Operation Classroom

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When countries are unsettled by civil wars, it often takes a long time to rebuild infrastructures. Getting children back to school is one of the first goals. That’s why some retired men in the states have pitched in to help build desks for schools in Sierra Leone and Liberia. By using their tools, they’re giving these young people tools to change their lives. Reed Galin reports.

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Retirement doesn’t mean rocking chairs for these Indiana United Methodists.

Residents of the Wesley Manor retirement community are reaching out to a younger generation thousands of miles away.  They’re building desks for schools in Liberia.

Don Pershing / Operation Classroom Volunteer:  “A lot of things we take for granted, they just don’t have over there.”

Sixteen desks have been built in Wesley Manor’s wood shop.  More will soon be on the way. 

It’s part of Operation Classroom, started in 1987, to rebuild schools looted in civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Joe Wagner / Operation Classroom Volunteer:  “People would take refuge in schools.  And because they didn’t have any firewood, they would just use the desks and chairs for firewood to cook with.”

School and medical supplies are collected in an Indiana warehouse and loaded onto 40-foot containers sent at least four times a year.

Joe Wagner:  “The need is astronomical.”

Many of the children now in Liberian schools were soldiers in the civil wars.

Joe Wagner:  “Our motto has been to take the guns out of the children’s hands, and give them tools to place in their hands for a productive life.”

These veteran builders know their skills are being put to good use.

Lowell Brown / Operation Classroom Volunteer:  “Knowing that I was assisting some kids who need an education, whose future rests on that very fact.”

Operation Classroom volunteers know there’s still much work to be done, to help the children of West Africa find a better future.


Operation Classroom is now working with 15 schools in Sierra Leone and Liberia.  The program has raised six-and-a-half million dollars in goods and services since beginning 17 years ago. Leaders say another six-point-seven million dollars is needed in the next five years to continue the work.

For more information contact 765-436-2805 or check this Web site:

To learn more about this story, see Retirees in Indiana help rebuild schools in Liberia, a desk at a time.