Lee University spotlights Phebe Grey Orphanage
Sometimes, an idea begins with a quiet spark. For Carolyn Dirksen, director of Center for Teaching Excellence, this past summer, igniting that spark meant encountering the children of the Phebe Grey Orphanage, located in the terrains of West Africa.
During the fall semester, students will have the opportunity to directly contribute their services for the benefits of the Phebe Grey children. As a part of Lee's Quality Enhancement Plan, Dirksen and other faculty members are working to incorporate the Phebe Grey orphanage into a five-year-long project. The orphanage also includes a school for K-10th grade, which Dirksen hopes to assimilate into students' service learning.
'I don't really envision thousands of students going to Liberia because it's expensive and there's a fragile infrastructure. But I do think that there are things that classes can do to develop materials for them and to help them in a lot of different ways that would not necessarily mean that everybody would have to go there,' Dirksen said.
The orphanage will be featured as the focus of this semester's Mission Week. Dirksen hopes to encourage students to play a vital role in the preparation and execution of the orphanage's anticipated library and science lab extension.
While the science department will be in the process of devising solar panels for energy optimization, education majors will conduct research for the library which will enable the orphanage's expansion into 12th grade. Because Liberians speak American English, Squires librarians have volunteered to devise a cataloguing system for the school.
'There is much that we can do in Liberia for the Church and for the orphanage,' Campus Pastor Jimmy Harper said. 'We are so excited to focus our efforts here for Missions Week and to begin focusing on Liberia for our overall Lee University QEP.'
According to Serving Orphans Worldwide, the Phebe Grey Orphanage was conceived in 1996 during a time when multitudes of Liberian children were left orphaned by the civil war that broke out within its borders. The establishment currently houses close to 100 children. Phebe Grey orphans have also been abandoned due to the Ebola crisis, and may have relatives who are unable to care for them. At the war's peak, Phebe Grey sheltered nearly 300 children
Associate Dean of the School of Religion Rickie Moore accompanied Dirksen and Harper on their trip to Liberia.
'I was blessed to meet and spend some unforgettable time with the children of the Phebe Grey Orphanage of Liberia. They are a treasure, and I believe God stands ready to give all of us in the Lee community a chance to become invested in their lives and futures full of promise,' Moore said.
Serving Orphans Worldwide partners with the orphanage to meet many of the children's dietary and medical needs. However, with no running water, electricity and unsuitable foam mattresses, there is much room for improvement in the areas of sustainable development.
Dirksen, having grown up on the border of Mexico, has always recognized the issues which can be taken for granted in more affluent cultures.
'I can always tell that not everyone has our privileges and our advantages, and not everyone is really aware of that . . . It's something that needs to be address, and something you can put your intelligence to and something that can be changed,' Dirksen said.