Classrooms & Counseling for Children of War
All God’s Children (AGC) is the Liberia branch of Serve the Children. We offer tuition free education and counseling in the nation of Liberia. Fourteen years of brutal civil war are over, but they have devastated Liberia and her people. Imagine what life would be like in the United States if 8% of our population (23,437,500 people) died in a 14-year-long civil war. Now imagine that 80% of us live below the poverty line. Try to picture life here with no electrical service, not enough food to eat and very little safe drinking water and sanitation. Imagine that there are few medical personnel, that only 20% of our schools still exist, and that our roads and most of our transportation system have been destroyed.
Now you will have a better understanding of what life is like in Liberia, a country that was once called “The Jewel of Africa.” Tens of thousands of war orphans, former child soldiers and impoverished children are left to face an uncertain future. We give hope to more than 900 of these children by providing them with tuition free primary education, counseling, food, medical care and the gospel of Jesus Christ in a caring Christian environment.
Small Boy Units, or SBUs, are the child soldiers of Liberia. All God’s Children was started in 1997 to provide the only free education and counseling in the name of Christ to SBUs in Liberia. We soon expanded to include war orphans and other children who were too poor to pay for school. Our four schools stayed open throughout the war years, except when they were forced to close or were destroyed by the fighting and looting. We have reopened two schools since the war ended in August 2003. We are currently working with the Dutch organization ZOE to rebuild a rural school we once operated for the Grand Bassa tribe at Mambahn Civil Compound.
Services and Ongoing Projects
Schools: Our largest school is in the capital city of Monrovia. The Sinkor school offers classes for preschool through 9th grade. An afternoon session was initiated in 2005 to serve the needs of children who are returning to school after missing several years. The afternoon session is accelerated so that children can complete two grades in one year. This school serves between 600-800 students each year. Our second school is in rural Liberia. It is called 15 Gate because of it’s location on the Firestone Rubber Plantation. Over 300 children attend there for preschool through 6th grade.
Students ranging in age from pre-school to upper teens attend our schools, since many have had their education interrupted by the war. We teach reading, writing, math, science, geography, history, music and art. We supply everything necessary for our students and staff, including teaching materials and school uniforms, which are required by law in Liberia. All of our students have suffered the trauma and deprivation of war, so we provide counseling to help them deal with what they have been through. Both schools have long waiting lists.
Each school day begins with a chapel service. All of our teachers are Christians and a few are pastors, as is our Liberian Country Director. Their faith and dependence on God have been tested and strengthened throughout the devastating war years they have survived, and they have continued to teach and help the children at great personal sacrifice. At our schools, children who have been taught indigenous beliefs, Islam, Christianity or any other religion have the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, learn about His great love for them and see first-hand what a difference knowing and trusting God makes in someone’s life.
In September 2009, we reopened our Manbahn Civil Compound School. The school is located on the Firestone rubber tree plantation, about one hour further down the road from our 15 Gate School and will serve approximately 150 children from 4 years to 18 years old. ZOA, an international NGO based out of The Netherlands built the 6 room school house on property donated by a local village. Our first school there started operations in 1998 and was the first school ever in this area. The school was destroyed during the fighting in 2003.
Medical Care: We employ a full time nurse in Liberia to provide basic health care for our students. The nurse spends time diagnosing and treating bacterial infections, wounds, malaria, worms, diarrhea and anemia. We receive rapid malaria tests and medication through a grant from the Liberian Ministry of Health. The nurse also provides health education for the students and their parents.
Volunteer Mission Teams: teams have gone to Liberia whenever conditions have allowed. Now that the war is over, they can go on a regular basis to share and live the love of Christ with the hurting people of Liberia.
Several of our Board members have been to Liberia with volunteer mission teams. During the 2004 mission trip, our Board President, Secretary and the team were presented with these statements from parents:
“Since the A.G.C. school was established in Liberia, we are proud of her activities in molding the minds of our children… Based on her humanitarian works for the people of Liberia, especially in educating our children who are the future leaders of our beloved country, Liberia.”
- Parents-Teachers Association, 15 Gate School, 5/31/04
“… we also want to deliver our thanks and appreciation to you and all of our sponsors in the United States of America for the level of assistance rendered to the AGC Elementary Schools in Liberia, by making them tuition free. We (are) greatly happy for such a great help rendered not only to us, but also to the Liberian society as a whole; because he who helps to develop the minds of people, is helping to develop the nation.”
-Parents-Teachers Association, Monrovia School, 5/24/04
Why We Serve in Liberia: The Need: Almost half of Liberia’s 3.4 million people are under the age of 15. These children have known nothing but war. For 14 years, Liberians had to be ready to run away from their homes at a moment’s notice when armed bands charged through, killing and looting. Over 250,000 Liberians, most of them civilians, died in the war. More than 1.3 million people (over one third of the population) have been displaced from their homes. Many families have been torn apart, and there are people who still do not know the fate of their loved ones.
“Abductions, torture, rape and other human rights abuses have taken place on a massive scale.” It is estimated that 10% of the children in Liberia were recruited or forced into militias, and also that 10% of the children have suffered the horrifying trauma of seeing their families and friends assaulted, tortured and murdered.
–CIA World Fact Book, 9/3/04; United States Agency for International Development (USAID), 6/8/2004.
“I’ve got no Ma, I’ve got no Pa. I have no books and no learning. Now what am I supposed to do?”
–girl soldier, Liberia, 10/30/03
Thousands of Liberian children who fought in the civil war are now turning in their guns and preparing to move back into society. They are the Small Boy Units, or SBUs of both sexes. Like many Liberians, these children have huge gaps in their schooling and many have not had any education at all. Child soldiers want and need education, “to make something of their lives and put their pasts behind them.” They also need help to deal with what they have seen and done, and to successfully rejoin the community. -Human Rights Watch Report, 2/04
Even with the funds they receive from disarming, many former child soldiers cannot afford long-term school expenses. If they have no chance for free ongoing education and counseling in a stable community setting, it will be easier to recruit them to fight in other countries. For example, there are reports that “500 youths under the age of 17 (from Liberia) had been recruited to go to Guinea.” Those former fighters who stay in Liberia but see no positive future for themselves are more likely to become alienated, hopeless and angry. –Reuters, 8/28/04
The United Nations estimates that over 80% of Liberia’s 3.4 million people live below the poverty line, 35% are chronically malnourished and 70%- 80% are illiterate. Only half of the school-age children in Liberia attend school and many adults have no access to education. The major reasons: 4 out of 5 schools have been damaged or destroyed in the war, and most Liberians are too poor to pay existing school costs. -USAID, 6/8/2004
Private schools charge $100-$175 per year and even public schools cost up to $20 per year. Most Liberians live on less than $365 a year and 50% earn half that amount. Since the average Liberian family spends about 70% of its income on food, there is not much left over for anything else, including education (amounts in US dollars). –UN IRIN NEWS, 6/10/04; Inter Press Service, 6/16/04
Cooperating Individuals and Organizations
Individuals, churches and community groups who sponsor a child or teacher, give funds or donate supplies.
- Volunteers who collectively donate thousands of hours of service per year.
- Adventist Development and Relief Agency International (ADRA)
- The United Nations World Food Program (WFP)
- The Bridgestone Firestone Company
- The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
- ING Foundation Community Matching Gifts Program
- Microsoft Matching Gifts Program
- Engineering Ministries International
- Rotary International
- and You!