My Visit with Liberia Animal Welfare & Conservation Society (May 2015)
I spent two weeks in Liberia during May, and although this was a work trip for US Agency for International Development, I was able to visit with Liberia Animal Welfare & Conservation Society (LAWCS), and spent a Sunday (May 17) and half of Monday (May 18) with them. This was a follow-up to my meeting with Morris (Founder and Director) and Abraham (LAWCS’ volunteer/animal care) in April 2014.
(Photo 1: At the LAWCS’ office, showing from left, Haja, Morris, and Korpo, and the donated items I brought to Liberia.)
Background on LAWCS
LAWCS is not yet an Animal-Kind International partner organization (The AKI board votes on whether to add partner organizations at the end of each year, and the decision depends on funds raised during the previous year and fundraising expectations for the coming year. The last time we added a new partner organization was in 2013, Foundation Henk Abrahams-Suriname.) If and when we decide to add a new partner organization, LAWCS is likely to be the next one we will add.
I’m so impressed with LAWCS, and so is everyone who hears about them. Morris Darbo is not only enthusiastic and dedicated to animal welfare, he’s the kind of person that people are drawn to. To see what I mean, check out my interview with him (also included in that interview are Korpo, the LAWCS’ head of Humane Ed, and Haja, LAWCS’ admin/finance director):
Also, Liberia is such a difficult place for people who love animals, but Morris and the other LAWCS’ volunteers don’t think of giving up; they’ve been keeping LAWCS going for over ten years with very little outside support, and no financial support from within Liberia. Still, they’ve turned their passion into an organization that is making a real impact on Liberian society, and that has the potential for doing so much more.
Briefly, LAWCS’ focus is on humane education (HE). They work at 20 schools. At each school, there’s a humane ed teacher who’s been trained and is being mentored by LAWCS. That teacher moves from one classroom to the next, teaching humane ed in all classrooms, to all students at that school. In that way, LAWCS has reached about 10,000 students (average is 500 pupils at each of the 20 schools).
Also, along with the HE teacher, LAWCS identifies the students who are most interested in animals, and at each school, they form two Kindness Clubs of 20 to 25 students in each club. The Kindness Clubs meet two times a week and they implement projects that help animals. They also have Animal Interaction Days, during which the club visits with a family and their pets and helps them improve the lives of their dogs, cats, and even livestock. A large part of their HE focus is on rabies prevention, since most dogs in Liberia are not vaccinated against rabies.
Last year, LAWCS trained teachers at schools in a new district, Kolahun, but because of a lack of funds, they had to withdraw support—training and continued mentoring of the teachers (transport to the schools and back), and providing HE resources cost money that LAWCS just doesn’t have. The loss of the LAWCS’ program was a disappointment to the teachers and students.
Besides their HE program, LAWCS has a direct animal care program. Abraham, who I met last year, was in Guinea during May, for training with a vet on dog, cat, and livestock care, including vaccinating for rabies, de-worming, treating for mange and other external parasites, and basic diagnosis of common diseases.
LAWCS also encourages Liberians to take up vegetarian and vegan diets (for health as well as for animal welfare reasons).
My Visit with LAWCS
On Sunday, I brought donations of humane ed material and books about animals (thank you very much to those of you who donated!)—see Photo 1 above taken at the LAWCS’ office (Photo 5), which they share with another non-profit, which shows LAWCS’ staff and the donated material. We talked about the history of LAWCS, their activities, volunteers, and fundraising efforts, their challenges, and Liberians’ views of animals and animal welfare. We discussed the resources they have access to (see Photos 3 and 4 of LAWCS’ posters and Photo 2 of the artist).
(Photo 2: Paul, the artist who drew LAWCS’ posters (see below), with his 3 dogs and neighborhood kids)
In Liberia, it’s fairly common for people to eat dogs. Cats are not normally eaten—although that’s not 100% the case. Most dogs are left to roam, but some are chained. The only veterinarians are in Monrovia, and they have not assisted LAWCS. Voinjama, which is where LAWCS is located, is about 7 hours from Monrovia, and the road to the capital is not an easy one.
On Monday afternoon, with Morris and Korpo, I visited two schools in Voinjama and observed them teach a humane ed lesson (you can see videos of these at the link above). Below are pictures of my visit to Kids Connection Day Care and Japan Cooperative School.
I left LAWCS even more impressed and hopeful than I was from my last year’s visit. I think when you read some of the information and see the videos, you will be too!
(Photo 3: HE Poster by Paul)
The LAWCS’ website:
(Photo 4: LAWCS’ humane ed posters, drawings by Paul (above))
Even though we haven’t added LAWCS as a partner organization, along with a few other very worthy organizations, we provide some support, such as collecting HE material and sending it to them (through contacts at the US Embassy/USAID); assisting them to write proposals; and advising them on implementation of projects. We can also transfer funds to LAWCS. We assist in this way, not only because we want to support LAWCS’ work, but also to increase LAWCS’ capacity (reporting, accounting, using external funds) with the intention of someday adding them as a partner organization.
HE material (booklets for pupils, brochures, posters, coloring books)
HE guides for teachers
Funds for transport (to pay for fuel to travel by motorbike from school to school)
Funds to pay small stipends to teachers and for LAWCS’ volunteers, who have committed full time to implement the HE program as widely as possible in Liberia
Funds to cover reproduction of HE material
THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
(Photo 5: The two-room office in Voinjama, Liberia that LAWCS shares with Concern Community Network for Human Rights and Justice)
(Photo 6: Kids Connection pupils with Morris (standing to the right))
(Photo 7: Kids Connection students with Korpo to the left)
(Photo 8: Emanuel, the Humane Ed teacher at Kids Connection)
(Photo 9: Japan Cooperative School with Alahai, the HE teacher, in the white shirt in the back.)