A Gospel preacher once delivered a sermon on the theme, “Let gratitude be your attitude.”
Mrs. Esther Tokpah, wife of Firestone tapper Jerry Tokpa and mother of triplets, wasted no time in expressing appreciation to Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and Daily Observer publisher Kenneth Y. Best for taking the initiative to meet the needs of her triplets, who turned three last Thursday.
Mrs. Tokpa, overwhelmed upon seeing Mr. Best on Friday morning with clothes, bags of rice, toys and some money to organize a birthday party for the triplets, told the Daily Observer, “I bore these triplets at Du Side Hospital here in Firestone on November 13, 2011.”
Dr. Benedict Wolo was the lead doctor who delivered the triplets at Du Side.
“My husband and I do not have money to bring them up along with the first two children we have. While lying in the hospital, a man met me and gave me some money. When he saw my son, the eldest of the triplets, he named him Samukai and my husband and I accepted the name with thanks.” That man was Defense Minister Samukai.
“The Saturday following the triplets’ birth, Mr. Best and his son Bai came to see us at Du Side Hospital and the following Monday they put me and the triplets in the Observer newspaper.
“Since that time, Minister Samukai and Mr. Best, whose newspaper first published our story, decided to take care of triplets and have been doing so ever since.”
Esther’s husband, Jerry Tokpah, works for Firstone Rubber Plantaton as a rubber tapper, a least paid but difficult laborer’s job that he has done for many years.
In his absence during the visit, his wife, Esther in a submissive and affectionate tone said, “How much my husband can get from the job to cater for all these children? If God had not touched these men to come to our aid, I don’t think these triplets would have even survived.
“I just want to thank them and call on them to continue their good deeds to help educate them; for only God will pay Minister Samukai and Mr. Best for what they are doing for us.”
Two of the triplets, Brownie Samukai Topkah and Joyce Tokpah are now walking. But the youngest, Naomi, whom the doctors for a while did not even know was in the womb, has a problem with her feet and is still unable to walk. She can stand with some support.
When Mr. Best acquainted his friend, Mr. Rufus Karmo, Firestone’s Public Relations Manager, about the little girl’s problem, Mr. Karmo assured him that something could definitely be done about that. Mr. Karmo promised to discuss Naomi’s problem with Dr. Wolo as well as Firestone’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Mabande. Karmo was sure that the two doctors would bring the child to the attention of Children’s Surgery International, a group of American doctors that visit Liberia every November to perform surgery on children free of charge. Unfortunately, said Mr. Karmo, they cannot come this year because of Ebola. “We will have to wait until next November,” said Mr. Karmo.
He said he had already mentioned the problem to Dr. Wolo, who suggested there was need for an “orthopedic review” on Naomi.
Speaking about the gifts he brought, Mr. Best said both he and Minister Samukai combined their resources to purchase the items to celebrate the triplets’ third birthday. “The Minister, of course, contributed the lion’s share,” Mr. Best joked.
The clothes included white dresses and a white suit for Samukai, and his sisters to wear for their christening later this month.
The mother, Esther, said she will encourage her daughters to share the two dolls with the other girls in their immediate neighborhood in Firestone’s Camp 43, so that they can all play together. Each of the dolls has a bathtub and other accessories.
Esther’s compassion for the other children was evident. The triplets live in the camp among many other children, most of who are also deprived because their parents are poor since the fathers earn so little. Esther says sharing with the other children was a way for them to join in the birthday celebration which was held last Sunday.
The birth of the triplets is known to a majority of the people in the division and even the Firestone Management.
After hearing of Mr. Best’s arrival, the assistant pastor of the local Lutheran Church, Rev. James K. Doddo, came to the scene to play his role by praying for the triplets and other children living in the camp.
His prayer was directed to recognizing children as the next generation to succeed the current, and therefore asking for God’s mercy and blessings to cause them to escape Ebola and be prepared to take charge of responsibilities after their parents.
Mr. Best urged the Assistant Pastor to ask the Senior Pastor when he could perform the christening ceremony. Pastor Doddo said he would suggest to the Senior Pastor that the fourth Sunday in November be the christening day.
Meanwhile, Division 43 is a dwelling community in Firestone that has 5,400 inhabitants most of whom are children.
Firestone built an elementary school for the little ones near the camp, while those in junior and senior high go farther away by foot.
The entire Firestone plantation, according to camp supervisor Johnson Williams, is dominated by the Kpelle tribe, Liberia’s largest ethnic group.
The Kpelle are found in very large numbers in at least four counties in Liberia—Bong, Margibi, Lofa and Gbarpolu.
One blessed account Mr. Williams gave about the camp is that there has been no reported case of Ebola among the camp residents.
He said the camp had three hand pumps from which local dwellers fetch water, and sanitation is okay for the population.