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Typing Pastor in Liberia Gives Curbside Lessons


William Saydee teaches typing classes for free. He says: “For post-war Liberia, where we find ourselves now, it is good to help others. Because here in Liberia, presently most institutions which are helping to train people technically are no more and so while the government is making an effort, we are hoping that the international community may one day come to our aid. It is also good for us to start something by ourselves."

Some 250,000 people died in Liberia's civil war that ended in 2003 and many thousands more fled the fighting. The conflict left the country in economic ruin.

Unemployment and illiteracy are high and much of the country is without electricity or running water. Saydee says being a pastor goes only so far in helping people.

"Myself, presently I am in a seminary, but these people want to learn. There is nothing and they all cannot continue just languishing. So we have to contribute our own quarter to the reconstruction process,” He makes less than one U.S. dollar a day typing ID cards, contracts, resumes and letters. "Commercial typing is such that, you bring your paper, I type it, I charge you, 20 dollars, 30 dollars Liberian dollars now (about 35 to 50 U.S. cents). At the end of the day, I put it together, it's enough for me," says Mr. Saydee.

To those who clearly do not have much money, Saydee renders his typing services for free. Saydee says he was driven into the street by the recent civil war. "Before the war when I graduated, I was chief accountant and see I am in the streets."

He says his typewriter, which he has had since 2000, is probably older than he is -- 40 years or so -- but it works, and all it costs to operate it is a new ribbon once in a while. "I believe they (the typerwriters) have longer life span than computer though computer is the modern way out now. Of course, myself I am computer-literate, I have my papers, I went to computer school, but I have no money to buy computer now."

One of his students, Isaiah Thomas, is a 33-year-old high school dropout and a father of three, who used to work as a night security guard, but quit after he got sick. He types about 15 words a minute, but he sees his future in typing. "I can become a correct secretary for any institution that wishes to employ me. But for now, I am learning and I am not too expert in it now,” says Mr. Thomas.

While still slow, Thomas is meticulous in his typing, making sure there are no mistakes.

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