve this country the right way.”
Dr. Stefania Forte, also a Liberian SC trainer, will spearhead the development and completion of an assessment and evaluation report. The purpose of the Safe Conversations evaluation Liberia Pilot is to share the model with other FFW partner schools for implementation in the country.
The report will be necessary and useful in providing the groundwork for a mixed method research project. This report will measure the impact of Safe Conversations through the qualitative and qualitative methods. The latter will also help Dr. Forte to test research protocols, data collection instruments, sample recruitment strategies, and other research techniques in preparation for a larger study. This study will also help to strengthen the SC impact in Liberia and create a strong segway into peace-building and nation building. The next major step will be the country-wide commitment to the national expansion of Safe Conversations by the government and the local communities. This travel opportunity to Liberia with the Safe Conversations team set the foundation for the expansion efforts with Liberians leading the efforts.
The Safe Conversations team hit the ground running and held formal meeting with the Deputy Minister of Instruction at the Ministry of Education, Mr. Alexander Duopu.
According to the SC team, Depty Min. Duopou assured them that the Ministry of Education will partner with Safe Conversations through CAN, to ensure the program’s success and expansion throughout the country.
The goal of Safe Conversations in Liberia
The goal is to expand the Safe Conversations tools, practices, and mindset to all schools in the country and culminating into a national educational and peace-building practice. This is the first time Safe Conversations would be inserted into schools’ curriculum in Liberia and a leeway into all schools across the country. Consequently, the next major step will be the country-wide commitment to the national expansion of Safe Conversations by the government and the local communities.
Before the team had met with Liberia’s Deputy Education Minister, the SC team had a program, which involved in-person training where the trainers provided an interactive and culturally competent training. “The participation was overwhelming! The original plan was to train the trainers, who were involved in the other SC trainings via zoom. The response was such a blessing because along with the trainers, the teachers, and the students joined in overwhelming numbers. The international trainers were able to witness firsthand the interest, need, and overall commitment that the Liberian people have for SC. The ultimate goal is to expand SC in Liberia to transform the culture for the better by becoming the way of life for the people which is an effective and practical strategy for peace building,” Dr. Forte emphasized.
The SC training and interviews from teachers, trainers, and students were documented that will also culminate into a short documentary.
Dr. Forte gathered data from students, trainers, and trainers to develop an assessment report. The data gathering methods included interviews, questionnaires, surveys, and observation notes.
This innovative peace-building tool will play a critical and valuable role in helping Liberia’s transition into sustainable peace. Safe Conversations will become not only an intrinsic part of the schools’ curriculum but will also spread throughout CAN’s work culture and the surrounding communities we serve.
Testimonials from Staff, Students, Trainers, and Teachers
The following are a glimpse into the responses from interviews conducted with students, trainers, and teachers:
Madam Willimina Garlawolo, Registrar of Triple A School and SC Trainer: “Safe Conversations really helped me to see people’s efforts and the positives in them. At times, we just see the negatives in people; now I have learned how to appreciate people.”
Mr. Darius Dargbeh, teacher at Heart of Grace School and SC Trainer: “SC helped me to be able to look into the eyes of people when I’m speaking to them. I feel confident when I talk.”
Female student G. Patricia Duo of Triple A School – Grade 11: “SC really helped me to show appreciation to people and make them know that they are important. It really changed how I interact with people. SC is really good if you practice it all the time and I even learned about mirroring to better understand people. Now people are seeing the difference in me by the way I talk to them.”
Male student Mohammed L. Yamah of Triple A School – Grade 10: “When we are little, we learn our ABCs as a foundation. It’s the same way SC will be our foundation for bringing peace in our communities and country. I think we need to be ambassadors of SC and take this work to our peers, who are feeling left out by society. SC will really help them.”
Principal Alexander McKay of Heart of Grace School: “I really believe that we should not treat SC like an extracurricular activity in schools. SC should be a part of the curriculum like Math and Science because it is so important to help our students learn how to engage properly with people and it will also help families, too.
Safe Conversations Team Welcome by Monrovia City Mayor
Mrs. LaSheryl Walker, a member of the SC team, was also able to have an official welcome via a phone call from Mr. Jefferson T. Koijee, the Mayor of Monrovia. Mayor Koijee was out of the country for a conference but wanted to take the opportunity to welcome the SC team to his city and to ensure that the City of Monrovia provides the corridor for SC to succeed and extend across the country.