|Lombeh (l) at the June 2011 Appalachian Play Therapy Center conference|
Lombeh Brown will be graduating in December from Lindsey Wilson College with her master’s degree in Counseling and Human Development. I have known Lombeh since her sophomore year at Lindsey when I became her academic advisor and taught one of her classes. In December of 2009, she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Human Services and Counseling. Lombeh is from Liberia. This is her story.
In the Liberian culture, more specifically the Via ethnic group, women are not given the opportunity to be educated as men. It is the cultural expectation of this ethnic group that once a girl reaches puberty she is to be initiated into the Sande society. The Sande society is an association found for the sole purpose of teaching girls how to become effective housewives. During the initiation process, female circumcision takes place in order to preserve the girls for their future husbands. Luckily for Lombeh, her parents did not believe in those views although her mother had been initiated into the society. They taught her and her two younger brothers the importance of achieving an education. Even though she and her siblings grew up in a civil war torn country, it “did not give us the excuse not to pursue our dreams,” she says.
Lombeh was raised by Christian parents. Her father has some college education and her mother, now deceased, had a high school education. Her mother was taught by freed American slaves who returned to their homeland of Liberia. Her father was taught by a woman named Margery Henderson who was on a church mission at the time.
During the civil war, Lombeh and her family left their home and traveled from village to village on foot. They had very little food and no safe drinking water. Because they were on the run they only carried salt and rice with them. They slept in the woods, sometimes in simple huts. Lombeh’s mother died while Lombeh was in her teens from illness that was compounded by the stress of the civil war and malnutrition.
Lombeh explained that schools run by the government were poor. The teachers were not paid and it was not uncommon to have 200 students in a classroom. If you did not arrive early enough, you had to stand because there were not enough places to sit. Schools run by missionaries were better.
In 2004, Lombeh’s father contacted Margery Henderson, the woman who had taught him thirty years earlier, to see if she could help find a way for his daughter to go to college in the United States. Mrs. Henderson is friends with Ms. Sue Stivers, a Trustee board member of Lindsey Wilson College. Together they found a way to make it happen. Years later Lombeh’s brother Burgess was also able to join her in college. This current fall semester he is interning in Washington, DC in the office of Congressman Whitfield from Kentucky. He hopes to attend law school someday.
Lombeh has served as a graduate assistant since January 2010. She has helped me plan and execute two play therapy conferences for the Appalachian Play Therapy Center. I have served as her clinical supervisor. It has been such an honor to witness her growth and development over the years. She used to be a shy, quiet young woman. Now she is so much stronger and self-confident. She has very good counseling skills. She has a big heart.
She does not have immediate plans to return to Liberia but she mostly likely will someday. She would like to stay in the United States and complete her clinical hours for licensure as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. I can see her working for the Peace Corps or UNICEF. Whatever she decides to do she will be successful. Education has changed her life and she will go on to change others’ lives. She is quite an inspiration!
Lombeh’s story is exactly what The Girl Effect endeavors to do in developing countries.
To read more about their story click here.
To order a book about Margery and Lombeh’s story click here.