Liberia to Get State-of-Art Learning Center from Canadian-Based Charity, Empowerment Squared
Monrovia – For Leo Nupolu-Johnson, it all comes down to opportunities and giving young Liberians an opportunity and a haven to learn. “The same opportunities that children everywhere around the world are enjoying, our children too deserve the same. The children in this country have suffered too much for too long,” said Johnson, Executive Director of Empowerment Squared, a Hamilton, Canada-based charity that works with youth and communities to effect sustainable change through education, social development, and lifelong learning opportunities.
On Monday, Johnson launched the first step to seeing that dream fulfilled for his homeland, Liberia as he and his organization broke grounds for a modern library, aptly titled: “Liberian Learning Center”.
An Access to Learning
“It was easy to just focus on what I will get but it was also very difficult to think about what you can do for Liberia because the problems are immense.”Leo Johnson, Executive Director of Empowerment Squared, a Hamilton, Canada-based charity
At the groundbreaking ceremony which took place at the Paynesville City Hall, Johnson explains that the concept for the center started with an idea and a vision some eight years ago, when he saw the need of creating a space where Liberians, especially students can have quality and adequate access to educational materials, competing with peers in similar age groups around the world.
The Liberian Learning Center is a collaborative project led by Canadian Charity Empowerment Squared in partnership with Rotary Club International, Paynesville City Corporation(PCC), McCallumSather, and Hamilton Public Library among others.
Johnson, who spent eight years in refugee camps, after fleeing war-torn Liberia in 1998 and arrived in Canada in 2006 as a Canadian government-sponsored refugee, says he saw the opportunity of being a refugee in Canada not only about himself but also about what he could do for the people he left back home. “It was easy to just focus on what I will get but it was also very difficult to think about what you can do for Liberia because the problems are immense,” he said.
Johnson, who spends his time between Canada and Liberia is hopeful that the learning center project will house the country’s first public library since 1989 when the war started, a community innovation center and the development of a young professional network for collective impact.
Johnson challenged Liberians to step up in making Liberia better because the donor community will not do it all. “You know there is this saying that Liberians cannot work together, but the truth is the conversations have been so discouraging that many people stay away. We are not having conversations about solutions, we are talking about problems,” he said.
Library Will Enhance Comprehension, Mayor Says
Adding that to make progress, Johnson says, “the entire country does not have to be around you but a few faithful Liberians who can provide the leadership to inspire people to follow.”
Serving as a partner for the Project, the Mayor of the City of Paynesville, Madame Pam Belcher-Taylor said the Learning Center will provide a calm and healthy learning environment for students. “As we all know Libraries help in developing students’ vocabulary, enhancing comprehension and developing the habit of reading in silence,” she said.
Mayor Belcher said communities will benefit because the Library will also have access to the internet. “Those seeking information might not always have access to the internet. Today in Liberia, the vast majority of our student population at all levels find it difficult accessing information for their school assignments and projects.”
Mr. Paul Takala, CEO and Chief Librarian of the Hamilton Public Library praised Empowerment Squared’s Johnson for being a successful son at the same time, challenging Liberians to see the proposed Library as a long-term project. “A library is like a tree, it grows and over time it bears much and that’s a long time, it is not something that you can just do quickly,” Takala averred.
Mr. Takala said the library will provide a great platform for people to improve their community. “The library on its own won’t change anything; but what it does is provide a great platform for people who want to improve their communities and lives like never before.”
Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor said libraries are a critical part of the educational process because it allows research. “The telephones have become information portals, but I know that when a child learns, it is by turning the papers, reading, writing notes and researching and so libraries are critical,” she said.
The Liberian Learning Center will serve as a lab for learning and a platform for social, cultural and educational exchange for young people. The primary goal of the center is to develop a practical-skilled based model for integration for the Liberian society.