Liberian Assistance Program, Inc.

Building schools and hope for Liberians

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How LAP Started​​

Our Organization began in 2007 after Judy Reed and Jane Scharer visited Liberia to reconnect with people Judy had taught from 1964-66 as a Peace Corps volunteer in the small village of Gbonkonimah, Liberia. The reunion was bittersweet: while it was exciting to reconnect with more than 15 former students, Judy and Jane learned that many of them had lost family members and had themselves barely survived the war years. The photos Judy brought from her two years in the Peace Corps were received with joy and tears, as most of her former students had few, if any, pictures of themselves or their families from the past. 

After seeing so many people struggling, Judy and Jane established the Liberian Assistance Program (LAP), a small 501(c)(3) nonprofit, when they returned to the U.S. LAP raises money for its projects through an annual fundraising letter to supporters, grants and fundraising events.


Liberia is on the west coast of Africa, bordered by Sierra Leone, Guinea, and the Ivory Coast. Covering 43,000 square miles (about the size of Virginia) with a population of approximately 4.6 million, Liberia has a hot equatorial climate with a rainy season from May to October and a dry season from November through April.

Liberia became a nation in 1847 when freed slaves from the United States formed a government based on that of the United States. They named their capital Monrovia after U.S. President James Monroe. 

The Liberian government was overthrown by a military coup in 1980, marking the beginning of a long period of instability and civil war that left approximately 250,000 people dead and the country's economy devastated. After a ceasefire among the warring groups in 2003, the United Nations established a peace-keeping mission in Liberia. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected president of Liberia in 2005 and served two terms, ending in 2018. George Weah was elected president in December, 2017 and took office in January, 2018.

Liberia is still recovering from the devastating years of war but much progress has been made in improving its infrastructure, health care facilities, housing and schools. Liberia is still considered one of the poorest countries in the world.

Judy Reed with students in Gbonkonimah, Liberia, 1964
Front row, left to right:  George Vuku, John Sumo, and Jessie Kekula.

Jane Scharer in Gbonkonimah, Liberia, 2007 
L:R - Mamade Kamara, Aleo Jallow, Lawrence Douberson, Jessie Kekula, and Abubakar Sherif


New LAP Worker in Liberia 
LAP is happy to have Martha Lukens, an American who teaches in the Mother Patern College of Health Sciences at Stella Maris Polytechnic University in Monrovia, working with teachers and staff at the Obama School. In the spring of 2019 she taught four workshops on the use of textbooks for Obama teachers and worked with the school's summer reading program in August. This fall she will do a workshop on classroom management and two more on uses of textbooks at the school.
Martha Lukens in classroom
LAP’s 10th anniversary celebration in the fall of 2018 was a big success!​

More than 100 people attended the two-day event in Madison, Wisconsin, including Obama School Principal Jessie Kekula who was honored for his work at the Obama School. Lyn Howell Gray, a former Peace Corps volunteer who lives and works in Liberia, also attended and was honored for her work with LAP. Both addressed the conference.

The celebration included the showing of a recent award-winning film about history, memory, and land rights in Liberia, “ The Land Beneath our Feet .” The film was co-produced by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Gregg Mitman and London-based filmmaker Sarita Siegel, and features Liberian and LAP friend Emmanuel Urey, a recent PhD graduate from UW. 

The celebration also included a presentation on LAP’s work over the past 10 years, as well as two panel discussions – one on other groups that work in Liberia and another on various aspects of life in Liberia today. The program ended with a Liberian dinner, a silent auction, singing the Liberian national anthem and presentations on Saturday night. 

Click here for  Program for LAP Celebration ​​

10th Anniversary Celebration!

Click here to view YouTube video

  Thank you from Obama School ​​
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Principal Jessie Kekula
Lyn Howell Gray
Jane Scharer introduces Gregg Mitman, UW-Madison Professor and producer of The Land Beneath our Feet.
Margaret Heard, Lyn Gray and Judy Reed at Silent Auction
Margaret Heard, Emily Culp, and Margo McKnight
Panel Discussion
Sam Kinnunen meets Jessie Kekula, with his grandmother, Judy Reed and mother, Megan Reed looking on.  
Linda Grimmer and Glen Johnson
Vivian Urey and son
Judy Reed presents certificate of appreciation to Jessie Kekula.
Bulleh Bablitch (above), Frederick Gonleh (left) and Glen Johnson (below left) speak of the importance of the Peace Corps in their lives.  

Ebola Crisis

During the Ebola Crisis in Liberia in 2014 and 2015, the Liberian Assistance program supported the Obama School by paying salaries for the 16 members of the school’s staff for the six months schools were closed throughout Liberia. We also sent money to buy rice for the Obama students. In addition, LAP sent money to buy rice, buckets and soap for the village of Gbonkonimah, where our chair served in the Peace Corps in the 1960s.
Obama School Principal Jessie Kekula distributes rice and soap to residents of Gbonkonimah. Jessie grew up in Gbonkonimah and was a student when LAP Chair Judy Reed taught there.


LAP friends and former Peace Corps volunteers Mike and Marcy Read (and their son who was born in Liberia when his parents were serving in Liberia in the 1970s) and three more members of the family visited the Obama School in August, 2017. They shared gifts and met with Principal Kekula and some of the school’s teachers. They also visited Gbarnga, where they served as PC volunteers and had dinner with LAP advisory board members Lyn and Jim Gray who now live in Gbarnga. When they returned to Madison, they purchased and sent 350 baseball caps with the Obama School name on them to all the children and teachers at the school. Mike joined the LAP board in 2018.
Mike Read in kindergarten room
Hope and Abbey Read with students
The Reads visit the summer reading program.
As ​​​Us Ambassador to Liberia, Deborah Malac visits Barack Obama International Foundation School in 2014.
photo by Lynn Howell Gray
Jane Scharer and Judy Reed returned to Liberia in 2014 to see the Obama School for the first time and to visit with the principal, staff and students there. They also visited Gbonkonimah and met the principal of the Tubman School. Below are some photos from their trip.
A parade of students, carrying a welcome sign, greet Judy Reed and Jane Scharer at the entrance to the school grounds.
Principal Kekula’s wife Elizabeth serves a meal in the new cafeteria for the Obama School Board members.
Jessie Kekula, the Obama principal, presents an Obama baseball cap to the president of the PTA. LAP provided a cap for each staff member as well. 
Children are ready for the first of several programs welcoming Judy and Jane.
The School Board presents a beautiful wooden sculpture of the school’s emblem and motto to the LAP officers.​
Some of the Obama teachers visit with Judy and Jane.
Judy and Jane with the queen of the Obama School