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Charity in Liberia Project

Constone Day at Buduburam: Center for Youth Empowerment Elementary SchoolThe Charity in Liberia project was spearheaded by long-time humanist, Dick Clifford, and represents Humanist charity in action. Dick also served as Secretary for the Humanist Society of South Australia (HSSA).

Dick had been running a small charity for about 10 years, with the aim of helping a group of Liberian refugees living in a camp in Buduburam, Ghana. The camp had been set up as a refuge from the civil war in Liberia, which lasted some 12 years.

Buduburam had one remarkable asset; an email café in the camp. Otherwise, there were many problems: sewage in the streets, poor school facilities and overcrowding in the houses. Refugees also had to pay for the water supply by the bucket, which was delivered in trucks.

Dick received an email describing the problems and noting how a school had started with the help of a Scholarship Fund supported by a few Liberian businessmen living in Accra, 50 miles away. He made an initial contribution to the Fund after verifying the veracity of the accounts of how the camp was run by the many church charities.

Photo of Liberian refugee children at Center for Youth EmpowermentDick also made an appeal to Humanists in South Australia and then at Conventions. Donations were sent at the beginning of each term and were not limited to money. Their Peace Program received a boost when Dick found the Conflict Resolution Network (Sydney), run by Stella Cornelius (now deceased). He printed out and posted their programs, which were available without charge on the web. Two young teachers took the Conflict Resolution course on a circuit of several church schools in Buduburam. Dick also introduced them to Books for Africa, an American organisation that delivers books by the container load.

With help from America, Germany and humanists from Australia, they made considerable progress over the years. While our contribution was small and had reduced in later years, it had been consistent where others had dropped out. They expanded from simply running an elementary school to conducting courses for adults, including computer courses, ladies sewing courses and beauty courses.

Photo of Liberian refugee children at Center for Youth EmpowermentDonations to Liberia were always marked ‘from Australian Humanists’. Dick at one time investigated the possibility of becoming a charity with tax deductibility, and so on. However, the requirements of the tax department were not easy to fulfill and involve costs. The process had to be completed every year. In consequence, all donations were deposited into a non-interest bearing bank account that was attached to an ABN. A simple tax return was then completed each year. Although donations were not tax deductible, they arrived in their entirety in Liberia minus a Telex Fee of $30.

The above description is based on a report by Dick Clifford in November 2011.

As a result of Dick’s efforts, in 2007, the Humanist Society of Victoria donated $300 to the Liberian Refugees Scholarship Fund. All up, $900 was sent to the refugee camp each term, enabling more than 150 children to attend school.