We were very lucky to get to learn about Eric Wowoh who is an amazing social entrepreneur. Eric’s vision for sustainable change in Liberia is through holistic education. His complex, multi-tiered cycle is innovating low-fee private education in every county of the country. Read on to learn how children raise chickens to fund their education.
I consider myself a school launcher or a “school planter,” using my entrepreneurial skills to envision and build schools in areas where there is a greater need for education. As a representative of the Change Agent Network, our goal is to build what we call an educational “hope center” in each of the 15 counties of Liberia. Currently, we have built 6 of these centers which will often also include a kitchen, medical clinic, community resource center, and church in addition to the educational infrastructure. We call this our holistic approach because we build the school alongside the community to ensure buy-in, empower them to run-it in a way that makes sense for their community, and then partner with other organizations to ensure the continued development needs of the school are met. Here is a fascinating Prezi or video below that illustrates many aspect of our model: https://prezi.com/bd54w0eljfi2/change-agent-network/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy
In addition to what was mentioned in the video, our work includes additional activities such as:
- Low cost school and microbusiness loans;
- Community gardens where many of the barter goods are kept and fresh fruits and veggies are grown for use in the school cafeterias (ex: eggs from the chickens are gathered);
- A medical center attached to the school: this way students do not stay home if they are sick as their school fees include access to medical support;
- School transportation and uniform support built into our funding model; and,
- A church: spiritual education is a core part of our mission and many of our donors will choose to build this in conjunction with the educational center.
These aspects are integral to our holistic approach to ensure that children can access, stay, and thrive in school and so that families can effectively break the cycle of poverty.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also had to make adjustments to help support our school communities and help prepare them for re-opening. I have actually been here in Liberia throughout the pandemic living in one of our schools, which has allowed me to maintain connected to the community and to really listen intently to their needs. One of the main questions I am asked has been “How are we going to reopen the schools when the government has not provided any Coronavirus relief package?” This has been very challenging to answer, but what I have found is that in the midst of adversity, it pushes you to try new things and get creative. As a team we have put our heads together and come up with an innovative and greatly needed teacher loan program to make sure teachers can continue to take care of their families during this challenging time. Through this program, teachers can request 1-3 months’ worth of salary, which would then be paid back during installments directly from their monthly paychecks once schools restart. We also have responded to the community need and have provided the opportunity for some children to live within the school compounds during the pandemic; currently I share the school with 40 children as my “housemates.” As a leader I think it has been critical to be onsite as being here gives me a great perspective and shows that I am in it together with the community. I will likely be here through September when schools open as there is a lot we still need to figure out and plan for. There will be a lot of learning from the ground to share with you all moving forward.
Thank you so much for your interest in our work. I welcome your questions, insights, and thoughts and look forward to sharing more about our work as we continue to expand our efforts.
Thank you Eric for sharing some of your passion with us. Please stay in touch with the Change Agent Network and their incredible work across Liberia at https://www.canintl.org/.