|Michigan Girl Scouts explore Liberia from afar|
Genevieve Freeman ties an African head wrap on 17-year-old Girl
Scout Trais Cooper during "Liberia night" at Hope United Methodist
Church in Southfield, Mich.
UMNS photos by John Gordon.
By John Gordon*
Oct. 18, 2007 | SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (UMNS)
For students accustomed to their parents driving them to modern schools, learning about life in Liberia came as quite a shock.
Breana Wilks, 12, makes a kufi, a rounded cap worn by many Africans.
"What surprised me the most is the kids walking to school for several days," says Kierra Adams, 12.
Adams and other Girl Scouts at Hope United Methodist Church in
Southfield, near Detroit, organized "Liberia night" as part of an annual
peace rally at the church. The Girl Scouts set up booths with Liberian
head wraps, art and food, danced to African music and wrote letters to
pen pals in the West African nation.
"I didn’t even know that there’s a country of Liberia before I got
involved in this program," says Briana Ratchford, 13. "I’ve learned how
poor the schools are and how (it's) … been through the wars and stuff."
Years of civil war have done more than destroy Liberia’s
infrastructure. The Rev. Charles Boayue Jr., a Detroit United Methodist
pastor and a native of Liberia, spoke during the peace rally about the
challenges the country continues to face following its civil war.
"When you enter Liberia, you see the physical destruction of
infrastructure, but that’s not the only level of destruction," says
Boayue. "You have emotional destruction; you have a relationship
destruction. You have destruction of some cultural values of seeing
people kill each other with absolutely no reprisal or no judicial
procedures around us."
Barbara Talley, director of the Detroit West District Peace Center based
at Hope United Methodist, says the Girl Scouts organized Liberia night
to earn credits toward their silver badges. But Talley believes what
they have gained goes far beyond the scouting program.
The Rev. Charles Boayue Jr., a native of Liberia and United Methodist pastor, describes civil war and poverty in his
West African homeland.
"That’s what we’re trying to accomplish for our young people — to
broaden their perspective of just their little closed world of the
United States," says Talley, "and to get them to know that there’s
others that really are in need."
The troop has collected school supplies to send to Africa. The Peace
Center, which was established three years ago, is planning a mission
trip to Liberia next year and plans to hold reconciliation and
peacemaking training for youth and adults.
"It bothered me that the schools are very poor and that the children
were in the army," says Olivia Peace, 13. "I think that people deserve a
better education so they can be leaders when they grow up."
In the pen pals program, the Michigan students become ambassadors and write letters to kids their age in Liberia.
"I think it’s a cool experience that I can talk to and communicate with somebody in another country," says Nia Gamble, 13.
Boayue led a mission team last February to build a church in
Sanniquellie, Liberia, and is scheduled to lead another church-building
team in January.
Barbara Talley is director of the Detroit West District Peace Center housed at
Hope United Methodist Church.
"Religion can be different. Races can be different. Languages can be
different. Levels of education and wealth can be different," he says.
"But humanity’s hunger for the basic things of life — food, shelter,
clothing and happiness and freedom — is the same thing the whole world
Talley is challenging the students to be peacemakers and to continue reaching out to Liberia.
"It’s going to change their future dramatically," she says of the
experience. "And when they go to college and when they go in their
secondary schools, … they can then have a broader perspective about the
*Gordon is a freelance writer and producer in Marshall, Texas.
News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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