Benita Urey is on the move — not as a business or political heavyweight that other members of her family members are known to be — but as an evolving public-spirited person whose job is looking after people who can’t afford to look after themselves.
The young Urey, who is just 23-years of age, had long dreamt of sharing her blessing with those who cannot afford or struggled to survive or make ends meet.
“From the very first time I moved back to Liberia after the civil war, I knew that I was blessed and I knew I had to share my blessings with others,” Benita Urey said.
But the realization of such a dream was a problem. Doing it alone, Benita said, was not feasible and had never been an option but a collective operation that brings out the human side of all Liberia.
As such, Benita, at the age of 12-years, joined The Jesus Christ Children Ministry International Orphanage and School, as a volunteer in order to assist the organization to cater to the needs of young children, most of who had lost their parents during the Liberian civil crisis.
Since then, Benita has never looked back, getting involved with one cause after another. But she has been careful to align with causes that matter or are close to her heart — sea erosion, medical support, school aid, and working with inmates.
“Helping pay medical bills for children who could not afford their bills, paying tuitions and reaching out to sea erosion victims in West Point, New Kru Town, Buchanan, and Robertsport. These are things I love doing and have continued to do for over a decade,” she said.
The journey, which Benita began a decade ago, has inspired the formation of a new NGO, the Healing Liberia Foundation. Barely less than a month old, the foundation has raised US18,000 for projects, and had the Vice President of Liberia in attendance at the launch.
Its goal is to respond to the medical needs of people under 25 years old who require life-changing surgeries but cannot afford to pay the costs.
“Our contributions have not been enough to address the growing need of kids who lack access to healthcare, some of who died right under our watch. May the souls of Edwin, Princess and the many others rest in perfect peace,” Benita added.
“What happened to the late Edwin, Princess, and others, is something I’ve struggled to come to terms with,” the 23-years old blogger and social influencer said. “At times I felt like a complete failure because I was not able to reach them on time to ensure that they survived very avoidable deaths.”
According to Benita, the foundation was birthed after she met kids who later died as a result of late medical interventions in their dire conditions.
Although she tried saving some of them, few were unable to make it—prompting Benita to go all out in search of sick people in need of serious health or operation to save them early, instead of when it is late.
“Going forward, all I can offer is to work as hard as we can to do our part to make Liberia a better place, where incidents like these won’t ever repeat themselves. We intend to reach out to every ill person before it is too late. The Healing Liberia Foundation aims to be able to help young people, especially children, get the healthcare they so desperately need.
For Benita, her mission now is to prevent the catastrophe that befell Edwin, Prince, and others from happening as a result of their inability to pay or raise the monies needed for lifesaving medical treatment.
As such, she sees the foundation as an opportunity to save lives, an opportunity for some to breathe, and an opportunity to save someone from a curable disease even if they cannot afford to pay the bills.
“People like Comfort, Christiana, Orjay and more, who need to undergo life-changing surgeries but could not and cannot afford to pay the bills. There are too many Comforts out there and my goal is to urgently reach them. With the doctors we have partnered with, we will be able to help hundreds, if not thousands, of underprivileged kids,” Benita added.
Despite coming from a family of means, her projects are not funded alone, but by a vast majority of her social media followers. Part of her social media influence is shown through her ability to successfully fundraise thousands of dollars in just a day, depending on the need of the project.
“Trust and accountability are key. Once people see that their money is being spent for the intended purpose, they will never relent to respond to your call whenever you need them,” Benita disclosed. “This is my secret and nothing else. The secret behind my fundraising success lies in my ability to keep the donors updated regularly about how the money is being spent and supported by receipts.”
In one instance, she managed to raise US$1,000 and 20 bags of rice within an hour. However, by the end of the day, she had raised a little over US$3,500, according to Forbes Africa. “Many Liberians live on the money they’ve made during the day, so [when] the State of Emergency was put in place, a majority of them found it extremely hard to make the income they were used to,” she told Forbes Africa.
The money, Benita disclosed, was used to distribute food parcels to more than 500 rural communities during the heat of the coronavirus lockdown in Liberia, in fulfillment of the project, Package for Hope, which she collaborated on with some fellow Liberians.
“Stating that you want to be a humanitarian in such a politicized country leaves room for insults, unnecessary accusations, and much more, but I want to say here that if helping save lives is considered politics and a warrant for attacks and insults, we need more of this kind of politics and proudly take the attacks and insults,” she narrated.
In 2016, five years before the formation of the Healing Liberia Foundation, Benita had previous established “Save Liberians from Sea Erosion”, an NGO focusing on raising awareness about the alarming threats of sea erosion in Liberia, at the same time finding solutions to sea erosion victims’ struggles and daily problems. The success of the NGO and its work, inspired Benita, three years later to initiate a campaign titled: “Back 2 School Program.”
The campaign, Benita explained, was intended to raise money for kids who were struggling to get hold of school materials in five counties. At the same time, she started working with inmates at the South Beach Prison in Central Monrovia to help with rehabilitation.
“Since we began this journey, we have been able to reach out to people as far as Grand Gedeh and as close as West Point. We have saved lives and watched painfully as young, promising lives were lost. Although we faced many challenging times, especially those times of wanting to help and not having resources to, God has always worked through good people to keep our work going and saving lives,” Benita added.