Liberia suffered through 16 years of brutal civil war, leaving its citizens devastated and ruined – 300,000 people were killed, more than 700,000 fled Liberia into exile and another 500,000 became internally displaced as they fled to safer areas of the country. The conflict left the entire nation in ruins and overrun with weapons, depriving most of its citizens of an opportunity for a better future. Today, Liberia remains the 4th poorest country in the world. In many cases, healthcare, skill training, food rations, and other services once offered in displacement camps by humanitarian organizations are no longer available to returnees. The inhabitants of rural towns and villages are faced with the enormous challenges of rebuilding shattered lives, destroyed villages, and coping with the psychosocial aftermaths of the war.
Jessy Togbadoya was born in Balama, Liberia to a tribal family of one father, nine wives and 26 siblings. Jessy is the only one from the Balama region who has completed college and graduate school (including an MBA and MDiv). Knowing the devastating impact the war had on his people, Jessy felt called to return to Liberia and work to rebuild his community. He created the Balama Development Alliance which focuses on evangelism, discipleship and community empowerment programs in the rural region where Balama is located.
Evangelism: The Balama Project’s Jesus Film Ministry is the key strategy for evangelism and discipleship and there are currently five congregations formed through their film ministry. Balama Development Alliance also believes that there can be no sustainable change without leaders and individuals who have a spiritual foundation. With a goal to change the community’s attitudes about Christian beliefs and moral behavior, they sponsor a mentoring program that identifies emerging leaders who have a passion for the community and work. It mobilizes resources needed to sponsor these emerging leaders through college or vocational school and plans for their return to the communities to serve.
Education: With an overall literacy rate of 57%, the ability of Liberians to function in a 21st century world, much less thrive, are severely hampered. Therefore, one of the key initiatives of the Balama Project is to educate the children, and adults, in their communities. Since 50% of Liberian children are not in school simply because there are not enough of them, in 2006 Balama Development Alliance partnered with the village leaders in the Suacoko District of Bong County to begin the first primary school in the area. Eager to break the cycle of poverty and ignorance the people of Balama donated 55 acres and use of a six classroom structure. Balama Elementary School started with 98 students and has grown to serve over 722 students with a staff of 15 teachers. In addition to operating Balama Elementary School, Balama Project provides scholarships to local high school and university students.
Economy: The national unemployment rate in Liberia is 85%. Balama Development Alliance economically empowers their communities through a micro-loan program, community farms and other self-enabling projects. Their goal is to eliminate extreme poverty and dependence on outside aid to create a self-directed and sufficient society able to positively lead their community. Through the generosity of partners the Balama Project has purchased two brick machines and the community produces and sells soil bricks. The brickyard provides continuous job opportunities and revenue that helps sustain the communities.
Peachtree sent its first mission team to Liberia in the summer of 2011. A group of 10 college students assisted with their reading program, computer skills training, and a sports camp. Through the work of the Balama Development Alliance, rural communities in Liberia are being transformed; the gospel message is taking root, and hope for a brighter future lives.
Source: The Balama Development Alliance