Giewee Hammond grew up in New Jersey and now is a Data Scientist in Houston, TX. In September 2017, she visited her family’s homeland of Liberia to formally introduce Wahjay-STEM to the Liberian community and the Liberian Senate.
If you help children get skills that make them competitive for global occupations, will Liberia – a country long beset by poverty and under-development – lose its brightest citizens to nations able to offer more opportunities?
Giewee ultimately found the concern shortsighted.
“That question frustrates me. The goal of the program is not to get people to come to America,” she said. “It is to help them develop their communities, and if they want to go out of the country, they are on equal footing with economic competitors.”
She recalled the tribute to a man named, Var Fleh, in front of the Liberia Senate. Var Fleh honed his skills as an executive assistant in Liberia over several years. When his company’s leadership planned a business trip to the United States recently, Var was chosen to accompany them because of his previously developed skills.
“The focus of the story was not, ‘go to America,’” Giewee recalled. “It was: when you can learn a new skill, your world opens.”
During Giewee’s September 2016 trip, she also found other reasons for expanding education reform, namely the overwhelming and hard-won support of students, teachers, partners and many Senators and government officials who understood the need an update in the curriculum from their personal experiences.
Students from one school in Buchanan City, Liberia, themselves raised 1,500 Liberian Dollars to support expanding Wahjay-STEM.
Senator Nyonblee Karnga- Lawrence has made great efforts to support the Wahjay-STEM initiative in Buchanan City because she sees that it influences better retention amongst the students because of the level of engagement that each student is expected to have alongside the hands-on learning aspect.
To make sure that Wahjay-STEM delivers on promises, Giewee has made two trips to Liberia in 2016. She plans to return to Liberia twice in within the first quarter of 2017 when 25 students from the pilot school will be selected to participate in a robotics competition where they can apply what they have learned throughout the school year.
Toward the end of her September 2016 visit, a teacher who participated in Giewee’s training and classes pulled Giewee aside.
“They were so excited and said, ‘Thank you,’” Giewee recalls. “I realized there was so much responsibility.”
Giewee looks forward to hosting a three-day camp with the VEX IQ material in January 2017. At that time, Wahjay-STEM will deliver books to the students and monitors for four currently available computers. Teachers will be taught the material in a two-day training, and students will be oriented in the computer programming portion of the curriculum to prepare for Liberia’s first national VEX IQ robotics competition.
We welcome spectators and volunteers to the January 2017 workshop in Buchanan City, Liberia at the World Wide Mission Academy. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for the itinerary.
Written by Zarana Sanghani