Regis student marches on to open Liberian school despite Ebola challenges

Ebenezer “Siefa” Norman’s 4-yearlong dream of opening a school for children in one of the poorest towns in Liberia, his home country, was in his grasp.

Norman, who earned his bachelor’s in organizational development and is now working toward his master’s, spent years rounding up the funding, staff and supplies. His drive cost him family and friends. He traveled from his Denver home to Toryah many times, where he met with the town chief – the only resident who can read or write – and earned his support.

Then, Ebola.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Norman said. “I won’t lose hope. This is what I’m meant for.”

Norman knows his school will open. Maybe not right away, but it will. Growing up in Liberia, he saw firsthand the need for education, not only for reading and writing, but for a change in the very mindset of the culture, particularly among young girls. They must be taught to think critically and question, a skill not emphasized in the culture, he said.

“What you are exposed to becomes your reality,” he said. “Without a quality education, children aren’t trained to think critically. My goal is to change that mentality.”

The education of young girls is a particular focus. Once his school opens, Norman – who has not been to Liberia since the summer and is unsure when he will go back – hopes to open another just for girls. It will take time, but he hopes to teach young people to see opportunity and seize it.

“If you want to change the world, educate women,” he said.

While Ebola has proven a tragic roadblock in his journey, Norman says it’s one adversity that will, like the rest, be overcome. He likens it to challenges faced by all great individuals, including his heroes Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi and Thomas Jefferson. 

“Someone has to stand up,” he said. “Maybe I can inspire a little girl to take up the cause. Maybe she will inspire three more. And it will grow.”

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