My name is Tonia Dabwe, founder and chair of Mineke Foundation. In 1968, my Liberian father and Dutch mother were the first inhabitants of the community in Gardnersville now called Dabwe Town. It was named after my father as a thank you for my parents’ efforts to develop the community.
Like many people, my father, Dabwe Wiah, had to work during his childhood to be able to go to school. He got the opportunity to study tropical agriculture in the Netherlands. His vision was that Liberia, with the many natural treasures and fertile land, should no longer have to import food.
He returned to Liberia with his Dutch wife: my mother, Mineke Muilerman. In 1968, they were the first inhabitants of Dabwe Town. Liberia was founded by freed slaves who returned from the United States and the country was never colonized. But in my father’s vision, a country that depends on other countries for food, is a country that is enslaved. On his 4 acre farm, he used what was available in nature plus modern farming methods to show visitors how to grow their own food. At the Damiefa School, founded in 1982, my father taught school children the basic skills of farming so that they could help their families grow their own food. In addition, my parents contributed financially to building roads, bridges and the installation of running water and electricity in the community. They also sponsored the high school education of children who graduated from Damiefa School and gave loans to small entrepreneurs.
The Liberian civil war, which started on Christmas Eve 1989 and ended in 2003, put an end to my parents’ work. The buildings and infrastructure they had worked so hard on were destroyed and teachers and students were killed. , but also the social cohesion in the country, the My parents and I were attacked and forced to flee. My mother Mineke has been missing since that time.
I travelled to my mother’s family in the Netherlands while my father returned to Dabwe Town. But the once prospering community had been badly damaged. A large part of the Liberian population was traumatized and there are levels of distrust: in neighbors, official agencies and international NGOs. Had my parents’ work been in vain?
My dream is to continue and build on my parents’ work. I want to continue helping to improve the economic and social situation of Dabwe Town and the Gardnersville district, so that this area can become an example for other regions in Liberia. To achieve this, I founded Mineke Foundation in January 2009.
We have achieved much. Through our vocational and business training, over 300 graduates have gained the skills to support themselves. Many of them are young single mothers. As members of our Women’s Club, they support and encourage each other to learn about business management, saving money, women’s health and women’s rights. Our savings & loans scheme has helped many of our graduates establish and grow their own businesses. More than 150 children and adolescents aged 5 – 19 became members of our after-school programs, our Social Clubs. Here, they learn life skills, engage in arts and sports, and learn how to use computers.
My dream is that Dabwe Town and the surrounding area will once again become a region characterized by strong social cohesion, where inhabitants take responsibility for creating change and live successful lives. Resulting in a society where people support each other, children go to school, thriving businesses exist and we work together to fight crime and corruption.
Find us here
Damiefa School compound
(15 minutes walking distance from Dry Rice Market)
Dabwe Town, Gardnersville, Liberia
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