Dressed head to toe in bright Liberian fashion, the models in the Liberian Dinner and Fashion Show got a warm welcome from the attendees of the event at St. Philips Episcopal Church in Durham on Saturday, Oct. 15.
The dinner is in its sixth year and was created as the church’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) project, according to Meg McCann, the co-chair of the MDG Committee at St. Philips.
The MDGs were proposed in 2000 by the UN to decrease poverty and its many facets, including disease, hunger, gender equality and education. According to McCann, every Episcopal church was encouraged to develop a project in relation to these goals.
“The logical thing for us was to do something in Liberia since we have Liberians in the congregation,” said McCann.
She said there are about 25 within the parish, the largest minority population in the church.
Martha Dargbeh, Liberian-American parishioner and member of the MDG committee, recalled the great reaction they got from their food at coffee hour, and thus the annual Liberian Dinner was born.
According to McCann, the dinner benefits the Bromley School outside of Monrovia, Liberia, an all-girls boarding school that has existed for over 100 years in the country.
Lowell Dargbeh, husband of Martha Dargbeh and Liberian-American member of the committee, explained, “It’s a school for girls, and so we try to promote that cause, you know, as one of the MDG goals.”
According to McCann and the Dargbehs, St. Philips has provided the school with wells, fuel for generators, barrels full of supplies and currently, water filters. They also send medicine that is utilized both in the sick room at the school and in the government-run clinic located next to Bromley.
Lowell Dargbeh mentioned they have had to help the school start up again not only after the country’s Civil War, but also after the more recent Ebola outbreak.
The Dargbehs aren’t just Liberian-American leaders in the congregation of St. Philips, they are also leaders of the Liberian community in the Triangle.
When speaking about the growing Liberian population in the area, Lowell Dargbeh said, “People have settled here over time. We met others here. Then they started to organize themselves in just a social club.”
That social club turned into the Liberian Community Organization of the Triangle, said Lowell Dargbeh, who serves as one of the groups’ leaders.
Lowell Dargbeh explained the purpose of the group is to “educate both Liberians and non-Liberians about Liberia, and to provide charitable services to the communities in which we live.”
According to the organization’s Facebook page, the LCOT was formed to “increase public awareness of Liberians in the Triangle area… through charitable means focus on the educational, social and economic advancement of the Liberian people and friends of Liberia.”
Currently the group is working on meeting with city mayors in order to promote their willingness to help in the community.
Lowell Dargbeh mentioned that they have spoken with Mayor Bill Bell and would like to help with the new poverty reduction initiative in Durham.
The dinner and fashion show (Entitled “Without Borders”) provides a way for the Triangle to become educated about Liberian culture while promoting the church’s project in Liberia.
After the dinner, another member of the MDG committee, Beverly McNeill, commented on the event: “The dinner was a high energy, delightful affair in which our church community and friends came together to support a cause close to our hearts, Bromley Mission School in Liberia.”