Dear Girls Education International Supporters,
We are happy to report renewed success of our students, despite the Ebola Outbreak.
During the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, communication with the GEI-sponsored girls was spotty, so we were delighted to receive their report cards, photos and letters back in May. The girls have settled into their school routines and are doing well in their classes, but their letters about the Ebola outbreak are heartbreaking.
Jennet, a tenth-grader, wrote “It was very hard for people to shake each other’s hand because people was afraid of that disease (Ebola)... some people lost their entire families.” Abigail, whose parents are health-care workers and dealt with the virus first-hand, let us know that “... many people lost their lives, many mothers lose their children, many husbands lose their wife and many wifes lose their husband.” Unlike many who worked in the hospitals and clinics, her parents both survived. And eleventh-grader Florence, who lives in the St. Paul’s Bridge community, wrote of “...parents who abandoned their own family members due to the risk of the disease ... (which has) left some children without parents.” Some homes, she noted, were simply locked and abandoned.
But with the opening of the schools in March, some normalcy has returned to Liberia and according to the report cards from the new semester, the girls are doing well in their studies. Only one student -- whose grade average fell to 78% -- is being tutored after school in order to continue to qualify for the Girls Ed scholarship.
We are amazed that more of our students haven’t struggled with their schoolwork, considering the devastation, sadness and academic challenges that Ebola brought. We are so proud of our girls for jumping back into their classes and for their determination to succeed. With your continued help, these young women will become the future leaders of a country that faces an uncertain future.
Mary AnnGEI Board Member & Liberia Project Manager
In mid-February, Liberian schools cautiously and systematically re-opened after the worst Ebola crisis in the country’s history. The resumption was not without hiccups, but by mid-March, all of the Girls Ed students were back in school. Classes will run through the summer and fall, possibly switching the Liberian annual school start date to January or February for the foreseeable future.
The last case of Ebola in Liberia was reported in late March, which indicates the end of the outbreak there. Now the exhausted country looks towards the tasks of re-building its economy, infrastructure and especially Liberia’s fragile health care system, which lost many health care workers to the disease.
Before Ebola, many of our girls were interested in all sorts of professions, including doctors, nurses, geologists, teachers, accountants, lawyers, and even a gospel singer. As Liberia recovers economically from the epidemic, it will need an educated workforce to re-build.
While education has always been crucial in Liberia, it has become critical to the country’s recovery from Ebola. Today your contributions to Girls Ed in Liberia take on even more importance: an educated Liberian girl will not only lift herself and her family out of poverty, but her country as well. Won’t you invest in our girls right now? Thank you so much!
Dear Girls Ed Liberia Project Donors and Supporters,
As you know, the deadly outbreak of Ebola in West Africa is centered in three countries: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Fortunately, the spread of Ebola in Liberia seems to be slowing and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced recently that "we want to have zero cases by Christmas." While Ebola could certainly flare up again at any time, this is good news for a country that has been hard hit by the epidemic.
But the best news for all of us? The Girls Ed students in Liberia and their families are all healthy! Our in-country partner Liberia Now has been instrumental in distributing home sanitation kits, re-opening their medical clinic and keeping tabs on our girls, and we can't thank them enough for jumping in to help curb the epidemic.
In an effort to keep Ebola from spreading, Liberian schools have been closed since July and will not be re-opened until at least February 2015. This means every single child's education has come to a standstill. Liberia's educational system was just recovering from years of civil war, and literacy rates there are already low.
There is a concern that the longer Liberian schools stay closed, the more students will drop out. Teenaged girls, who often take over for mothers who are ill or have died, are most at risk of never resuming their education. (See the attached article for more information). Our hope is that if we continue to support our girls' education, they will be able to come back when schools re-open.
With the holiday season upon us, we ask you to consider a gift to the GEI Liberia project. With your generous support, our educated girls will make a much bigger contribution to their country's recovery from Ebola's devastation.
Dear Girls Ed Liberia Project Supporters,
The girls are in a break from their studies at this time, but, our in country partner, Liberia Now, has an exciting and educational summer planned for them!
The Liberia Now staff will be there for two weeks. During this time, all of our scholarship recipients will be participating in two camps, a sports camp and a reading/writing camp. We think these events will provide the girls with additional learning opportunities as well as some fun times! We will share photos from the camps in our next project update.
We so appreciate your continued support which enables events like these camps to take place. Please spread the word among your friends and colleagues about our girls and the challenges that can be overcome through our combined efforts.
With much appreciation,
What a wonderful month to celebrate the young girls who will grow into the fine women of Liberia! (In some countries, International 'Day' of the Woman (March 8th) spans the entire month of March. We think that's pretty cool.)
The country of Liberia has endured both joy and great sorrow in its history. In 1824, Liberia (the free land) was established and the majority of the newly arrived inhabitants were recently freed slaves coming from the US. Over time, Liberia saw many ups and downs, endured many conflicts and ultimately suffered the devastation of a horrible civil war that lasted from 1989 until 2003. During this civil war, an entire generation lost their right to live like normal people. They simply had no choice.
The manager of our in-country partner organization, Liberia Now, Pastor Emmanuel Gyamfi, recounted his memory of that time. "In 1989 the Liberian Civil War began. We thought that it wasn’t going to last long. We thought it would end soon. But we were very wrong. The war lasted longer than any of us thought possible. During this time we were robbed of everything we ever had, in terms of our “material possessions”. As the war became more terrifying, living in our community was no longer safe so we had to leave. I saw friends die. Anyone could die at any moment. Even dogs had more value than humans at that time. I had never experienced something so terrible."
Tragically, a 2005 study found that girls were entering the sex trade in order to pay for their education. In the report by IRIN African, one school's headmaster said, "This is very strange in our school system. Since their lovers or boyfriends pay their fees, they are under an... obligation to stay with that boyfriend or lover at night which may divert their attention from reviewing their lessons." (see article here)
In the same study, it is reported that the organization Save the Children notes that school fees are the number one barrier that girls face when seeking education. That's where you and Girls Ed step in to make the biggest difference in a girl's life - helping her gain access to education.
But Liberia is full of surprises and wonder. In a country so devastated by war and hatred, a woman - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf - was elected president in 2005. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, along with Leymah Gbowee for their non-violent struggle to ensure the rights of women in the peace-building process in Liberia.
Ah, the magical powers of women. Which of our girls will grow up to be the strong leaders, the agents of change, the beacons of hope that guide Liberia into a brighter future!? Let's continue to suppor them and find out.
Thank you so much for your support thus far. Please continue to support us in our efforts because none of this can happen without you. Share our work with friends, bring us up in conversation, contribute any amount you can, and click the share buttons below to let others know how they can join us in this initiative.
Rai FarrellyMember, Board of Directors, Girls Ed
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Co-Founder, Project Wezesha; Treasurer, Girls Education International