Wednesday, September 1, 2010

As I Start Teaching This Fall, I Can't Forget the Teachers at Abigail Butscher Primary School

My first day back to school at Boys' Latin School of Maryland today was an absolute delight. My new fourth grade boys could not be more charming and ready to learn. We spent our day in air conditioning surrounded by a beautiful facility. Tons of books and supplies were on our shelves. I spent my day in a teacher's heaven. A place of comfort that is filled with all the essential tools for kids to learn.
My mind drifted back to the teachers at Abigail Butscher Primary School and the bag of money, leones, in my bag. (For those of you who don't know--leones are the currency in Sierra Leone.)That money will help two teachers go to Freetown Teacher's College. This is something that they would never be able to do without help. The teachers are supposed to make about $100 a year, but they are lucky if they get paid. Teacher's College costs them $100 a year. This expense would be impossible for them to cover. I had enough leones in my bag today to pay for college for one year for the two teacher's who need qualifications. The school needs all teachers to have their qualifications if they hope to qualify for status as a government school. Qualifying as a government school means the school would receive some government funding for books and teacher's salaries. How can this happen if the teachers don't make enough in a year to pay for school? I don't even know how they make enough to support their families with food and a roof. I am lucky, I get paid to do my job in a beautiful place.
My day ended by sending the money off in hands that I am sure will get the tuition money to Freetown Teacher's College. My hopes and prayers are with Mohammed Mansary and Adama Kargbo. I pray that our system of paying for them to go to college is successful. I pray that I can continue to help them with their teaching careers and their school with much needed support.
When I watched Mr. Mansary and Mrs. Kargbo teach last June, their care, passion, and concern that all the students learned was apparent to me. They did this without books, without air conditioning, without water, without bathrooms, without learning materials. They did this with their hearts. If I could send every bit of what I had today to them, I would do so in a minute.
The best part of my day was sending off the money and hoping with every bit of my being that things can get better for them.

Friday, July 2, 2010

First Day at Abigail Butscher Primary School

We spent our first morning at the school meeting with the teachers. It was not a normal school day and the kids only came for a few hours to watch the one yearly movie they get to see at school on The Day of the African Child. This is a day set aside by all of Africa to remember the school children killed in the South African schools during the anti-apartheid violence. In order for them to watch the movie a generator and TV need to be rented since there is no electricity at the school.
The teachers showed us the materials they have to teach with. One book is used by the teacher to copy the story on the board. This is the only reading material the students have to learn to read from. They never get to hold a book in their hands to read. We quickly decided to spend time shopping for books to see what we could get them. They also needed uniforms for the children. Too many of the children's families could not afford a uniform. They also shared that they did not have enough pencils, paper, notebooks, and pens for the kids. Luckily, we had pencils, paper, notebooks, crayons, colored pencils, and erasures that we would be giving to the kids and teachers over the next few days.
While we were meeting with the teachers and meeting a lot of the kids, Dr. Ossie Cameron, and Dr. Fedra Whitting were setting up a dental clinic in the school office. They planned on screening all 180 of the children and performing all extractions that needed to be done during our time there. They did accomplish this working ten hour days plus they managed to see a lot of local parents and kids who did not even go to the school. They were amazing!!!!
After spending the day at the school we set off back to town to shop for material for the school uniforms and books for the kids. After stops at many market stalls we found the correct color green fabric and yellow chording for the uniforms. We priced everything out, then set off to find MacMillan Africa. Walking the streets of Freetown was an experience! The crowds were intense because everybody is walking and trying to sell something. At MacMillan Africa we were able to find books for reading levels 1-7. The stories we found were great for the kids. Stories like The Great Paw Paw Tree and The Enormous Yam---they were fun for us to read and we picked out titles that we thought the kids at Abigail Butscher could connect to. We got prices and set back to the hotel to figure out what we could afford to buy with the budget we had. Thanks to a travel grant from Boys' Latin School we had enough money to be able to buy these things for the school.
Back at the hotel we went for a swim in the ocean, which was heavenly!!! We also met back up with the medical team for dinner.
After dinner we decided that we could buy two titles at each of the seven reading levels and 15 copies of each title. This would allow the kids to have a book to share with a classmate. Since the school only went up to grade four, they would have some titles at levels for the kids to move up to over the next year.
Our plan for the next day was to head back to the school and watch the teachers teach, get a feel for what we could do with the teachers and kids during our short time there, then head back to town to buy books and material.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


We did make it to Freetown from London. There was no internet connection at our hotel so I am going to attempt to go back and narrate the highlights of our trip. After our long flight we had to get on an 18 passenger helicopter. The heli trip was 15 minutes and very loud but a fun adventure. We finally settled at the hotel and had a team meeting at 11:00 pm. Our next day was to start at 6:00 am!!!

It was easy to get up at 6:00 am because of the excitement to get to The Abigail Butscher Primary School!! Even after a 30 hour trip, Emma popped right out of bed!!! The sights and scenery on the way to the school were unlike anything I can explain!! Tons of people walking, dirt roads, more cars than could fit on the roads and between all the people, people selling, selling, selling, and people carrying the biggest loads on their heads!!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Not There Yet!

We are all waiting at Heathrow International Terminal on a 7 hour layover. It is 11:00 and we are all going to head to the pub to watch a soccer match and drink a beer in the hopes that we can sleep on the 7 hour flight to Freetown. We managed to check over 700 pounds of supplies. There are 14 of us. Two dentists, two engineers, three teachers, three doctors, two nurses, one teacher helper(Emma) and Marco, the head of it all! There will be a helicopter waiting for us in Freetown. The airport is out on a peninsula and it is many hours to drive from the airport to Freetown---so the only choices are helicopter(a 7 minute ride), ferry (which is very slow and crowded), or water taxi. We arrive in Freetown tonight at 8:00 (3:00 in Maryland!)
LONG TRIP, but everyone is enjoying each others company!!! The plans are to get up in the morning and head to the school. The medical team will head to the hospital!
Hopefully we will post tomorrow night.
Love to all!!!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Background and Preparation

In four days we will be leaving for Sierra Leone on a joint educational/medical mission. We have a unique, super qualified group of people traveling together with the education team. There are three Boys' Latin teachers. Julia Williams, a middle school science teacher, Greg Schnitzlein, a third grade teacher, and myself, a fourth grade teacher, are exciting to meet the kids and teachers at The Abigail Butscher Primary School in Calabatown. We will be staying in Freetown and traveling to Calabatown during the day. We hope to help the teachers come up with ways to utilize the resources they do have to engage students in more interactive ways to teach. We are also taking over 300 lbs. of school supplies with us. Kevin and Kristen Rowe are also traveling with us. Kevin is a financial advisor and Kristen is an engineer. Their hopes are to head up some projects improving the facilities at the school. Madieu Williams, Minnesota Vikings Free Safety, is our leader on this side of the mission and is passionate about helping improve the education in Freetown. This mission is just the start of yearly missions to help improve the schools in Sierra Leone. We are starting our work at the school in Calabatown and hope over the coming years to help in more places.
My twelve year old daughter, Emma, is also traveling with us. She has raised about 500 dollars and collected a lot of school supplies from Hereford Middle School. I am anxious for her to see how lucky she is to have the resources and infrastructure we have here. I am also excited for her to have the chance to interact with the children in Calabatown.
Marco, my husband, will be with a team of doctors at the hospital in Freetown. The medical team hopes to perform some free surgeries and start planning ways to help improve the healthcare in Sierra Leone.
We have our visas, malaria pills, and yellow fever vaccines. All of our other vaccines (tetanus, Hep A, meningitis, polio etc...) are updated.
The two foundations that we are traveling with are The Healing Hands Foundation, and The Madieu Williams Foundation. If anyone wants more information on either go to or
The profile photo shows Julia, Greg, Madieu, and I when Madieu came to The Boys' Latin School to talk to the boys about Sierra Leone and the upcoming mission.
I hope to update the blog daily with the happenings of our trip. I will be missing my son, Nico, while we are gone. This blog will be a great way for him to experience everything that we do!