Below is our most recent letter from the field from our Founder Katie Meyler. Learn more about one of our students, James, and about two of our community volunteers, Macintosh and Gloria.
This is also posted on our brand new blog! Check it out at http://morethanme.org/blog/
He waited for hours outside of the gate where I live ducking under a piece of tin from the pounding rain. Even though James drives me crazy he has figured out a way to tattoo himself onto my heart. I think I will know him for the rest of my life. He is part of my story.
I had to buy an umbrella. There is no way to make it in rain conditions like this without some kind of gear. James and I went to the market, one of my favorite things to do when I travel. After I got my heavy duty camouflaged umbrella we walked around waiting for the rain to cool down. I played with some of the kids, they jumped up on the tables and we made faces at each other and they followed me around as I explored. James was still wearing the shorts I bought him more than 2 years ago; he couldn’t even zipper them they were way too small. We got some shorts.
I took a motorbike inside West Point. One of our ground workers, 30 year old Macintosh invited me to his home. I met his wife, sister in law and the kids that all live in one tiny room. He told me his story which is not much different from many of those who live inside the West Point maze. He’s an orphan. He’s been robbed many times over, watched people killed in front of him and struggles day to day to support his family charging phones from a tiny booth even though he has an education and a dream. Still there’s something different about Macintosh and it’s obvious. People look up to him. I’m still figuring it out. He said he’ll tell me the story later.
He loves kids and has a team that volunteers with the kids in West Point twice a week playing games with them and teaching them life skills. We walked around and he introduced me to the girls and their mothers who will receive a scholarship this year to go to school, some for the first time. I will get to know them more this week, but today was casual.
It’s a lot to soak in. I’ll always call West Point, the beauty and the beast. It’s full of color, LIFE, there are happy screaming, running kids everywhere, people dancing, laughing, cooking, selling, “lecturing” (talking) but it’s also one of the poorest areas in Liberia. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around what that even means. I guess we can just say it means people struggle badly to put their children in school and many don’t make it. It probably means some other things that I will never fully grasp but for now I’m still in awe that 30 new kids will be in school this year. It seems small but to them it’s close to winning the lottery, it’s means more to them then we know. Most of their parents never had that opportunity.
When I left West Point I met with Gloria, also 30, another ground volunteer with More than Me. Her husband was “poisoned” last year and he died. It seems like a normal story, I don’t get it and she didn’t have many answers but she is still full of optimism. She even adopted a child after the death of her husband and uses her free time to volunteer with the kids in West Point. She says they have it worse than her and she can make a difference.
As I look at the pictures from today tears well up in my eyes. I don’t feel sorry for anyone, I feel lucky to know these people. I’ve been here three times now and even lived in the bush for five months but the strength of Liberians still shakes me. They cause me to question what I’m made of and what is really important in my VERY short life.
Motivated to use everything in me to do what I can to send some more kids to school because they asked me to and I really like them.
My insides are moving, (maybe its diarrhea),
The below is an excerpt from a letter from our founder Katie Meyler. Last month she returned to Liberia after two years of fundraising in the US to give scholarships to 30 more deserving children through the More than Me Foundation. Read her account below about running into one of our scholarship recipients on the street and the memories the encounter drew.
"I recognized James from far away; he was coming to town to sell cucumbers on his head. He doesn't own a phone so there was no way for me to contact him to tell him I was here. I figured I'd just find him on the street selling or begging from the westerners were we met years ago. He had no idea I was back in Liberia. He has his own way of walking; he walks like he owns the world. Someone must have forgotten to tell him he's a little boy in a raggedy t-shirt with broken flip flops selling vegetables for pennies because from a million miles away with that walk of his, you'd think he was the son of a king, the boy's got pride. From half a football field away, we both stopped, it was so dramatic, then we sprinted. Holding him in my arms after years of not hearing from him, I felt an uncommon emotion. James is not just a kid More than Me sends to school, he's like my little brother. When I'm here we go everywhere together. A couple years back I use to rent a room from missionaries in town. They weren't found of having street kids in their home, rightfully so, but I knew James, I'd give him my most prized positions to watch over. I kinda snuck (the missionaries knew) him and 2 other kids (Emmanuel and Elizabeth) into my room. We'd have pillow fights, jump on the bed, dance like we were in a MTV music video, play cards, James would play with my hair, and I'd make him write sentences until he fell asleep. Then we'd all sleep smushed together on my little bed and in the middle of the night James would put his arm around my neck. He was young then. Now he's too old for all that. But he still held my hand today.
Home is a weird concept for me mostly because for me it's not a physical place. It's a place of peace in my heart. Today with James, his friend Isaac, and later with another one of our kids, Elizabeth and her mom and grandma, I was home. It's been a longtime, I forgot how that felt."
Katie is thrilled to announce that James and 30 more students will be going to school this year with funding from More than Me. However, we need more assistance. We have a waiting list of student's who want to go to school but can't afford the fees and uniform's required.
To learn more about James read our last newsletter below or send us an email, we would love to hear from you!
Almost 12 and ready to enter the third grade if he passes his entrance exam, James stands out among other children as streetwise and fiercely independent but determined and kindhearted. One day in downtown Monrovia, he noticed a woman with a mental illness sitting unclothed in the dirt in front of a popular shop. He took off his dirty, ripped shirt-one of the only ones he owned-and walked over to the woman and handed it to her. James is tough; his dad died in the war and his mom is gone. He is being raised by his grandmother, who struggles to find food for the family. Like all grandparents, she desires her grandson to be somebody one day. We do too.
Read about our Fall updates in More than Me's most recent Newsletter!
More than Me recently visited the Global Giving headquarters to speak with their staff on how to improve our project and continue to recruit new GG fans! GG in turn wrote a blog post about our experience winning the $1000 photo contest and our dreams of continuing to put more students in school in Liberia. I have linked the post below, hope everyone checks it out and enjoys!
Our Spring/Summer Newsletter is out with updates on our many projects and activities! This issue is dedicated to Thursday, a More than Me scholarship recipient whose life has changed now that he has access to an education.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
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