Able & Willing – Education Is The Key to Freedom
Able & Willing is a non-profit, non-denominational, all volunteer organization headquartered here in Frederick, Md. Their mission is to promote education in impoverished areas, by building schools, establishing income-generating projects, and promoting self-sustaining activities within those communities where they have built schools.
Raising awareness in the U.S. about other countries and cultures is part of the mission of Able & Willing. The focus of their efforts is in Africa, where education is limited. They began in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, but in the last 2 years have spread to 3 more areas, Mali, Cameroon and Kenya.
Unlike traditional western efforts, Able & Willing International Education Foundation, or AWIEF, is not simply constructing buildings; they are joining together with local people, using local resources and skills. Development of a model of self-reliance will help break the cycle of dependency.
Local people help with the labor of building the schools as well as teaching. Schools are capable of supporting themselves when local people are trained and when local positive African cultural values are honored. Values derived from studying traditional proverbs and from the time-honored heritage of working together, rather than competition. Programs also include literacy classes for women.
Interesting Facts: DRC is equal in area to about 1/3 of the continental USA. The population is 75.5 million, with a life expectancy of 57 years. The Katanga Province has a population of 5.6 million. Copper mining is the main industry.
Local Support for Africa
I had the pleasure of speaking with Jim Carpenter, a Jefferson, Md resident and board member with AWIEF. After first meeting and getting to know the President and Co-founder, Mbuyu “Puma” Wa Mbuyu, while working together applying stucco to a straw bale home in Buckeystown, Jim got involved in projects with the organization. As he got more involved, a trip to Africa was inevitable. He has made four trips to date.
In 2002, he traveled to the school in Katanga Provence with 6 government surplus laptops he’d managed to score. He started the trip by teaching a class on volunteerism, which he explained to me is very much an American concept. Our culture, unlike that of many developing nations, has the concept deep in it’s values. It makes sense to me, that one of the by-products of abundance is the desire and ability to volunteer time and effort, as well as money, to “give back” [*author’s opinion].
While there, he also taught a basic class in computers, to a mixed group of adult teachers and teenage students. After he left, the teachers and students, concerned that they would break them, carefully packed up the computers.
The following year, Jim visited a second time, intending to teach more computer skills to the teachers, but found that they were much more interested in learning the latest construction methods. So he gathered the older students again and spent three weeks teaching them. One older teenager emerged as a real talent with computers and was nurtured and trained to teach the younger children. Since then, the computer lab has thrived.
Until a break-in last year, when the laptops and printer were stolen.
Jim set about solving the lack through various sources. He has coordinated with a local company, E-end Recycling, and has organized a recycling drive in Jefferson, all of which netted 30 laptops, soon to be shipped to the school. Frederick people are a generous bunch of peeps. [*again, the opinion of the author]
AWIEF has two benefit opportunities coming up very soon:
Zumba Fitness Party
w/ Katharina Connor & Debbie Brady – certified Zumba Instructors
Friday, Dec. 6,, 5:00 to 7:00 pm.
at the Way Station, 230 W. Patrick St. Frederick, Md
$20 per person, benefits AWIEF
A Taste of Africa – Dinner & Exhibition
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Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, from 3:00 to 5:00 pm
Held at the Way Station, 230 W. Patrick St. Frederick, Md
African Dinner Buffet
African Project Displays
African Music, Art, Books & Gifts