November 24th, 2021
Liberian Learning Centre Foundations Underway
After 10 years of planning, fundraising, and raising awareness, the Liberian Learning Centre (LLC) is now under construction in Paynesville, Liberia. This is an exciting leap forward for the facility that will serve as a catalyst for education and economic development, and equip youth and citizens to build a better future.
The LLC is an initiative of Empowerment Squared, a Hamilton ON based not-for-profit led by Liberian native Leo Nupolu Johnson. Following a ground-breaking ceremony in October 2019, construction began with site prep and excavation. The foundation is now nearing completion with a goal of having the slab completed by the end of this year. The construction of the super structure—walls, roof and the overall enclosure—will commence in 2022.
mcCallumSather has been part of an international, integrated team for the Centre’s design and construction. “It’s been so inspiring to work with Leo, from the early concepts to our collaboration with its local team,” says Joanne McCallum, Executive Director of mcCallumSather. “From the beginning, we recognized the potential for knowledge transfer, empowering teams on the ground with the benefit of some of our experience, while learning from them about systems and construction techniques that work best in their particular environment.”
An important partner in this project is Liberian firm, Tri Buchanan Development Corporation. They share the team’s commitment to knowledge transfer and training, and Liberia’s restoration. Partner and managing director Bleejay Innis was born in Buchanan, Liberia before escaping the country during the civil war. Like Johnson, he returned to Liberia to help rebuild his country.
It is part of the LLC’s mission to offer workforce training with its 18-person construction crew. “As a firm led by women, we were excited to learn that four of the training program participants were women, breaking down barriers in an industry still largely dominated by men,” says Willems Ransom, principal with mcCallumSather. “We are thrilled to see the immediate impact the Centre is having in the community.”
Two of the women are civil engineering students and two are part of the general labour team. The interns assist the site engineers and site managers with notes, plans, measurements and relaying plan details to the field team. They also support the rest of the construction team, including the women in the general workforce, with mixing and pouring concrete, assisting with backfilling, transporting materials and general site labour.
“The backbone of the Liberian workforce is women,” explains Innis. “Women make up a majority of the representation in the markets. Having women in the construction team represents a significant part of the national workforce and motivates other women that their strength and willingness to work isn’t limited.”
The Centre will be built in multiple phases on the site of Paynesville City Hall and will include Liberia’s first postwar comprehensive learning center and library, co-working and business incubation spaces, sports and recreation facilities, and event facilities.
The goal of the Liberian Learning Centre is to empower citizens with literacy and skills-based education. Even while under construction, the LLC is already working towards this goal.
LLC partners include Rotary International, Rotary Club of Hamilton, Rotary Club of Monrovia, Paynesville City Corporation, mcCallumSather, Hamilton Public Library, and Tri Buchanan Development Corp.
Empowerment Squared aims to raise $2 million for the LLC. To learn more and donate to the project visit: https://empowermentsquared.org/support/.
Q&A with Bleejay Innis, managing director, Tri Buchanan Development Corp
Why is having women in this construction team important?
The backbone of the Liberian workforce is women. Women make up a majority of the representation in the markets and there are no physical limitations to what they can’t do in order to provide for their families. Having women in the construction team represents a significant part of the national workforce and motivates other women that their strength and willingness to work isn’t limited to staying at home or working in the markets.
What are some of the roles the women have taken on with the crew?
The current worksite consists of 4 women. Two of the women are civil engineering students and the other 2 are part of the general workforce. The 2 interns are focused on assisting the site engineers and site managers; taking notes, reading plans and relaying plan details to the field team, and taking measurements. They also work with the other 2 women in the general workforce mixing and pouring concrete, assisting with backfilling, transporting materials and every other general site labor you can think of.
Why is this important to the LLC specifically?
This is a project for Liberians/by Liberians so having a diverse workforce that is a representation of the entire society is essential. The role of women in the Liberian society is essential, especially when it comes to education. Providing access to education for their children is a pride for many women, and to know that the hands of women were involved in the physical construction of such an important project for education in Liberia is historical.
Anything else you’d like to share?
We need more women representation in the industry and the story of these women and learning why they choose to be in this field is an important story that needs to be told.
· This clip has good info about education through the LLC construction