By Samuel R. Enders, Rotary Club of Yonkers-East Yonkers, New York, USA
Having grown up in poverty in Liberia, West Africa, I know firsthand both the dire need for better educational opportunities in that country and the empowerment that a quality education provides. I experienced the death of my father when I was just two months old and struggled to survive through the country’s bloody civil war that ravaged the economy, infrastructure, and people.
In 2005, I founded African Dream Academy (ADA) to help Liberia’s youth escape the iron grip of poverty. We have provided counseling to thousands of children in two week intervals several times a year, and in 2012, opened our first fully academic school where we teach 140 children in classes from nursery through fourth grade.
But my dream to educate the poor children of Liberia has been temporarily overshadowed by a greater priority: keeping them alive. The Ebola crisis in Liberia has been a tragic blow to a country already overwhelmed by poverty. Instead of worrying about my own safety and returning to the U.S. as all American volunteers have been advised to do, I organized 347 volunteers to go out into the community to educate people about prevention and to supply containers of chlorinated water to encourage hand washing.
People lack knowledge about the disease and they don’t have running water. As school will not be able to open until Ebola is under control, the plan is for teachers to work with the ADA children in their neighborhoods, distributing work, correcting it, and teaching the children in small groups until the government deems it safe for schools to open.
People are calling me from all over the country — they want to be educated about the disease and get the materials they need to wash their hands and stay safe. So far, we’ve reached 10,000 homes in 20 communities with materials and training for safe water and hygiene. We’ve provided emergency food and medical assistance to our ADA students, teachers, and the blind community. We also donated an ambulance to the one and only Ebola center in the country, ELWA hospital (which is about half a mile away from the school), as it did not have one and this greatly hampered the effort to fight the disease.
I took action as a Rotarian, a Liberian, and a human being to make a difference. The work is overwhelming. I am asking my fellow Rotarians and people around the world to give me and my volunteers hope and support.
- Learn about the ADA’s efforts to combat Ebola
- Find Rotary club projects addressing Ebola on Rotary Ideas
- Read about a club effort in the United Kingdom
This post first appeared on Rotary Service Connections
About the author: Samuel R. Enders is founder and executive director of African Dream Academy. He is a graduate of Anderson University with a BS in Organizational Leadership, and the Anderson University School of Theology with a Masters of Divinity. He is completing his MBA at Walden University, and has served as a minister and youth and community leader.