Renewed Energy Serving Humanity (RESH) has graduated 290 psychosocial counselors with a mission to go forth and exercise what they have learned to benefit Liberia. In fulfillment of this mission, the graduates have been tasked to help rescue the thousands of Liberians who are struggling with traumatic conditions, many of whom are young people—with the ever growing population of zogoes (young people who are practically living on the streets as a result of their addiction to drugs) in major cities and their suburbs in the country.
Although the cause (s) of these young people’s situations cannot generally be attributed to the civil unrest that characterized the country in the past; it could also, because of the high surge in the usage of narcotic substances in country. However, this could be referred to as postwar effects or an outshoot of the crisis. These groups of people are in dire need of help to regain their minds and the graduates have been charged with this responsibility.
The graduation ceremony took place over the weekend in Paynesville after an eight-week intensive psychosocial training program. The volunteers, who also include some Ebola survivors, will now be deployed in various communities to serve as RESH ambassadors, with the responsibilities of identifying basic psychosocial support-related issues, providing basic services proportional to their training, and making the requisite referrals where needed.
It is no secret that the decade long civil crisis in the country, coupled with the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus disease that took thousands of lives in the country, has left a sizable number of Liberians traumatized; and according to many, government has been doing very little to rescue these people.
It was, therefore, in this regard that RESH, according to its founder and Executive Director, Ernest Garnark Smith, thought it wise to help, but at a critical time, during the height of the EVD in Monrovia. This globally threat also presented the best opportunity for the organization to start such a unique process.
Therefore, Smith said, RESH started its psychosocial counseling with those that were diagnosed with the EVD and were taken to the ELWA Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Paynesville, where Smith braved the storm providing counseling to inmates in order to give them hope to survive. Fortunately, many of his patients did survive, Smith said. He was providing an overview of RESH’s program at the graduation ceremony.
Smith, a university lecturer and a psychosocial counselor, has always stressed the need for government and its partners to provide more support to mental health programs. He maintained that the decade-long Liberian war with its many accompanying negative scenarios left many Liberians traumatized, but more worrisome is that no help seems to be coming anytime soon for this group of people.
“We see a lot of people in the streets who appear confused. They need help, too. It is incumbent upon our government to intervene in their situations by coming up with supporting programs that work in that direction,” Smith added. “There is a better way to serve humanity and helping someone who is suffering psychologically is one of the most important ways because these conditions are very difficult to detect at times.”
Serving as guest speaker was former minister of Foreign Affairs, Augustine Ngafuan. He stressed that there is an urgent need for the youth of the country to be rescued from the grip of drug addiction, and it is incumbent upon the graduates to do so because they now possess the expertise. “You now need to go forth and liberate your brothers and sisters because they have been living in these conditions for too long now. Please use the skills you have gained to be a help to your country,” he pleaded.
The issue of drug abuse, he said, is now a national crisis that needs to be tackled heads on. “We must do something about it as a country or else we will be losing an entire generation to these harmful substances,” he said, while also wondering how these substances even entered the country.
Liberians continue to complain that government is doing nothing to take mentally-ill people off the streets, something that should be embarrassing for the country.
“We see many mentally-challenged people in the streets, but some of them are not mentally-ill. They just have some minor problems,” Smith added, criticizing that the social protection arm of the government is doing little to tackle the problem.
He continues to call for those with mental conditions to be taken off the streets. “We have a lot of work to do and we must begin now. Government and partners need to put money in this direction,” he said.
The graduation ceremony was graced by relatives and friends of the volunteers. Also in attendance were members of RESH Board and staff. The training was held under the theme, ‘Preparing to Serve Mama Liberia and Humanity,’ and the graduates were taught 10 psychosocial-support-related courses over eight weeks.
Courses the graduates covered included Introduction to Psychosocial Counseling; Substance Abuse; Mental Health Issues; Volunteerism and Working with Children Faced with Traumatic Issues. Other courses were Introduction to Guidance Counseling; Community Sensitization and Mobilization; Introduction to Social Works and Temperament Analysis.