By Samuel R. Enders, Rotary Club of Yonkers-East Yonkers, New York, USA
On the 1st of July, the African Dream Academy successfully concluded our 2016-17 academic year, our sixth year educating the children of Liberia. Despite lingering effects of the Ebola outbreak (2014-15) in our country and many other poverty-related obstacles, we were able to educate 945 children this year, and provide free health care to 17,000 children under the age of six.
In 2011, the African Dream Academy began an enrichment class for about 140 students at the fourth grade level. This year, among our 945 students, we graduate 78 kindergartners to first grade, 57 sixth graders to seventh grade, and we are getting ready to add ninth grade for the 2017-18 academic year. It is unbelievable that we have been able to do this with a very small number of people willing to sacrifice to help educate these children, many of whom they do not know or have not met.
Our board member Mr. Moses and his family have provided free health care for children through six years of age at the Childrens Health Center. Through his support, the African Dream Academy established the only free health care for children that age anywhere in our country.
Impact of Ebola
We express our sincere thanks and appreciation to our board, partners, and staff. We started the school year with an influx of students due to the Ebola outbreak. Many kids who lost their parents were brought to the school for help, and we took them in for the 2015-16 school year. But that year did not end properly. We were told to close, and later reopened for the 2016-17 year.
We went from 500 to 929 students, with a dedicated staff of 74. It’s been very busy but rewarding and hopeful. The African Dream Academy continues to bring meaningful changes and hope to hundreds of families. We started a technical school for 1,500 women offering training in various skills including tailoring, cosmetology, catering, hair braiding, interior decoration, working with computers, soap making, Tie-dye coloring, fashion designing, working with beads, slipper making and weaving.
Hundreds of children were able to stay in school for the entire year. They got a quality education, hot meal, bus ride to school, and an environment of love and care. We saw real joy and hope as their lives slowly transformed for the better.
Saving lives with free health care
Hundreds of children were brought to our childrens health center at the point of death. Their parents came running to us in tears. They were hopeless and desperate, seeking help from anywhere. Many of them were poor traders or single parents. Hourly, sad stories were turned to celebration, as they left with their children happily playing. What a joy to see children who were at the point of death leave with enough energy to play. Our dedicated staff work daily to make sure we save lives, give hope, and build future leaders for African and the world.
Our success is only possible because of our partners. Words cannot express how grateful we are. Because of you, hundreds of children are not on the streets selling; many young girls are in school, and their future is bright.
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.