President’s Corner: I am often asked, WHY LIBERIA?
In a world overwhelmed with need, why has RYHF chosen to work in Liberia? It is a valid question to ask of an all volunteer organization in which dozens of people donate funds and invest countless hours on behalf of people they will probably never meet, in a small African nation continents away from the comforts of their homes.
Most of us cannot envision the horrific long-term suffering and loss following a war that maimed people, brutalized families, forced children to serve as soldiers, and caused large-scale displacement. The remnants of Liberia’s fourteen year civil war are still seen today, 15 years later. Some are still painfully obvious – scarred over wounds, missing limbs, devastated landscapes and roads, and illness that cannot be contained by a stressed health care system. The emotional scars are better hidden but no less traumatic. Liberians must continue to deal with the visual memories of violence, the pain of lost family members (and lost childhoods), deeply rooted resentments, and for many child ex-combatants now adults, issues of shame and forgiveness.
But Liberians are a resilient people. They have modeled for us the very strength of the human spirit, the ability to face each day with fresh purpose and determination. The young adults we meet are eager to learn and serve, but encounter countless challenges in their efforts to do both. They live in a nation with rare electricity or running water and no easy public transportation other than limited and poorly maintained taxis. Schools have few textbooks and students often have to share with several other classmates. At night many seek out well-lit restaurants and bars and sit in front of them to study. They battle malaria, typhoid fever, and other diseases in a nation with a critical lack of health care professionals.
As Liberia inches forward in their rebuilding efforts, we are coming alongside them, investing in the people with the greatest potential for impact – the Liberians. And we have a tremendous “pool” of talent from which to draw upon.
RYHF offers young men and women in Liberia an opportunity to attend college to pursue careers critically depleted in the war. While maximizing their potential, they improve their life circumstances and ultimately serve a nation in desperate need of their professional contributions. The “ripple effect” of the giving and embracing of opportunity. We have linked our lives with these young men and women, our RYHF “Family”. We are committed to them.
And our good news… Since we began this effort in 2007, we have continued to collect enough each year in donations to add increasing numbers of students to our scholarship roster. We take each new commitment very seriously and the fact that we have continued with a high level of growth and sustainability for a decade as a non-profit organization reflects the broad support and commitment we have received from our valued donors, volunteers, and friends. Our students are thriving in college preparatory classes, working collaboratively in RYHF student campus chapters, and pursuing university degrees in professions identified by country leaders as being in critically short supply.
The world is indeed full of hurting people and we have found our focus here, in this exotic, courageous West African nation. We invite you to join with us as we work to make a lasting difference in this small corner of the world. When you do, it won’t be long before you can answer “WHY LIBERIA?” for yourself.
All the best,
Shelley Spurlock, Founder and RYHF President.