UMNS photo by James Crissman. Most classrooms in Liberia are large, barren rooms with a few benches and one or two blackboards and now they sit empty as schools have been closed.

For more than 25 years, Operation Classroom has been in partnership with The United Methodist Church of Liberia and Sierra Leone to improve Secondary Education to students. OC provides scholarships that assist students who would otherwise be unable to attend school, to obtain an education. Throughout the course of this ministry, OC has shipped more than 100 containers of school and medical supplies to both countries, as well as deployed Volunteers In Mission teams of Hoosiers to offer assistance. Operation Classroom has served as a vital part of developing future leaders for the continent of Africa and the world.

However, the recent Ebola crisis in West Africa has taken great toll on the students, staff and staff families of supported United Methodist schools. Thus, OC is compelled to engage in relief. “We really have no choice,” said OC President Bob Coolman, “But to engage in relief – especially hunger relief - until this scourge is brought under control. It’s literally an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to an incredibly grave issue.”

Schools have been closed in both Liberia and Sierra Leone since last May, because of the restrictions placed on large group gatherings, so teachers and school administrators have not been paid for nearly eight months. There are roughly 500 United Methodist Schools in the two countries – which means that thousands of teachers and staff persons have no means of taking care of their families. In countries where teachers are typically paid only about $100/ month to begin with, hunger becomes an enormous issue.

In a joint effort, the bishops of Liberia and Sierra Leone along with Operation Classroom and the Indiana Conference are asking for your help in tackling hunger and feeding our brothers and sisters who are suffering. Now is our time to help those who have given so much to make a difference in the lives of their students.

Funds raised by the “Beyond Ebola – Hunger” campaign will be used as follows:

  • Emergency Food Purchases for:
    • Persons in quarantine (otherwise, quarantine is a death sentence)
    • Persons in Ebola Treatment Centers at United Methodist medical facilities
    • Persons in United Methodist hospitals (Hospitals in West African do not have food service – families must provide meals for their loved ones who are hospitalized.)
    • Teachers in UM Schools who have not been paid since last May, because schools have been closed.
  • Emergency shipping of donated food (It is generally less expensive to purchase food in-country, but when food is donated, it does make sense to ship it.) To date almost $85,000 of Rice MannaPacks from “Feed My Starving Children” has been donated to Operation Classroom, constituting more than 400,000 meals. Those shipments are even now on their way to West Africa – with more to go, if funding is available.
  • At least SOME payment of teachers (so they can feed their families;) Operation Classroom (through the giving of many Indiana United Methodist Churches and individuals) has already provided nearly $25,000 of funding for this purpose – but given the magnitude of the situation, this does not even come close to addressing the problem.

In the coming weeks, churches will receive email marketing and direct mail information material, with information to support this important initiative to assist our brothers and sisters in Christ in West Africa. However, the need is urgent and more information on donating can be found at www.inumc.org/beyondebolahunger or www.operationclassroom.org. Questions may be directed to Bob Coolman at robert.coolman@inumc.org or 219/405-5821.