Who We Are
We are a faith based 501(c)3 non-profit organization with a focus of bringing HOPE to Liberia, West Africa. Education, clean water, good healthcare, and the gospel of Jesus are vital to bringing HOPE to developing countries. All are necessary to improve the quality of life and enhance the recovery from devastation and trauma of a prolonged 14 year civil war. In a country where quality healthcare and education are scarce, we are making a difference. In 2005, 35 acres of land was purchased and a school was established. We have big dreams; developing a Christ-centered, culturally relevant curriculum, a medical clinic and hospital, sustainable agriculture, and establishing a Bible-teaching church.
The Importance of Education
In 2015, the CIA World Factbook reported that 73 % of girls 15 and older are illiterate, 70 out of 1,000 children die before their 5th birthday, and 54% of people live in poverty. At Hope International Christian Academy (HICA), dedicated students walk on average two hours one way to school. According to the USAID (March 2018), 66% of primary aged children are out of school. The post-civil war rebuilding and recovery of the Liberian education and healthcare systems is complex and challenging due to the lack of national finances, poor infrastructure, and need for trained teachers and healthcare workers. Free education does not exist in Liberia and resources are scarce. For every 26 Liberian K-12 students there is one book.
Education and good healthcare are correlated. Both are necessary to improve the quality of life and enhance the recovery from the devastation and trauma that remain years after a prolonged civil war. That 14-year civil war resulted in 80% of Liberia’s medical facilities being boarded up due to looting and destruction. Healthcare is also a great need in the country as only 20% of healthcare facilities were able to continue to function after the war. According to the Prosperity Index, Liberia ranks 146 out of 149 countries regarding health, which measures the country’s performance in basic physical health, health infrastructure, and preventative care.
In 2005, a group of individuals from Rapid City, South Dakota purchased land in Bensonville, Liberia for the purpose of building a school and orphanage to meet the needs of children. Since the inception, Bridges of Hope has worked steadily to provide education to students in the Bensonville area with an annual student population of approximately 320 students. 99% of our graduates have passed the West African Examination Council. Recently our high school received the #1 ranking from the District Education Officer. Some of our graduates have become teachers, nurses, lab technicians, clerks, engaged with agriculture projects, and even a physician assistant.
In 2017, Martin Digler, our acting president, a native Liberian, returned to his home country for two weeks to do a needs assessment. He came back with a clear vision as to what God was calling him to do, which is to enrich the school with quality, Christ-centered education, to establish a clinic and hospital that would provide affordable, compassionate healthcare, and to found a church that would preach God’s word focusing on application as we are not to be hearers of the Word but doers. Upon arrival home to the US, he shared all that God had put on his heart to his wife, Stephanie. After processing the vision for a few months, she was on board to proceed. In December 2017, Martin and Stephanie wrote the mission statement God had put on their hearts. Joel Schwiesow, Martin’s sponsor dad, asked Martin if it were possible to live out his dream through Bridges of Hope. Martin presented the mission and vision to the board during the January 2018 board meeting and asked them if this was the direction they wanted to see Bridges of Hope go, and if so he would accept the role of president in the organization. In February, the board adopted the new mission statement. God is faithfully providing people to play important roles in moving the vision forward.
Bridges of Hope exists to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and to disciple Liberians to worship and glorify God by empowering them to live Christ-centered lives and provide for themselves a reasonable living. We will do this through a Bible-teaching church, quality education, quality healthcare, entrepreneurship and agriculture; so that they will have a biblical worldview evidenced by a lifestyle of character, leadership, stewardship, service, and joyful worship.