A young man carried three sacks of mineral water to a location packed with children of all ages, as Mr. Phillip Gibson, administrator of J. L. Gibson Memorial School, gave instructions, directing the children to wash their hands to receive their food.
“Food ready,” several children shouted towards the other side of the street down Gurley Street in Monrovia, “It’s time to eat.” That refrain has been heard since October 2014 when the Ebola outbreak in Liberia rendered many parents unable to provide food for their children.
Mr. Gibson, 29, who went on directing the children to take their proper places on the queue, told the Daily Observer later in an interview last Saturday that, “Nearly 150 children come to me for their meal every Saturday.”
Following a family tradition, neighbors said the Philips not only provided food for those who could not afford it in the past but also provided education through the family owned J.L. Gibson Memorial School.
Now, Gibson is happy to continue the tradition his parents and grandparents started to benefit less fortunate Liberians many years ago, before he was born.
“I realized during the height of the Ebola crisis in 2014 that food was scarce for many on Gurley Street and nearby communities so I decided to provide food free for the children,” Gibson said.
So, every Saturday, it has now become a tradition for children, some as young as six months accompanied by an older sibling, to get their plates ready and wait for their food.
“They enjoy this provision,” Gibson admitted, and said he hoped that he could expand the program to put the children in school as part of his contribution towards the education of Liberians.
Assisted by volunteers, Ms. Akma K. Aaron and Ms. Diana Zeabo, busied themselves to get the food ready as the number of children and the noise increased.
“Everyone must join the line to get your food,” Gibson instructed them, as they giggled, while some younger ones cried.
The children came from every corner of central Monrovia as the time struck 4 p.m., with their plates in their hands, with the only condition, according to Gibson, being that they wash their hands with chlorinated water and join the line.
The two women volunteers, who told the Daily Observer that they enjoy feeding the children, filled plate after plate of rice, topped off with large spoons of potato greens, and handed them to the excited youngsters, as they jubilated during our visit.
Each child is also handed a bag of mineral water, after which they are off to consume their food. Gibson revealed that he spends US$150 to US$200 every Saturday to cook for the children.
“I am supported by friends who see the need to make financial contributions to the project,” Gibson said. He commended his friends, including Mr. Henry Jackson, owner of nearby Exodus Entertainment Center, for their assistance.
In brief interviews with the children, Blessing Esther, 6, said she enjoys the food and wants God to bless Mr. Gibson and his friends.
Said Lawrence Junior Gbafred, 9, “I want God to bless Mr. Gibson and everyone helping us,” as he smiled and walked away with his bowl of food and a bag of mineral water, as others waited in line for theirs.