Editor's note: The following is a press release from
For one week this summer, life will be completely different for seventh grade social studies teacher Kathy O’Dwyer. She’s headed to war-torn Liberia, West Africa, to spend a week working with the children and staff at St. Michael the Archangel School.
“I’m a Franciscan and we believe in helping the poor and these are the poorest of the poor. You can’t get much worse off than this. They have no education. They have no infrastructure,” said O’Dwyer.
“We believe that, through education, we can help the people raise themselves up instead of just giving them a handout.”
The school is run by Franciscan Works, an organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty for the poorest of poor children around the world. It was founded in the wake of a brutal civil war that ended almost 10 years ago and includes a boarding house for about a quarter of the 400 or so students who are either orphans or have only one parent who lives many miles away.
O’Dwyer and her husband, a software engineer, visited the school for the first time last summer, bringing a container with old computers and computer parts. When they left, the school had its own computer lab.
O'Dwyer helped assemble the lab but she also worked with the house parents who stay with kids in the dormitories teaching them how to type on the computers.
“This year we’re taking down spare parts and more computer equipment,” she said. ”These students are learning how to use a computer which they really need to do to live in the 21st century.
“Our favorite saying is give a man a fish and he eats today, but if you teach him to fish, he’ll never be hungry again,” O'Dwyer said. "These students have seen horrors we can’t imagine, yet they are so loving and full of joy. It’s the best feeling in the world to be a part of this.”