Liberian children, who probably could not have gone to school or finished their studies, had it not been for the kind intervention of Shirley Richards, an African American lady with a passion for education, have poured praises on her (Richards) for being there for them when the storm was rough.
Students Cynthia Kiedekeh of Voker Mission, Paynesville Central Academy and Otis Gardea of ELWA Academy, speaking on behalf of their colleagues, said words were inadequate to express their gratitude to Mrs. Richards for helping them navigate the path of education by paying their fees.
“We thank you, Aunt Shirley, for everything you have done for us and we promise that we will not be discouraged because age has caught up with you. We will make you proud by standing with our parents to find money and complete our studies in grade schools as well as universities,” Kiedekeh assured Richards.
Otis Gardea said he is aware that Liberia is a tough country to live in, particularly in terms of meeting one’s basic life goals but is very confident that with support from their families they will succeed in completing their education.
“Aunty Shirley, your legacy will live on. We will do our best and make you proud,” Gardea promised and assured Mrs. Richards that they will always pray for her good health and long life.
Richards, 80, has sponsored the education of 106 students in Liberia for over ten years but has decided to bring an end to it due to her age, which appears to be slowing her movements around the world to implement or monitor her projects and initiatives and the lack of funds to sustain it, most especially when she is no longer of working age in the U.S.
At a brief farewell ceremony with few of the scholarship beneficiaries over the weekend, the octogenarian (person who is eighty years of age or above) said there is no need for those still in school to lose hope.
“Do not give up,” she admonished the over thirty students present. “God can take care of your education by sending other people into your lives, other people who care.”
After singing the song “I can make it, I can make it,” she called on the students to have faith and believe in God as they and their relatives strive to generate funds for their education.
“Things get tough, rough but I admonish you once more that you should not give up. You can succeed if you believe that you can make it by the grace of God,” she said.
Richards, a resident of Texas, USA, noted that the decision for her not coming back to Africa is from her children and relatives who think she is now too old to be far away from home.
With her two friends, Evelena Converly of New Orleans, LA and Consuella Adolph of Franklinton, LA, she commended Rev. William Horace who has coordinated the affairs of the scholarship program that is known as “National World Mission Scholarship Program.”
Evelena and Consuella also encouraged the students to be focused and press on with good efforts that will help shape their lives.
Reverend William Horace, who is in charge of Church of Christ Holiness Ministries, said Mrs. Richards’ gesture, which came into force in 2004, was a great blessing to many families.
“My first recruitment brought in 12 students and I later included another student, thereby taking the number to 13 between 2004 and 2005,” he recounted, adding that the number soon swelled as several students, with some being escorted by their parents from other schools, came to appeal to be placed on the scholarship program.
The ceremony ended with Mrs. Shirley giving out one 25 kg bag of rice and a solar light for study purpose to each of the students. The students feasted on ice cream and pop corn as they celebrated their benefactor and heroine.