Buchanan — Francis Sio and his wife, Saya Sio, along with two of their friends from the US — Mr. & Mrs. Lynn and Carmen Carter on Saturday, March 20 — dedicated a US$150,000 building that will be used by the Junior-high section of the Annie T. Memorial Academy in Buchanan City, Grand Bassa County.
At the ribbons cutting and unveiling of the name of the building, Mrs. Sio told newsmen that the building has been named in honor of the late Mr. L.M. ‘Pete’ Carter. The deceased’s son and daughter-in-law — Lynn and Carmen — gave the first “seed money” of US$30,000 for the project.
Mr. Carter couldn’t hide his joy of seeing that the building is named in his late father’s honor.
“I am so happy for this gesture. I wish all of you knew my father; he was a good man. He had preferred to go hungry and give you his food once you never had food,” Lynn said. He and his wife promised to go and lobby for more support for the Annie T. Memorial Foundation.
The library in the building is named in honor of Carmen’s stepdad, Mac Carriher, who, according to her, used to love reading. She disclosed that her mother donated some money towards the project.
In recognition of the tireless effort of their two friends, the Sios gowned Lynn and Carmen and gave them traditional Liberian names, thereby making them officially “Liberians.” Carmen also served on the Annie T. Doe Memorial Foundation Board. She is the Director of Child Sponsorship. She has been instrumental in finding sponsors for at least 40 percent of the current 350 students in the school. Lynn and Carmen were welcomed into the Liberian Family. Carmen was named “Decontee”, meaning “There is time for everything;” while her husband was called “Garnayee,” meaning in the Bassa vernacular, “A man has come.”
Along with the building dedication, the Sios also named the 1st Grade Class in the elementary section in honor of another sponsor, E. Nuku Reeves. Reeves has taken sponsorship of the entire class.
Also, they launched their Foundation’s Women’s Micro-financing interests-free loan program. According to Mrs. Sio, an anonymous donor provided US$10,000. Sixty women in Bassa, Montserrado and Nimba were given US$150.00 apiece. They are expected to pay back the amount without interest in 12 months’ time. “They also will serve as ambassadors for the program,” she added.
During the indoors program, the guest speaker, Mr. John B. S. Davies, II, CEO of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), expressed his profound thanks and appreciation for what the Sios have done and are doing in Buchanan.
He told the Sios and the Carters that they could have used their break after the loosening of the tight Coronavirus restrictions in the US, to go on vacation to Las Vegas. Instead, they chose to come to Liberia to help Liberian kids.
Mr. Davies took time to speak of the lady in whose honor the school is named— Ma Annie.
“I knew her very well. I also know her nine children.” He reminisced how some of her boys, whom he and them had grown up in Buchanan, were “prolific footballers.”
He further stated that when Ma Annie’s life ended abruptly in an accident on September 20, 1989, something told him that her legacy wasn’t going to end at that point.
He told his audience that investment in education is not just about paying a child’s school fee; adding: “It goes behind that. Many of these children when they leave school and get home, they are worried about what to eat.” He informed everyone that he is a part of a group in his church, that provides food for some students in order to keep them in school.
“I appreciate a model that the Annie T. Doe has adopted— having sponsorship for each class but please see the need to go beyond this.”
The LBDI President urged the audience to “put your hands behind them and help them, too. Parents don’t let this investment go to waste. You must make sure that you get your children to school. The first persons to benefit from these kids tomorrow will be you. Encourage them; support them; make sure that they are in school every day and on time.”
He also urged the students to not take their learning for granted. He encouraged them to excel and surpass his and other grownups’ levels of education.
He named some of his former schoolmates, including Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon, whom he said they are making decisions that are affecting the lives of millions of Liberians, because of education.
He also admonished the students to, above all else, look up to God, “for it is Him from Whom all blessings flow.”
In brief remarks, Madam Julia Duncan-Cassell, former Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, too, urged the parents to encourage their kids to stay and be in school.
Madam Duncan-Cassell, who is also a former Superintendent of Grand Bassa County, also urged the teachers to pay attention to their students.
She thanked the Carters and other sponsors for everything that they are doing for Liberian kids.
The indoor program was spiced with brilliant performances by students.
A first-time-in-school four-year-old kid, Ms. Devine Blodyu, put up a performance that amazed everyone. She spelled 25 three-letter and four-letter words. She also identified 15 colors and spelled each color she identified. Other students did traditional and Western dances.
In his thank you remarks, Mr. Francis Sio told the audience that when they broke the grounds few years ago, little did they know that they would have raised more than US$50,000 to get the building where it is.
He urged his fellow Liberians in the Diaspora to pick a project in Liberia so that their compatriots can be helped back home.
For Saya, she told the kids, “The only difference between you and me now is education. 46 years ago, if anyone had told me that I would have been standing here and doing this, I would have told them no way.” But she said it is education that has shifted her life.
She and husband started the Annie T. Doe Memorial Foundation 10 years ago in honor of her late mom, Ma Annie. They started with helping 75 students and now with the dedication of the new building, enrollment is expected to increase from 350 to 500 students. The kids are supplied all the school materials.
The Annie T. Memorial Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Charlotte, NC and Liberia providing free education, women empowerment initiatives and free basic health care services to impoverished communities across Liberia.