The Analyst (Monrovia)

2 March 2011

Liberia: Sirleaf Meets Casey Robbins

Casey Robbins, a 17-year-old high school senior from Sacramento, California, who has collected and shipped textbooks to Liberia, paid a courtesy call on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the Executive Mansion on Tuesday, and the President thanked her for her initiative on behalf of Liberia.

Casey told the President that she has been sending textbooks to Liberia for four years, having learned from Liberians living in her city of the educational needs of post-conflict Liberia. She said she had visited two of the high schools which were recipients of some of the books – Tubman High and D. Tweh High School – and had met with the principals and students. In her talks with students, Casey said she had stressed the importance of education and had encouraged them to take advantage of the opportunity.

Miss Robbins told President Sirleaf she had heard a Liberian diplomat, Mr. Gabriel Williams, speak about the country on her local radio station, and she had been inspired to help Liberia’s education sector. She had contacted him in Washington, D.C., and, working through the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS), had begun collecting “retired” textbooks donated by her school district, and shipping them to Liberia for distribution to Monrovia-area schools. She also raised the money to ship the containers of books, Casey said, and Firestone-Liberia had assisted with shipping the books to Monrovia.

Casey said she was now training a team to take over the home-based aspects of the project when she goes off to college, and she would continue to oversee the project by phone and email.  An aspiring engineer, Casey will attend the prestigious Stanford University in September.

President Johnson Sirleaf welcomed Ms. Robbins and her parents to Liberia, saying that the meeting was her way of expressing thanks for Casey’s wonderful efforts for Liberia. The President also thanked Casey’s parents, Dr. David Seidenwurm,  a neuro-radiologist, and Ms. Page Robbins, who develops low-cost housing in Sacramento, for supporting her in this endeavor. Mrs. Robbins thanked President Sirleaf for being a wonderful role model for girls all over the world.

The President said she was aware that the Casey’s textbooks had been distributed to many Monrovia schools. However, she would now encourage the Ministry of Education to send the next shipment of books, due in May, into the rural areas. The greatest need of students was educational materials and laboratory equipment, the President said, and the Government was addressing that aspect. She urged Casey to keep the books coming, suggesting that they include basic textbooks for children in the primary grades. Remembering that school systems in the United States change textbooks every seven years, the President said that provided a good source for books that could be sent to Liberia. The President pointed out that there are no taxes on educational materials.

Asked by Casey’s parents what advice she would give their daughter going off to college to study engineering, President Sirleaf said to Casey: “Do the best you can; stay focused; aim for the highest you can. Select a specialized engineering area that will give you a niche. However,  seeing what you have done on your own, organizing textbooks and getting them across the ocean those many miles, I have no doubt that you know just what you want to be. You will go for it, and you will succeed.”

“Consider Liberia like home,” the President told  Casey. “I know you will be busy making sure that you do well in college, but when there’s some vacation time, and you want to run away from studying,  come back to Liberia. Some of the kids who are benefiting from your books will be older and be able to thank you themselves.”

Casey and her parents have been in Liberia for over a week, as guests of Mr. Nathan Hunbu Tulay, Managing Director of the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation. The family returns to the United States on Wednesday.

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