A total of $44,000 in grants assisted in re-opening Liberian schools Feb. 16. National Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) and the WMU Foundation made the grants from the Humanitarian Emergency Aid for Rebuilding Tomorrow (HEART) Fund to provide assistance as Liberia recovers from the Ebola crisis.
“Schools have been shut down for seven months. This gift ignites renewed hope in a seemingly hopeless situation,” explained Olu Menjay, principal of Ricks Institute, a Baptist school in Liberia that serves more than 600 children in kindergarten through high school.
Ricks Institute will receive $35,000 of the HEART Fund grant to provide meals for its boarding school students. According to Menjay, it costs approximately $5 per day to feed a student at Ricks. The grant will cover meals for the first month that school is in session.
More than 600 children attend Ricks Institute in Liberia.
The Marla Corts School and the Dellanna O’Brien School, both located in rural Liberian villages, will receive $9,000 to help them comply with new safety protocols designed to control the spread of disease. All schools will be required to use chlorinated water and soap, monitor temperatures using thermometers, and wear uniforms that leave less skin exposed.
The number of Ebola cases has significantly declined in recent weeks, leading the Liberian government to re-open schools. More than 3,500 Liberians have died from Ebola since the outbreak began last year. Many families faced unemployment and a desperate hunger crisis. Re-opening schools is a significant step in moving forward after Ebola.
“Although returning to school is a great sign of improvement, many Liberians have been unemployed for months,” explained David George, president of the WMU Foundation. “There will be a number of financial needs, and these grants will help meet some of those needs.”
At the height of the Ebola crisis last fall, the WMU Foundation partnered with Liberians in Birmingham Alabama to pack a shipping container with rice, beans, and other dry goods to send to Liberia. The food arrived in Monrovia, Liberia, in December, and an emergency response team from the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention began distributing the food to families in need.
“We opened our hearts and our arms to our friends in Liberia. We want to send our prayers but also provide something tangible,” said WMU Foundation board member Judith Edwards.
The WMU Foundation will continue collecting financial gifts to provide food for children at Ricks Institute. “We’ve had a great partnership with Liberian Baptists for many years, and we remain committed to helping in meaningful ways,” George said.