Laytopoe is one of four Amani Girls Club leaders and a senior student at ABCU of Yekepa, Liberia. During Liberia’s 15-year civil war, she was unable to attend school. But that hasn’t stopped this gregarious woman in her 40’s from pursuing a university degree—or from dreaming of an even higher education—“I am praying for a masters program. I want to get my masters if God is willing.”
She and her husband have six children. The oldest is 24, and “the little baby is almost 6!” Laytopoe closes her eyes and smiles, as if offering thanks as she breathes, “And they are alllll going to school.”
Her partial-scholarship from the Amani Girl’s Club helps her to pay for her school, allowing her husband’s income to support schooling for their children.
One might describe Laytopoe as ambitious and driven, not the traditional description a Liberian woman. “Double-double!” She exclaims as she conveys the nature of her schedule. She begins to list her activities at church (“Counselor, choir member, Women’s Department Secretary, teacher—”) and has to be reminded that she also serves on ABCU’s praise and worship choir and is a full-time university student.
In addition to the above duties and accomplishments, she feels compelled to work with young girls—enabling them for the future.
“My responsibility at the club is to teach the girls to know their own values. For them, we need to establish something. So they will have a new vision.”
When asked about these values, Laytopoe has a list that is just as impressive as her personal life.
“The number one thing we teach them is to know the value of education. Our goal is to train the girls to be useful in society. People should be able to know that this child can be helpful to the community.”
She thinks for a moment, and then adds, “And they should be able to know God in their own lives, and to serve God. ”
She also hopes the program will create a ripple effect in the community by enabling the girls to be role models for their friends—“even when they are just singing songs or plaiting (braiding) hair.”
Laytopoe also has a responsibility to mothers in the community. She keeps tabs on behavior changes mothers notice in their girls. She also encourages mothers to be flexible with their children, taking time to explain the goals of the club so they will allow the girls to skip a few chores once a week to attend.
Laytopoe is a mother of four daughters herself, and she shares that, “before, we never had anyone to tell us our children are valued.” The Amani Girls Club is striving to change that view.
With such a noble goal come challenges. Women in Liberia are traditionally encouraged to keep their heads down. As Laytopoe teaches confidence to the girls, she has also had to empower herself. “For me, when I came up, I never used to talk a lot, so it is something I have had to put myself into.”
Lessons on confidence allow girls to excel in school and make smart choices in the midst of the pressures like pregnancy and prostitution that engulf many girls before they reach 6th grade.
“It is very important for us to have the Amani Girls Club here in Liberia. Girls these days, they can just abandon their schooling—they get themselves involved in life.”
If Liberians continue to advance the education of girls and women, Laytopoe is hopeful for her country’s prospects.
“I have a very big dream for Liberia!” She remarks. “I want to see our country be bright in the future. This is the reason I want to help educate others.”
Learn more about the Amani Girls Club, plus how you can help, here.