LIBERIA – The world was brought to its lowest ebbs when the Coronavirus disease struck to bring everything to an undesirable standstill in many ways. Notwithstanding the avalanche of challenges brought on by this pandemic, the Change Agent Network (CAN)- a non-profit organization operating in Liberia as Opportunity Network Liberia, dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty through education, weathered the storm to achieve significant milestones in 2022.
Mr. Eric W. Wowoh, the Founder and Executive Director of CAN said the organization achieved its goals as set forth for the year 2022. “We achieved our goals, and the milestone achievements are highlighted herein,” he said.
According to the organization’s annual report, the Change Agent Network has achieved the following milestones in the last 20 years working in Liberia to transform the entire nation through education, mentorship, sustainable development, and the hope of the Gospel; over US$3.5 million have been raised to support projects undertaken by the organization; shipped 15 forty-foot containers of assorted supplies to Liberia; shipped 4 School buses to schools in rural Liberia with additional 3 buses to be shipped in 2023; Built 20 plus schools in 6 counties in the country of Liberia; educating over 4,000 underserved children; 300 employees on payroll nationwide; Graduated more than 2,000 students; Built and donated 9 houses to homeless families in the communities in which they serve; and took over 100 global partners on short term mission and volunteer impact trips to Liberia to make a difference, add value, and give hope to so many people.
Commission On Higher Education Gives Change Agent Network To Run University
During the year under review, the Change Agent Network (CAN) University was given approbation by the Commission on Higher Education to operate tertiary education programs in Liberia.
The Founder and Executive Director intoned that in the coming year, the organization will begin construction works on two educational and empowerment villages in Grand Gedeh County -Southeastern Liberia and launch another two in Margibi and Montserrado Counties respectively. He added that in 2023, CAN also resume its feeding programs in a few of the schools the organization is operating in the country.
Mr. Wowoh stressed that these initiatives are inspired by the question: “How do you keep a pistol out of a child’s hand?” We answer: “With education, we keep a pistol out of a child’s hand”.
He is entreating partners and people from all walks of life to see the need to consider investing and supporting the Change Agent Network’s campaign to “Feed the Hungry and break the cycle of poverty through education, mentorship, sustainable development, and the hope of the Gospel.
“Our goal is to raise $18,000 to feed the hungry in Liberia by shipping another 40ft container full of 50lbs of American Long Grain rice (840 bags total) from Supreme Rice Mill in Crowley, Louisiana to Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa.
At CAN, we do solidarity work but due to the current unprecedented food and economic crisis in Liberia, we are shifting gear to ship rice to starving school children and our brothers and sisters in Liberia who lived in the communities and schools we serve. The reason is we cannot talk about and do anything else if the students, parents and staff are all hungry,” the Founder and Executive Director of CAN stated.
Student Reubenlyn S. Diggs of the Heart of Grace High School had this appeal to make: “My name is Reubenlyn S. Diggs. I am in the 9th-grade class of the Heart of Grace High School. I have my mom and three siblings after watching my father leave my mom, my dream is to use my education to become a lawyer to help women in similar situations.
My mother is a hard worker, but the current food shortage has made it very hard for her to care for our family. Thank you so much for helping me chase my dreams of becoming a lawyer. I kindly ask you to consider supporting the Feed the Hungry Campaign to help my family and many others like mine. This will carry us a long way. Thanks in advance and may God richly bless you!”.
According to Mr. Wowoh, it is because of children like Reubenlyn and investors like you that CAN do not give up, despite the challenges involved in the mission that started 20 years ago.
“You are the hero, and we are only the channel through which Liberia is being transformed, one child at a time through education, mentorship, sustainable development, and the hope of the Gospel. Therefore, as you wrap gifts for your loved ones and family members, we hope and pray that you will consider investing and partnering with CAN and the struggling children of Liberia. We sent out our Christmas cards earlier because we want the celebration in Liberia to be
as joyous as it is in the United States and around the world. In Liberia, people do not give cards to their loved ones, hence we invite you and your lovely family members to write a kind note that will be given out to them. You will witness their reaction from Liberia. Give today where the need is greater, build to big impact over time, and set an amount to automatedly contribute each month. Our monthly donors, investors, and partners never forget to offer a hand up,” he pointed out.
CAN Partners With Steve Ackley To Fulfil Mission
As a poor refugee who was in Nigeria and later taken to the United States through the Refugee Resettlement program, Eric W. Wowoh established the Change Agent Network to transform the lives of his kinsmen in a big way. His vision, however, could not be achieved without the help of others with like minds.
So, CAN has been working in partnership with Mr. Steve Ackley from Technology 4 Transformation (T4T) for many years now. This great organization has donated hundreds of used computers and accessories, laptops, tablets, and Chromebook to Liberia. These donations enable us to fulfill our mission to break the cycle of poverty through education in Liberia.
After over 40 years, Brother Steve returned to Liberia on a vision and discovery trip alongside some of his partners and friends. ELWA is the organization Steve travelled to Liberia with, and ELWA Academy is where he went to school. This was his first visit back in 45 years. During this trip, Steve travelled with six suitcases full of over 30 pieces of laptops and other items for the Heart of Grace School and other institutions belonging to CAN in Liberia.
Change Agent Network CEO Honored By Liberian Institute For Growing Patriotism
His efforts have not gone unnoticed as he was awarded a prize for patriotism by the Liberian Institute for Growing Patriotism in Monrovia.
Eric Wowoh, Founder and CEO of Change Agent Network, was among the recipients who were awarded the Judge Emma Shannon Walser Medal for Rule of Law, Good Governance, and Patriotism in a ceremony at AME University Graduate School in Monrovia, Liberia, on August 23, 2022.
The award was granted by The Liberian Institute for Growing Patriotism which was launched in 2013 to pay tribute to Liberian heroes and heroines from all origins and walks of life. Mr. Wowoh and CAN were honored for the patriotic role he plays in building schools in order to break the cycle of poverty in Liberia.
CAN Partners with GGAA to Build Educational Village in Grand Gedeh County, Liberia
The vision and demonstrated commitment to breaking the cycle of poverty through education attracted an invitation from the Grand Gedeh Association in the Americas. As a result, CAN Founder and CEO Eric Wowoh and CAN Board President Dr. Stefania Forte visited Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, August 27- September 3, 2022.
Their purpose was to meet with local people regarding two massive programs undertaken this year in Zwedru City: The Women and Children Resource Center and the Grand Gedeh County Leadership Academy. GGAA has provided land for the construction of the education village. A vocational school, as an extension of this program, will be built in Zleh Town on land provided by the local people.
GGAA and GDAA hold the deeds and all legal documents for these projects. Meeting with the traditional council and elders, youth, women, the political leadership of the county, and others, Wowoh stressed the importance of having the knowledge, support, engagement, and involvement of those who will benefit most from these projects. He stated that CAN will match every dollar given toward the construction of these two education programs and that the workforce will be recruited exclusively from the county.
Dr. Forte emphasized during that visit to her hometown: “This is not us bringing something to the county. It is us working with the county. Our organization’s philosophy is ‘not charity but solidarity.’ These consultations are important because we are solidifying the proposal. It involves a lot of work, but we have done it in other counties.”
She also described the centers as first-time milestone projects which will bring a robust academic experience to the children, which can serve as an example for other counties to imitate. Community leaders expressed their enthusiasm and support for the projects, their impression of what CAN has accomplished in other counties, and their recognition of the need for the services which the centers will provide. Traditional leaders said the fact that CAN leadership came from so far away and travelled difficult roads to come to them showed their commitment to service.
They further stated, “We stand ready to work with you to ensure that this project is implemented. We will work to ensure that every bottleneck is removed.” In Zleh Town, the CAN team was welcomed by residents and traditional and local government leaders. There the announcement was made of the hope for the school to be constructed and ready for use by the 2023 school year.
Foundation for Women Partners with CAN to Introduce Safe Conversations to Liberia Launched the first-ever relational competency and peace-building tool in Liberia
Also in 2022, the Foundation for Women and Change Agent Network started liaising with authorities at the Ministry of Education for the introduction of “Safe Conversations” into the Liberian educational curriculum, with a goal of teaching SC dialogues and tenets in all schools of the country. Like CAN, Foundation for Women is a registered non-profit, non-government organization working to end poverty. Safe Conversations was introduced to Liberia in 2021 by FFW founder
Deborah Lindholm. FFW then invited two of CAN’s schools to join in an SC pilot project. 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. It was founded by relationship experts and authors Drs. Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt as a new way of talking and listening are now being practiced on every continent in the world. For post-war Liberia, SC is not only a relational competency tool but an innovative and effective approach to peacebuilding. When SC tools are applied correctly, safety and connection occur.
An SC trainer, impressed by the reception of SC in the country, said, “Safe conversations are needed in the school curriculum to change the lives of children. Liberia is a post-war country, and 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.” A program of in-person training was held prior to a meeting with Deputy Minister Alexander Duopu of the Ministry of Education.
The response was overwhelming in terms of a number of participants, their interest, and overall commitment. Safe Conversations can play a critical role in helping Liberia’s transition to sustainable peace. It can become not only an intrinsic part of the schools’ curriculum but will also spread throughout CAN’s work culture and the surrounding communities it serves. Deputy Minister Duopu has stated that the Ministry will partner with SC through CAN to ensure the program’s success and expansion throughout the country.
Amazing Liberia-Texas Connections Help Build School
Mr. Wowoh’s work connected him to Pastor Malcolm Harris, another Liberian who had the desire of building a school. With support from the Esther Class of Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas, the two have worked together to construct the Kingdom Care Academy in Monrovia which is expected to open in 2023.
During the reporting year, Epsilon Epsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority partnered with Change Agent Network (CAN) through Dr. Sammer Jones, Director for Global Relations, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Chapter, to attach a Tailoring Program to the CAN/ONLIB School System in Liberia, West Africa. This is the oldest African American Sorority organization in the United States.
97 Years of Sisterhood, Scholarship, and Service ALPHA KAPPA ALPHA SORORITY. Our first partnership program is the tailoring school presently being implemented at the Alexandra A. Andrews Academy in Gbarnga, Bong County, Central Liberia. The vocational school is one of our major pillars when it comes to breaking the cycle of poverty through education in Liberia. The reason is, over 80% of our students who graduate from high school may not have the opportunity to go to college due to poverty.
It is expected that this vocational education program will provide struggling parents in rural Liberia, especially women, to gain a vital skill that will lead them to self-empowerment. The cost of school uniforms has been a plight that many families had to deal with and, most times, becomes a hindrance to the student’s education journey. We believe that this great program will give its beneficiaries the opportunity to sew uniforms, and that same skill will equip them to become economically viable and lessen the financial burdens of others around them.
The Board President of CAN, Dr. Stefania Forte stated “In my first year as the Board President of Change Agent Network (CAN), I notice that our work to eradicate poverty in Liberia through education has never been more relevant and important for those of us in the non-profit world across the nation and the world. I’ve come to think of Change Agent Network as one very large and blessed family.
My love for my country Liberia, education, and the Lord led me to the family of Change Agent Network. I have been connected to CAN for many years in the capacity of a donor, a volunteer, and a consultant. Throughout the years I was blessed with abundant opportunities to learn, teach, mentor, and share top-quality education training and advice.
With God’s grace and support, we have accomplished a lot this year! I feel blessed, grateful, and inspired by the rural women and youth of Grand Gedeh County, the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (AKA), the transformative powers of Safe Conversations (by Drs. Helen Hunt and Harville Hendrix), and witness the commitment and resilience of the CAN supporters and local staff members. What an amazing group of people! The changes around us – whether social, political, technological, scientific, economic, or otherwise – requires that we help our students, families, and CAN staff navigate through new and increasingly complex social landscapes, which profoundly impact the organization for which we work and our communities.
Liberia is facing a rough time in food security with the current “Rice Crisis” where families do have access to food and cannot afford the outrageous prices due to the rice shortage. Our terrific CAN community of professionals, sponsors, well-wishers, and friends is a network on which I have become increasingly reliant when facing these new challenges and opportunities.”
“I’m proud of CAN successes this year, particularly in providing more opportunities to serve the Liberian people and for meaningful engagement of our members and sponsors. In the year ahead, we will continue the following
initiatives and programs: Grand Gedeh Leadership Academy and Women and Children Resource Center in Zwedru City, Grand Gedeh County, Southeastern Liberia, the Vocational Technical Education Institute in Zleh Town, Grand Gedeh County, Southeastern Liberia; the AKA Tailoring Program at AAA Academy in Gbarnga, Bong County, Central Liberia and Safe Conversations in CAN schools’ curriculum,” she emphasized.