Posted on Apr 07, 2018
March 26th Service Heroes Awards Celebration
Jon Rossman is the “feet on the ground” for our Gbarnga, Africa Global Grants.  Without his volunteerism the project would not have gotten done.  He is also working on our second approved grant in Africa.  Area of Focus for Grant #1422702 Water and Sanitation, and Economic and Community Development.  Area of Focus for the GG #1757890 Basic Education and Literacy, and Economic and Community Development.
Jon frequently  traveled to Africa for a month at a time  of his own accord, did the community assessment, ordered all materials, acted as project manager and kept track of all the finances for the grant.   Doing a grant in Africa from Massachusetts would not have been possible without Jon.  The RC of Gbarnga was 1 year old when we began, they had no resources and Ebola was spreading rampantly in Liberia.  Jon worked collaboratively with them and us.  He also made numerous contacts in the community of Deanville, where the project took place.  When we needed someone in charge of maintaining the wells for the community, Jon was able to find that person because he had embedded himself in their culture and worked well with the Liberians.  This was true on all levels of the grant.
-Traveled to Africa at his own expense2 to 4  times a year for a month each, away from his family, to manage the construction.
-Reached out to the people of Gbarnga to facilitate grant fulfillment. Used local residents to work jobs that brought income back into the community.  (Block making, land clearing, well management.)
-Facilitated 100 students and teachers to have basic literacy and education by leading the construction of the school, drilling of wells, and installing 8 flush toilets at the school.
-Worked collaboratively with the RC of Gbarnga to facilitate hand washing lessons, well maintenance, and financial management of the project.  Banking in Liberia can take all day to open an account  (if you are lucky).
-Jon contracted malaria and pneumonia while in Gbarnga and continued to work through his illness to keep things on schedule.
-Reached out to the community to have them register their children for school.  80% of the population of Liberia live below the poverty level.  It is most prominent in areas outside the capital of Monrovia.  Deanville, Gbarnga is 120 miles west of Monrovia.  People there cannot afford to send their children to the public schools.  If they have enough money they will send the oldest child for a year, the next year the next oldest, etc.  It is not unusual to have a 12 year old in grade 2 if the family has many children.  Jon has raised funds outside of Rotary grants to sponsor children in school.  He realizes that the country will never progress unless the children are educated.  Jon has toured the United States to raise funds to sponsor the children in school.
Jon Rossman is formerly cofounder of Product Insight, Inc.-a Boston area product development firm and currently owns and operates Details Carpentry-a residential remodeling company.  He has planned and participated in numerous short-term mission trips both domestically and internationally including building projects in Mexico and Haiti.  Mr. Rossman’s education and expertise is design, his current role in the construction industry, and his entrepreneurial experience are used to forward the grant through organizational development, fundraising and promotional presentations, as well as specific design of the school campus, infrastructure, and facilities.
Jon Rossman came to the Montachusett area to promote the Gbarnga Lutheran Mission Project which would build a school for children in Liberia who had no school to attend.  The twenty year civil war resulted in schools being burned and the population was scattered and most residents fled to refugee camps in nearby countries.  Peace prevailed and it has been 10+ years since the war ended.  The political atmosphere is good and the country is rebuilding.  The schools in Liberia are overcrowded and many children were not allowed to attend. 
The presentation included the need for clean water and sanitation.  Two wells, one for the school and one for the community.  Flush toilets for both girls and boys at the school.  It was screaming “This is a Rotary project!”  Our relationship with Jon had begun.  The first grant was $80,000.  It also included a component to teach 20 men in the village how to use a Hydroform Interlocking Blockmaking Machine to form building blocks for construction.
The second grant is for $47,500.  It includes the installation of solar panels for lighting for evening classes to teach the parents of the children attending the school how to read and write.  They never attended school in the refugee camps and now their children have moved ahead of them educationally. 
It also includes poultry farming which will afford the community fresh eggs and poultry meat.  The three year business plan will culminate in a self-sustaining poultry farm and job opportunities for the people of Gbarnga.
Jon Rossman contacted Lifewater Canada to drill 2 wells in Gbarnga.  Well #1, a Afridev hand pump, was for the community.  The women and children of Gbarnga had to walk 3 miles to the river to get questionable water to drink. Some residents in the community would use the river upstream for their toileting use and there was no guarantee that the water was clean.  They now have clean drinking water and more time so they have started raising produce on the land to sell at market, a by-product of the well.
Well #2 for the school was drilled and uses a submersible pump and has a water storage tank to provide water for the school kitchen, hand washing facilities and toilets for the school.  The children were taught how and why to wash their hands and how to use a flush toilet.  There are no toilets in Gbanga.  A dug hole in the ground or stoop behind a bush is usual practice.
One of the things we needed when the grant was reviewed was a water analysis of water found in that area.  RI wants to make sure you are drilling for potable water before they will allot funds for wells.  Jon was able to make contact with others who drilled wells in that area to get an analysis for RI.  Our wells were potable when drilled.  This would have been a hurdle to do from Massachusetts and one unfortunate thing we found is that the culture of Africa is nothing like the culture in the United States.  Even when there are timelines there is no urgency to perform in Africa.  Jon made sure things got done to keep the project on schedule.
So an entire village has clean water, less sickness and the children are attending school. We are proud to say that Rotary funded the improvements but it never would have happened if we didn’t have Jon Rossman on the ground in Liberia.