Moses Browne says farewell after three years of advocacy and campaigning with a moving open letter about his rise from poverty and his hopes for his native Liberia.
All this week, we have been paying tribute to our amazing network of 500 Global Youth Ambassadors, who campaign for education and early childhood development in more than 80 countries. Today, in the final part of our series, we publish an open letter to his fellow GYAs from Moses Browne as he says goodbye to them after three years with Theirworld and our A World at School movement.
As the greatest book ever written says: “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
It is with deep sadness and tears that my time as a Global Youth Ambassador has come to an end. In April 2014, I joined the GYA programme with Theirworld's A World at School movement.
I was excited and saw the platform as a great opportunity to expand my horizons and learn new techniques in advocacy.
My first major assignment came a few months later. The #UpForSchool campaign was launched in September 2014 to galvanise support in promoting quality education and ensuring every child is in school and learning.
We needed to collect 10 million signatures from across the world and all 500 GYAs were involved.
Immediately, I called a meeting at my office in Monrovia with the other seven GYAs from Liberia. It was a big challenge with limited and or no resources.
The other GYAs started with me in Monrovia. We invited key government officials and launched the campaign at the St Peter’s Lutheran High School with the Assistant Minister of Education serving as chief launcher.
The campaign nearly broke down when it was obvious that transportation and feeding were major challenges to collecting signatures from at least 100 schools across Liberia.
However, I am privileged to have used my skills to engage many young people across Liberia during my term as a Global Youth Ambassador for education.
I also used my negotiating skills to pursue several businesses in Liberia to support the #UpForSchool campaign. At first, many businesses and individuals thought the campaign was insignificant and did not warrant their support - and that was blamed mainly on the Liberian government’s approach to education.
However, through the engagement of the media, community and stakeholders, many understood that the campaign was not only geared towards addressing the education needs of all the children in the world but it would ensure that Liberia’s estimated 1.1 million out-of-school-children (according to UNICEF in 2013) would gain access to quality education, thereby reducing poverty.
Liberians understood that the campaign was targeted at every single citizen and not just students or a government thing. We successfully got two businesses - Developmental Media Inc. (DMI) and Associations of Liberia Community Radios (ALICOR) - which supported our campaign financially with the provision of transpiration, printing of petition signing sheets, radio slots and airtime as well as feeding and accommodation.
Thanks to Plan, the international charity where I worked as Communications Manager, for taking me to major towns and villages across 13 of Liberia’s 15 counties, where we were collected more signatures.
We engaged at least 15 young people across Liberia including the GYAs and collected at least 75,000 signatures - something we could not get in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital.
People from all walks of life, including students, teachers, parents, educators and government officials, queued to sign the petition.
In order to achieve this milestone and success story, we had to engage the communities in the 13 counties where we travelled. We worked along with local leaders, town chiefs, school administrators and the students’ leadership to educate them better about the campaign and the benefits thereafter.
We organised several town hall meetings with the above-mentioned stakeholders and engaged the media specifically for information dissemination to the wider audience and areas we couldn’t reach.
Given Liberia’s damaged infrastructures, with bad road networks and limited public transportation facility, community radios were our primary medium to reach out to impassable communities.
I learned best practices and new ideas from working with other young people across Africa and beyond.
We used our existing skills in community mobilisation and stakeholders’ engagements, coupled with technical and logistical support from Plan International Liberia and the A World at School team in the US and London.
Madeline was a great star! Her motivation, her kind words and constant emails requesting updates got me moving.
We showed these young people how to use social media to get students to sign the #UpForSchool Petition and also report on the benefits of acquiring quality education.
At all of our meetings around the country, we mentioned our supporters Plan, A World at School and others which created a high level of visibility about the work that Plan does promoting, especially youth involvement in development and their equal participation in decision-making. We also want to make a difference in the world and our beloved country, Liberia.
As a forerunner of the Global Education Campaign in Liberia, I felt it was important that I attended the historic 70th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to present the #UpForSchool Petition we had collected from across the world - to tell world leaders how important it was to prioritise education in the Sustainable Development Goals.
I was present at the UNGA. I met great men and women who are impacting lives across the globe. I saw my fellow GYAs from India, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, Kenya and Sierra Leone. It was a golden opportunity to meet up face to face and shake hands after the many Google Hangouts.
The experience at the UN was great. It was definitely an opportunity to meet and interact with the more 168 global leaders who attended – all the major decision-makers. I met some of them and shared the Liberian story.
It was indeed an opportunity for learning new approaches to solving the educational problems in Liberia, Africa and the world at large. I learned best practices and new ideas from working with other young people across Africa and beyond.
I met a GYA from Kenya who manages the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) based in New York. A young woman with so much passion for development in Africa with particular support for the health sector.
It was a networking experience, identifying other international youth bodies around the world to partner with for the sole purpose of advocating for education for all. I shared the Liberian story of the Ebola virus outbreak with regional leaders and other young people.
Fortunately, Plan International headquarters in UK paid for my round trip to New York. Plan was also a leading organisation in many of the side events and had invited nine girls to attend the UNGA on the Because I Am A Girl campaign – advocating for the rights of girls.
Since I was a Communications Manager from Liberia, I had the opportunity to meet the Plan UN liaison office and staff.
Whilst in New York I visited my dream school – New York University - and met the Director of Programs in International Relations. We chatted and I expressed my desires. He was excited and led me through the application.
I got an admission to attend the prestigious New York University Graduate School of Arts and Science – International Relations programme in April 2016. However, I didn’t get the resources and financial support. The rest is history.
Back home in November 2016, I decided to pursue a postgraduate degree in Diplomacy and International Relations at the Gabriel L. Dennis Foreign Service Institute, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Liberia.
I saw myself now as a practising diplomat and thought training and/or a degree in this field would widen my horizon and increase my knowledge of negotiating skills.
In January 2017, I was honoured and awarded magna cum laude amongst seven students graduating with high marks in the Class of 2016.
The Gabriel L. Dennis Foreign Service Institute – FSI was established in the 1950s, to offer a broad-based programme of professional training for young entrants to the Foreign Service of Liberia.
As an intellectual institute for training and research, the Institute has the mandate to create a programme conducive for the exchange of ideas on the political underpinnings of global economic relations, cultural diversities, integration and the issue of conflict.
Among other other disciplines, I studied diplomacy, international relations, French and Spanish, foreign policy, leadership development and world politics.
Spending nearly a year at the Foreign Service Institute has really been rewarding and successful.
For me, education is the key to success. Without education, Liberia is going nowhere. I believe education can change the world, no matter what. Education can take us into the future that we long dreamed of.
What matters most to me is training, teaching and mentoring young people so they can be active creators of the future they want.
A World at School and Theirworld have laid the foundation for real-time advocacy in the 21st century. They provided the tools and created the platform and modules we needed as young education advocates to take our destiny into our own hands.
I am passionate about education and this unique organisation inspires me to continue to support my fellow young people, street children and out-of-school kids to see education as the only way forward from poverty and discrimination.
We can no longer sit back and watch millions of children perish in poverty without an education. We must use this day to re-echo our calls for governments around Africa to prioritise education.
Despite the progress that has been made in the education sector, Liberia continues to have a large number of out-of-school children. An estimated 10% to 20% of children between the ages of six and 14 are not enrolled in school according to Liberia’s Ministry of Education 2015 report.
Permit me to reflect on my days of struggle as I tell you my story. I grew up in a very poor home, poverty-stricken – where a cup of rice was like gold dust.
My parents are farmers from Grand Bassa County. As early as the age of eight, I became a street peddler. I sold boiled eggs and peanuts in the streets of Monrovia and its environs. There’s probably no one in Liberia who does not know me!
My mother sold kanyon, doughnuts and coal to send me to school. I have never disappointed her. I have not arrived yet but no one can say to me today that I am a poor man. No one can ever look at me today and say I am from a poor family.
No mortal man can stop me from achieving whatever I want and or what God has destined for me. My God is, and has been, involved from birth. Even when I was denied an opportunity “for not being a Government employee and or an official of Government”.
They said I could not benefit from educational opportunities because I was not working for the Government. Most times, I just laughed. Now I see what God has done - I sit in a major seat where I see almost all the opportunities available.
This is a clear testimony that when you obey your parents and serve God with all your heart, he truly prepares a table in the presence of your enemies. Now some of the same people who denied me many opportunities see me at my office and bow in shame.
I am saying this to challenge you out there - never allow someone’s opinion and or action to hold you down, no matter who they are or where they are placed.
Today, I am the Director of Public Relations and Communications for the Civil Service Agency of Liberia. Thousands of young people look up to me for guidance and support in driving change. All this would not have been possible without the opportunity and learning acquired from this unique movement A World at School.
Finally, this is really a difficult moment for me, I feel so nervous and sorrowful, but with God all things are possible. I am grateful to Madeline and Sana for their motivation, to Director of Campaigns Ben Hewitt and the people who would edit and publish all my stories and articles on the Theirworld website.
I am also grateful to Theirworld President Sarah Brown and Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, for all they do and continue to do.
Fellow GYAs, I wish to thank you all for your guidance and support. I have spent some of the best days of my life here - something which I will never forget.
I will always be thankful for your encouragement because of which I could achieve so much.
Working with you has been a great experience and excitement. You have helped me grow as a professional person. With A World at School, I have found some very good friends, interesting people and I am leaving with some wonderful memories of the time we have spent together.
I am glad that I got the opportunity to work with you. I will always be thankful for your encouragement because of which I could achieve so much.
During my time as a Global Youth Ambassador I have...
- Developed and coordinated the implementation of the #UpSchool campaign in Liberia - collecting 75,000 signatures.
- Produced content and professional media communications materials and updated GYA social media pages.
- Developed and implemented a formal system to monitor media work for systemic media and communications flow.
- Conducted hands-on training for young people in Sierra Leone, Senegal and the US from the Advocacy Toolkit that AWAS provided.
- Established the Browne Global Leadership Foundation in 2015 upon my return from UNGA. The foundation provides training, coaching, mentoring and networking opportunities for young people.
- Attended 20 speaking engagements at youth rallies, academic programmes, petitioning ceremonies, commencements etc.
- Hosted events for International Women's Day, Day of the African Child, International Day of the Girl, World Water Day, Public Service Day and major United Nations events involving youth participation.
- Written several blogs, news stories, press releases, conducted interviews, appeared on radio talk shows and documented case studies on my work as GYA and Liberia’s progress towards education for all.
Wow!!! This isn’t goodbye for me at all. I will always keep in touch as usual. Goodbye and I wish you all the best that this life has to offer until we meet again. Peace!! Love!!