“I believe education is the only way anyone can contribute to the development of any country. A lot of people in Liberia don’t trust young people when it comes to their involvement with advocacy. When these businesses supported us, they gave us approval.”
Moses Browne (GYA – Monrovia, Liberia)
Located in West Africa along the Atlantic Ocean, Liberia has faced more than its fair share of issues. Decades of corruption, economic mismanagement, and civil conflict has had a devastating effect on the country. Add to that the Ebola outbreak which killed thousands and shut down schools for months on end, it is no wonder that over one million Liberian children are out of school.
Enter Moses Browne, 29, working tirelessly to improve education in his home country. This past summer he collected more than 75,000 signatures for the #UpForSchool campaign with a team of eight other Global Youth Ambassadors (GYAs). His dedication took him all over Liberia, from the capital in Monrovia to the farthest rural community, accessible only by canoe.
As Browne and his team travelled from school to school to raise awareness and collect signatures for the petition, they hit a couple of roadblocks. One, they ran through their supply of petition books quickly and shipping took about a week, creating a lag in which they could have been collecting more signatures. Two, they did not have enough funds to rent a van to travel around the country. Three, they were not always taken seriously because of their young age. People would look at them suspiciously and think there was a hidden agenda.
A World at School had originally given the idea to Browne to engage international organizations and businesses with their work. However, he had some difficulties getting meetings with international business and organization leadership.
“They see you as a young person,” Browne said. “Maybe you are not of stature, or you don’t have access to them and can’t meet them.”
He and his team decided it might be better to work with local businesses and engage those at a community level. This led to a meeting with Developmental Media Inc (DMI) and Shutter News Agency, two big Liberian media companies.
“They were excited that young people like us were thinking big and had all these ideas,” said Browne about DMI’s positive feedback. “And they said ‘this is something we were also doing. We’ll work together.”
Shutter News Agency agreed to print additional petition books to pass around schools while DMI provided funding for transportation as well as printing services. DMI helped partially fund a van enabling the GYAs to travel to 10 of the 15 counties in Liberia. Furthermore, both media houses offered to leverage their core assets by publicizing the work that Browne and the GYAs accomplished. In return, Browne told everyone they met that DMI helped sponsor their progress. Not only were school communities impressed by the work, but they also took Browne and his work more seriously because they had two businesses vouching for them.
It was a win-win situation where Browne and his team were able to access the materials they needed while the media houses were publicized throughout Liberia. As Browne notes the donations were “not necessarily because of the money but because they too have a passion for education.” And of course, tens of thousands of people learned more about the state of education in their country and decided to stand #UpForSchool!