A group of mothers, who had taken their disabled children to meet with their lawmakers were left stunned and disappointed that none of the legislators came from their offices to see them.
The 13 mothers, through their spokespersons, Miatta Stubblefield and Gelian Wackie, said they had gone to the Capitol Building to appeal to the lawmakers to help the proprietress of the First Start Academy where their kids were being cared for before it was closed due to financial constraints.
But up to the time our Health Correspondent left the Capitol Building a few minutes past 3p.m. no lawmaker had come downstairs to see the kids with special needs. Even though some of the mothers were seen upstairs shuttling between offices of Senators and Representatives, their efforts did not convince their lawmakers enough.
They and their children had arrived at the Capitol Building by 9 a.m. yesterday, September 3 with placards which had inscriptions such as: “Liberian kids with Autism, Cerebral Palsy and Down’s syndrome have rights to a daycare, not legislation, only money.”
Two of the poster cards read: “Liberia 53rd Legislature, we are disabled but we are Liberia’s children. Disability is not a choice.”
The kids were born with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down’s syndrome and attention deficit disorder (ADD) and so need specialized care, which most of their mothers cannot provide.
The Daily Observer caught up with Mrs. Charlesetta N. Williams, Chief Executive Officer of Healthpage Liberia, who manages the specialized home for the kids.
Mrs. Williams said she is now financially drained and can no longer afford to keep the center running at this time as every penny to run the facility had come from her meager resources.
The school, which was reopened in Paynesville City, outside Monrovia, after it left its 18th Street former home was closed in June 2015, three months after it was reopened in March.
Mrs. Williams’ center, which was known then as “First Start” when it operated on 18th Street, Sinkor, added a daycare component for some of the kids, all of whom were “first starters” in formal education, when it reopened its doors in Paynesville.
According to Mrs. Williams, whose Health Page has airlifted many Liberian children in need of specialized medical treatment to various countries in the world for the past nine years, opening an institution like the First Start Academy and the specialized home along with the daycare, had always been her dream.
Asked if she had encouraged the kids’ mothers to come to the Capitol, she told the Daily Observer that it was the mothers themselves who had decided to come and beg their lawmakers to help them.
“I don’t have any trust in them. I don’t think they are willing to help. I have met and interacted with a lot of them, but nothing has been done to help,” she stated.
“You don’t get any help from the government, either.”
She was, however, grateful to a few people, including the Publisher of the Daily Observer newspaper, Mr. Kenneth Y. Best and others who had assisted her in her endeavor to reopen the home.
Asked if there is any hope of reopening the home for the kids, she stated: “I singlehandedly prepared all of this, and have the kids now on waiting list, and have to care for it all: from transportation, to feeding (Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.), salaries for workers. I am in sympathy with the parents, who cannot afford it, but I have to think about myself as I am not a millionaire, just a 61-year-old mother, grandmother with passion, but passion has an end.”
She said it was a shame that the Liberian government could not afford to boost her efforts for humanity’s sake.
Ms. Williams stated that the home will remain closed until she receives help for its reopening.
When she reopened the home in March, she had told the Daily Observer that funding such a home was a challenge in Liberia, and she had vowed not to give up in her quest to pursue further aid for the children. On that day, she had stated that including salary payments, she would need at least
US$70,000 annually to support the 24-physically challenged kids in the home.
Efforts to get reactions from lawmakers at the Capitol Building did not succeed because many were not prepared to address the issue.
Mrs. Williams can be reached at 00231 886531797.