Saturday, October 3, 2009 | By: Tonya Keitt Kalule

A New Direction

I believe that we all reach a point in our lives when we are tired of the status quo and want something a bit more meaningful. I have always been told that when you serve others that your life is more meaningful to you and to others. It is just time to stop thinking of what I want and start thinking of what I can do to make the world a little better place. This has been on my mind for quite some time, especially since I moved to Los Angeles. Unfortunately I had to fight some demons and realized that these demons had deep roots. So the process of slaying these dragons is still ongoing, but as they say, "I can see the light".

When I see how bad this economy is and how little I am really affected by it and how gravely so many others are affected, it compels me to do something. I am struggling to find my place in this. I still have to make a living and I am trying to decided how much I am willing to sacrifice to give back. I don't want to just give money, which is the easiest thing to do, and many do that and yes it is necessary. I want to give of my time and my heart. So many people just need someone there for support and encouragement to move to the next place in their lives. Then there are many that need necessities that we often take for granted. Things like housing, food, clothes, health care, school supplies and time from others. The things that makes everyday life bearable and often possible.

I find myself wanting to do something for children, because they are our future and they are the innocent victims in all of this madness. They often need guidance, encouragement, love, and often times just a hug.

A few of years ago when Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected President of Liberia, I felt compelled to help her be successful in her country. Liberia's history states,'

Liberia, "land of the free," was founded by free African-Americans and freed slaves from the United States in 1820. An initial group of 86 immigrants, who came to be called Americo-Liberians, established a settlement in Christopolis (now Monrovia, named after U.S. President James Monroe) on February 6, 1820.

Thousands of freed American slaves and free African-Americans arrived during the following years, leading to the formation of more settlements and culminating in a declaration of independence of the Republic of Liberia on July 26, 1847. The drive to resettle freed slaves in Africa was promoted by the American Colonization Society (ACS), an organization of white clergymen, abolitionists, and slave owners founded in 1816 by Robert Finley, a Presbyterian minister. Between 1821 and 1867 the ACS resettled some 10,000 African-Americans and several thousand Africans from interdicted slave ships; it governed the Commonwealth of Liberia until independence in 1847.

These facts makes it very personal for me for obvious reasons. President Sirleaf appeared on Oprah and talked about her being educated in the states, how she was in exile, and the significant sacrifices she made for her country. The thing that touched me the most is the amount of children that wanted to go to school and could not afford to go, and the price tag was less than 300 dollars per year, for tuition, clothes, and school supplies. The tuition at the time was only 75 dollars per year. The difference that I saw with these children in comparison with many in the states is that these children really wanted to learn and when they had the opportunity they worked really hard as did their parents. The other key ingredient, was that they had the support of their parents.
I discovered that one of my co-workers was from Liberia and I told him of my idea. He put me in touch with his brother in law, who emailed me information along with a picture of a 12 year old girl, and wanted me to send a little less than 300 dollars for this child. Well I didn't do that, because I don't know this person and have no reason to trust them. Another reason is that some of the worst scams are from the continent of Africa. Preying on those who want to help. My idea was to go to Liberia myself and see children that needed help and wanted to go to school and personally sponsor them by buying their clothes and school supplies and paying their tuition directly to the school. I have talked to a couple of my friends that were also willing to sponsor a child through me. Not just for that year but every year until they finished school. This way I know every dime is going to the child, because I was to take care of my own expenses. I would go back yearly to check on their progress and make sure that the money is for the reasons intended.
Unfortunately, I have not done this as of yet, but it is still something that I plan to do. Within the next year I truly hope to make it happen.

Yes I know that there are many people in need right here in the states and I intend to find these opportunities as well, but President Sirleaf is the first African female President and I want her to be successful and I want her efforts to be successful, and one of those efforts is to educate the children in her country.


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