In the next few months, the Ebola virus disease (EVD), which has torn the country apart and brought excruciating pain and frustration upon citizens, will be a thing of the past, but its scars will live on forever in the minds and lives of Liberians.
Many of the victims are children, some of them as young as 4 months old. Their lives have been altered and will forever be defined by the outbreak of this scourge.
But light is beginning to show its face in the lives of some of these orphans from the northwestern part of the country, specifically Foya District in Lofa County. Many of these children may have lost their parents and other relatives, but all is not lost.
Raise Your Hand Foundation (RYHF), a United States-based non-governmental organization which also has a local arm, is about to put smiles on the faces of orphans, who now number about 567 in Foya and its immediate surroundings.
Lofa, especially Foya, was at one point considered the epicenter of the outbreak during the initial stage of the crisis.
RYHF is working with a local organization, Makona Ebola Survivor Incorporated (MESI), a parent body that seeks the welfare of survivors and orphans in Foya, where it is headquartered, to provide scholarships for college age adults. The organization is striving to find out how it can help some of these orphans get back into school.
MESI operates a child welfare center where about 167 of these children, who lost both parents and have no relatives to care for them, reside. The rest of the 567 kids live with relatives in various communities.
RYHF founder and president, Shelley Spurlock, in a communication to MESI’s president, Joseph Massaquoi, said her organization would like to expand its outreach to help some of the children get into school.
RYHF Liberia’s country director, Alexander Ireland, had earlier led a team to Foya to search for an orphan, Sheku Gbollie, whose heartwarming story was reported in the October 23, 2014, edition of this newspaper.
RYHF is already providing a full scholarship to Sheku, who is currently studying at the Cuttington University in Suakoko, Bong County.
The US-based organization is also partnering with a grade school in that county to raise funds for a post-Ebola scholarship program to assist with the Ebola orphans in Foya.
Mrs. Spurlock said the initiative is intended to give hope to children who have lost almost everything. “The only thing we can do for them now is to give them hope for the future. When they are educated they will be able to look back and narrate their own stories,” she said.
Mr. Massaquoi lauded RYHF for the initial steps and said that the children have lost everything and it is now in the reach of kind hearted people to show them love. “The best love you can show children, especially the vulnerable ones that we are dealing with now, is education.”
Meanwhile, RYHF has also provided numerous scholarships to underprivileged Liberians, many of whom lost their parents during the Liberian civil war. Some of the beneficiaries have graduated from high school, while others are still attending various institutions of higher learning in the country.