Kirkland Resident Raising Funds for School in War-Torn Liberian Homeland

With your help, kids in Kakata, Liberia can go back to school next fall. Their school was destroyed during a long, bloody civil war that ended not long ago. Now a Kirkland resident who was born and raised in Kakata is trying to provide not only a new school building, but desks, chairs, supplies, and teachers. 

When Antoinette Brewster was a child in Liberia, a West African country founded by freed American slaves, a boy named Charles Taylor played ping pong in her home. In 1989, that boy was an 18-year old soldier who started a war that lasted fourteen years, and left more than 200,000 people dead, over a million in refugee camps, and the country in ruins.

From her home in Kirkland, Antoinette watched helplessly as the war devastated her homeland. When she finally returned to Liberia after the war ended, she saw the destruction with her own eyes, and was determined to help.

Antoinette, whose father, Sam Mentee, was a noted Liberian educator, believes that "education is the key to rebuilding Liberia." She and her siblings donated their childhood home in Kakata and created the non-profit Mentee Foundation to build a school on the property. The school will provide the only opportunity for many local children to get an education.

For construction management help, the Mentee Foundation turned to another local non-profit, Construction for Change. This all-volunteer organization, started in 2007 by three friends from the University of Washington Construction Management program, provides funding, building design, and construction management for small third world non-profits.

Nick Tosti, one of the founders of Construction for Change, says that he and the other two founders had all traveled in the third world and independently concluded that there are many small organizations doing great work all over the world that lack capital, infrastructure, and construction experience. CFC's vision is to "partner with these on-the-ground organizations that are doing the best work out there."

In 2010, Antoinette moved back to Liberia to oversee the school project. Last month, two construction management volunteers from CFC arrived to begin building the four-room school. Using local labor, methods, and materials will provide jobs and enhance the community's investment.

Kirkland attorney and former Kiwanis president Walt Krueger is the secretary and bookkeeper of the Mentee Foundation. He says that the group has raised more than half the money needed to build, furnish, and run the school, but needs an additional forty thousand dollars by the end of February in order to begin teaching students in the fall of 2012. The school will eventually become self-sustaining through the growing and sale of agricultural products on the land.

The Mentee Foundation is also working with Friends of Liberia, an organization of returned Liberian Peace Corps Volunteers, to train Liberian teachers in progressive education practices.

I asked Nick why CFC chose the Mentee Foundation from the many worthy applications they receive. His reply? "We believe in Antoinette Brewster."

How Can You Help?

Click here to make a donation to the Mentee Foundation.

Photo source: The Mentee Foundation.