There is a time for everything, and for Liberia Mission Inc., June was a time for goodbye’s.
Two graduation services and a re-installment of the Mission’s Closing Day Ceremony sealed the 2010-2011 school year for LMI during a celebratory weekend. The three consecutive events were held in St. Michael the Archangel Chapel June 18, 19 and 20.
On a Saturday June 18, students of kindergarten levels I and II and grades one through three listened to Mission director Bernardine Ileto speak about finding joy in learning and the importance of student, teacher, and family collaboration in education. She also spoke about the various aspirations of the K-II graduates which include teacher, doctor, driver, nurse, and police men and women, to name a few. Ileto’s words aligned with the excitement of the graduating K-II students who bid goodbye to Kindergarten and will advance to grade one in August.
The next day, grades four through nine assembled for ninth grade graduation and the school’s closing ceremony, where a dedicated community member delivered an uplifting speech in honor of the graduates. Principal Wonyen and Vice Principal of Administration, Mr Lornyeam, awarded faculty and mission staff with superlatives; “Most Dedidcated” “Most Analytical” and “Most Generous” were a few of the estimable titles.
School administration also recognized the charitable members of the community who donated – money, tools and time – toward the improvement of St. Anthony’s school buildings and landscape.
The extended Liberia Mission, Inc. family also attended the mission’s closing ceremonies on Monday, making the event a joyous reunion of past and current staff, families, and supporters. Present were Fr. Tikpor, mission staff, resident beneficiaries and their families and friends, and former founding mission directors Mr. Howard Mendoabar and Mr. Samuel Ford Tabolo, Sr.
Ileto said this was the most well attended ceremony yet. About 85 children’s guardians, relatives, or neighbors traveled – some near, some far – for the big day, packing the chapel tight with family.
She also said this was the first formal closing program held in many years, and it was a great opportunity for the parents to see the fruits of the Mission for their children – a spirit of community, creativity and joy.
“Re-installing that was very exciting,” she said. “It could never have been accomplished without the house parents. They were the driving force behind re-instating and preparing for this wonderful program.”
Families were impressed by the program structure and kept buzzing about the kids’ performances. Many referred to the ceremony as a “great culture show.”
The centerpiece of the ceremony was a traditional, Liberian culture dance, which LMI House Mother Ma Helena orchestrated with the help of House Mothers Ma Vic and Ma Olivia.
The ensemble – younger boys, Abel Charlie and Martin Cole and various girls in the upper elementary grades – stomped and clapped in authentic attire and painted faces, bringing life to their Liberian heritage.
The LMI kids also showcased their own creativity in various ways. The junior high girls choreographed and performed a modern dance to a current African pop song. The younger kids modeled clothes sewn by the older beneficiaries, and the mission’s novice artists displayed their paintings and sketches.
According to Illeto, the Mission’s closing day was most effective in reminding beneficiaries and their parents of the Mission’s goals. At LMI, the children are not only safe and sound; they are enriched and continue to grow both academically and spiritually.
The string of events also provided mission families a sense of closure. Children returning to their home villages for break bid goodbye to friends and mission staff, especially Bernardine Ileto and her husband Brian Chan (former LMI medical director who departed just days before the closing ceremony) who would be re-settled in America before the start of 2011-2012 school year.
The week following closing day, 35 LMI staff members and 2 honorary community members – security guards, house parents, driver, cooks, LMI administrators, enrichment class instructors, and school faculty – joined in the First Annual Staff Appreciation Celebration at a nearby local restaurant. Liberian jokes and songs provided a lively atmosphere while Brother Lawrence, House Father and Spiritual Development Coordinator, guided the evenings activities as the emcee. Each staff person was presented with a certificate highlighting his or her particular contributions to LMI, garden seeds, and an end-of-year bonus.
While the staff concluded their year’s worth of hard work with goodbye hugs to the children returning to their villages for vacation, the children who remained at the mission during the two-and-a-half-month break were busy plotting out the next “first” in LMI history – summer camp! University students Benjamin Woller and Abraham Tompoe (current and former LMI beneficiaries, respectively) led the three-week session full of arts and crafts, field trips and enrichment courses. Ileto was excited to mentor Benjamin and Abraham through this leadership and learning opportunity, which benefited the two young men as well as all the children who participated. The house parents were delighted to witness camp for the first time in their lives and said, “Now we know what a summer camp is and we can even do one ourselves!”
In fact Benjamin, Abraham and the house parents have already planned to run a second one-week camp session for the children remaining at LMI before school begins late August.