"Education is one of the primary ways that this country is going to be able to get back on its feet," says a Georgia pastor about Liberia.
Michael Helms, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jefferson, Ga., talks about Liberia's Ricks Institute, and its role in educating a new generation, in a new Skype interview with EthicsDaily.com.
Skype Interview: Michael Helms from EthicsDaily on Vimeo.
Ricks Institute is a K-12 school in Virginia, Liberia, just outside of Monrovia, the capital city. Ricks opened in 1887 and is owned and operated by the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention.
Helms' personal friend, Olu Menjay, is Ricks' principal. That friendship led Helms to Liberia in 1995 during a lull in the Liberian civil war.
That's when Helms visited Ricks for the first time. At the time, some 25,000 refugees were being housed by the United Nations on Ricks' 1,000-plus acre campus.
Roughly a decade later, Helms discovered something that would transform his involvement with Ricks: a machine that created compressed-earth blocks.
Helms eventually began the Bricks for Ricks Foundation to help improve housing in developing areas. He also wrote a book, "Hoping Liberia: Civil War Stories from Africa's First Republic."
Royalties from Helms' writings go back into the foundation, he says. So far, they have been able to purchase two block-making machines, one of which is going to Ricks.
"We are in the process of getting this machine shipped to Ricks Institute and teaching them how to use it," says Helms.
The machine will make blocks for structures on Ricks' campus, and it also has the potential to help produce income for the school.
The compressed block doesn't break down in the elements, says Helms. It can help build structures for permanent dwellings that are both affordable and sustainable.
Helms says it's the education component that he finds so compelling about Ricks.
Given that one in 12 people were killed in the civil war, "the hope really is in the next generation," says Helms.
"I've seen these kids already make a tremendous impact on their surrounding areas," says Helms, who appreciates that Menjay emphasizes academics, spiritual life and valuable skills.
"These kids can help put Liberia back on its feet," he says.
Watch the interview with Helms at vimeo.com/ethicsdaily/skype-michaelhelms
Learn more about the Ricks Institute at RicksOnline.org
Learn more about Michael Helms at JohnMichaelHelms.com
Watch other EthicsDaily.com Skype interviews at vimeo.com/ethicsdaily
Watch Olu Menjay in a brief iPhone interview from the 2012 BWA Gathering in Chile at vimeo.com/ethicsdaily/bwa-olumenjay