‘Special Needs Kids’’ School Shuts Down

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Ms. Charlesetta N. Williams, chief executive officer (CEO) of Health Page Liberia, Inc., and founder of the specialized home for kids with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down’s syndrome and attention deficit disorder (ADD), has told our
Health Desk that the home has shut its doors to parents and children.

The school, which was reopened in Paynesville City, outside Monrovia, after it left its 18th Street former home following many months of closure, has now been shut down ‘permanently’ “due to lack of funding.”

The home, 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. However, it seems now that her “dream” is shattered as the school has closed just few months after it was reopened on March 30th this year.

She had said that day in March: “My dream to have a center for children with autism, Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy and other conditions has come true”.

Mrs. Williams told guests attending the reopening program for the center that she had single-handedly worked tirelessly towards laying a foundation for children who cannot lay one down for themselves. She also stated that she had fasted for 21 days asking God to help her get restarted with the home for the kids.

The Health Page CEO, who is presently in Accra, Ghana, with some sick kids she had taken there to seek medical attention on her own expense, stated that “ I today (Monday, June 22) closed the First Start Special Needs Daycare for children suffering from Autism, Cerebral Palsy & Down Syndrome due to lack of funding.”

She was, however, grateful to few people, including the Publishers of the Daily Observer newspaper, Mr. Kenneth Y. Best, and the City Mayor of Monrovia, Madam Clara Doe-Mvogo and a host of others who had assisted her in her endeavor to reopen the home. Whether she had spoken with them on the closure of the home could not be established.

However, 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 but I have to think about myself also 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 close 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. “Funding is an issue. We have a lot to achieve, but we will continue to work with the challenges. I will continue to serve our children,” she had said.

On that day she had that including salary payment, she would need at least US$70,000 annually to support the 24-physically challenged kids in the home.

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