This is Abigail. She’s 14 years old. I met her one day while I was taking photos around West Point, one of Liberia’s worst slums. She liked posing and wanted me to take her picture.
We formed a friendship, and I made it a habit of seeking her every time I visited West Point, Liberia. Eventually, I found out she was not in school. Because she was always happy and had a big smile on her face, it was hard to tell that there were any major problems in her life. In reality, girls like Abigail are at high risk for prostitution. In West Point, there are few opportunities for anyone, but girls are particularly vulnerable.
One rainy day, I saw her selling goods with another young girl and went to take her picture. Suddenly, an older woman came over and smacked Abigail in the face. Abigail didn’t flinch; it was like she was expecting it, like it was normal. The older woman was the mother of the girl with Abigail. She was angry because I was taking a picture with her daughter in it, and she took her anger out on Abigail. I calmed the tense mother by assuring her that her daughter was not in any of my pictures.
After the tension lifted, Abigail and I talked about her life in West Point. She asked us to send her and her friends to school, telling us how much she wants to learn and how much she loves to play and dance. Eventually, excited by the prospect of the future, we walked towards some music coming from a radio on the street and danced with her neighbors and friends on the dirt road. Eventually, Abigail had to return to work. I hugged her and promised that she would be one of the next girls we put in school.
Since leaving Liberia, I talk to Macintosh, our field volunteer, a couple of times a week to check up on the kids. I told him about Abigail and her living situation, and he expressed his concern for her. I don’t know why, but she had really made an impression on me. In that moment, I knew that we needed to do whatever necessary to get her in school. I told Macintosh to get her in school, get her everything she needs, to buy her a treat, and tell her we love her.
Nothing in the entire world feels more important to me than Abigail. It is incomprehensible to me that at age 14, I was dancing around in church, while Abigail, at the same age, is struggling. It makes me sick. All I can do is work harder, tell more people, and do everything in my power to make sure it gets better. Abigail is only one girl who I feel strongly about, but I know that West Point is flooded with girls just like her. There is no higher privilege than devoting my life to help more of these girls achieve their full potential.
More than Me is not perfect, but it’s something. Once these girls are in school, they are no longer on the street being raped or bought for four dollars a night. It’s a start, and I believe that it will only get better from here.
February is a month commonly associated with love. This month, More than Me is kicking off a “Love for Abigail” campaign. Throughout the month of February, all individual donations up to $1000 will go directly into an account for Abigail’s education. This means we can guarantee Abigail four years of education, an opportunity that so many children in this world are still denied. Instead of buying chocolates that will be forgotten tomorrow or flowers that will wilt within a week, pledge this February to reach out and love someone in a way that will change their life.