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  • Chairs, desks and blackboards from the old Severna Park High School will help schools in Liberia. Some schools, like the one pictured, have already benefitted from past shipments and partnerships.
    Chairs, desks and blackboards from the old Severna Park High School will help schools in Liberia. Some schools, like the one pictured, have already benefitted from past shipments and partnerships.
  • Many schools in Liberia use ceiling tiles for blackboards and flimsy wooden benches for desks.
    Many schools in Liberia use ceiling tiles for blackboards and flimsy wooden benches for desks.

Orphan Grain Train Delivers Old SPHS Equipment To Liberia

Zach Sparks
View Bio
February 8, 2017

Where Joe Boway is from, people do not have access to running water or medical care. Where Boway is from, electricity is a luxury. Where Boway is from, high schools are distant and children haul flimsy wooden benches to school every day to use as desks.

Boway is from the jungles of Liberia.

In those jungles of Liberia, 350 miles from Monrovia, Boway has helped build 13 schools for approximately 4,500 students. He has advocated their education because he remembers his own hardships.

“I did not have the opportunity to go to school until I was 8 or 9 years old,” he said. “When I had the opportunity to go to school, it was because I learned to read and write my own language by people who came into my village.”

With the help of missionaries, Boway was brought to Indiana during the onset of an eight-year civil war that broke out in 1989. Yet, even though he lives in the U.S., he is not far removed from that village, where he learned the language of Krahn and then English. He returns two to three times a year, helping with school construction, training teachers and bringing supplies.

For his next trip this spring, he is partnering with Millersville-based nonprofit Orphan Grain Train to ship old Severna Park High School equipment to Christian schools in a Liberian village.

Orphan Grain Train’s Maryland branch manager, Elfie Eberle, met Boway through her connection with another branch. When she learned that the Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) operating and supply warehouse in Millersville had an excess of items, she jumped at the chance to help her Liberian friend.

“All they have is 3-by-5 [foot] ceiling tile that they use as a blackboard,” Eberle said. “They don’t have a library and they don’t have textbooks, so that is what we are sending.”

Orphan Grain Train will send two containers, one with 300 desks, chairs, projector screens for the schools with generators, and 40 blackboards, and another container with books and more supplies – all of it unwanted by Anne Arundel County schools. As AACPS operating and supply warehouse property control manager James Williams explained, first dibs on excess Severna Park High equipment and supplies went to schools in the Glen Burnie High and Severna Park High clusters.

As per the warehouse’s usual process, all schools had the opportunity to claim any items they coveted. Any leftover items were offered to churches and nonprofits.

Severna Park High equipment at the warehouse included furniture, conference and computer tables, chairs, cadenzas, appliances, washers, dryers, and stoves from the school’s consumer sciences class.

Much of the furniture and many of the big items were taken during the first week of January when the new Severna Park High School opened and the warehouse started unloading. Williams said that there is typically a period of two and a half weeks before asbestos abatement starts and the warehouse starts matching the equipment with outside organizations.

“It’s a win-win,” Eberle said of Orphan Grain Train receiving equipment. “SPHS had to vacate, and James didn’t have the room, and these people will treasure these things.”

Books for International Goodwill (BIG) Warehouse in Annapolis also donated items. “We packed 33 boxes of library books, and they’re beautiful books,” Eberle said. “We’re sending beautiful stuff that was going to be tossed in the trash.”

Between Orphan Grain Train and Boway, nearly $10,000 per container will be paid for the resources to reach their intended destination.

“It is not going to be diverted to the black market or anyone else,” Eberle said, adding that, “We have shipped to Ghana. We have shipped to Nicaragua and Haiti. Haiti is the poorest and Nicaragua is the second poorest. In Africa, there is poverty everywhere. We ship primarily to churches and pastors because they will see that the people who need them get them.”

Orphan Grain Train needs medical equipment and gently used sporting equipment — balls, bats and gloves — from schools. To donate, contact Eberle stressed that Orphan Grain Train helps people on a local and national scale.

“Yes, we have poor people in our country, and Orphan Grain Train helps the homeless and immigrants here,” Eberle said. “But the difference is that third-world countries have no safety nets. We have soup kitchens and shelters. The medical care is almost nonexistent in those places.”

Boway agreed that the equipment and supplies will go to good use. “When those children come to school, they not only learn to read and write,” Boway said. “They learn how to treat diseases, and they have hope because they learn that tomorrow has something in store for them. It’s a blessing to see how the children are changing, along with their perspectives.”

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