Andrew Greene is a volunteer educator and national coordinator for the iEARN Sierra Leone Project. iEARN Sierra Leone, founded in 1999, is a member of the International Education and Resource Network (iEARN),a non-profit global network that enables young people to use the Internet and other new technologies to engage in collaborative educational projects. With Andrew leading the way, iEARN Sierra Leone has made significant strides, addressing the educational needs of young people, both in Sierra Leone and around the world, with its special focus on student tele-collaboration.
Andrew's commitment to peace and understanding between people began as a child. As a young boy, Andrew hated fighting and tried very hard to avoid conflict. He believed in his right, and the right of others, to live in a violence-free society. But his experience at an all boys' secondary boarding school, more often than not, compelled him to endure sufficient bullying by "bulky bogey boys."
Andrew explained to MY HERO that newcomers to the Bo Government Secondary School were dubbed as greener or rustics and that "such nomenclature implies that one is subject to intermittent punishments (drillings), such as frog jumps and even being deprived of one's food, money, or provisions by a senior boy. Yet these measures were often euphemised as discipline, although most of the excesses were done behind the scenes and away from the glare of the teachers and staff." Through Andrew's long haul to seniority, he rose to the position of prefect and painstakingly tried to curtail some of the excesses associated with being a newcomer. Andrew's commitment to peace and tolerance has developed into a lifelong commitment to children.
Following his education at the Bo Government Secondary School, Andrew attended the Fourah Bay College and the University of Sierra Leone. During his final years of study, he fled to neighboring Guinea as a refugee due to the civil war in Sierra Leone. While in Guinea, he taught English at a displaced school and later at a refugee camp. Andrew shared his path as a teacher with MY HERO: "The students (in Guinea) were mostly refugees (from Sierre Leone). It was difficult for me to earn any money; most of my teaching became charitable, to help salve the wounds of the many war-affected children."
Andrew helped students prepare for their external exams in literature and English. "At the time, we knew nothing about computers and so I prepared most of my notes by hand. I finally learned about computers late in 1998, and became an instructor at the computer school with no salary. 'Till this date, I work as a volunteer."
In 1999, Andrew joined with iEARN and decided to dedicate his life to serving and teaching children who were brutalized by the violence all around them. Andrew understood that the trauma healing skills of conflict prevention and peace building were subjects very necessary for preparing the minds of children whose lives were shattered by war. Andrew teaches after-school classes with iEARN Sierra Leone which enable children to learn computer skills, so "that when they grow up they can face the ever-increasing challenges of this info-technology world. Since my iEARN work began, I've had over 200 students now. Many of them have returned to their displaced towns and villages and many more are yet being recruited."
Andrew derives his inspiration from his mother and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "My mother taught for over 30 years in a Roman Catholic Primary School in Sierra Leone until her retirement recently to have a rest with her daughters in England. I was really inspired by her dedication and skills."
"My personal hero is Martin Luther King, Jr. because he steadfastly adhered to the creed of passive disobedience to achieve his goal. In fact, King was known as the 'Prophet' who built a bridge between races."
MY HERO asked Andrew to comment on the iEARN Sierre Leone Project. Here is what he has to say:
"I am aware that our project has not come close to reaching its fullest impact. Part of the reason is due to the fact that those of us on the ground, who know all too well the impact of the war on these children, lack the technological and financial resources to carry out the campaign to its fullest potential. As volunteers, we work on a shoestring budget and through personal finances.
We are proud of our accomplishments so far, but we remain in dire need of financial support to strengthen our programmatic activities, train our youth, and give them a voice through the power of the Internet."
William Belsey, Executive Director, iEARN-Canada wrote to MY HERO about his collaboration with Andrew Greene and the youth of Sierra Leone.
"We have been able to put in place ten computers in a secure, clean room in Freetown. We are working now to raise funds to bring Internet connections to these computers.
Any support from you and your contacts will go a LONG way to helping this project create a safe, educational learning environment for the youth of Sierra Leone who have been so deeply affected by the long civil war that has now ended. But the very hard work of establishing a culture of hope through peace and reconciliation remains."