Looking towards the Equator, and across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States, Liberia is beautiful, vibrant country. It is bursting with potential prosperity; but sadly, for the moment, the vast majority of the population (some five million people) are locked in a cycle of poverty. The country is trapped by the difficulties of its recent past – two civil wars, and the horror of the Ebola epidemic between 2014 and 2015.
Liberia has land borders with Guinea, the Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone; countries equally poor, but with pockets of wealth too that if were just exploited, in the best possible way, could turn these countries around; instead of living with very little, their people would live with very much. However, for now, all of these African countries, and many others besides, are impoverished and under-developed. Millions of African people walk miles to find and transport water, are under-nourished, receive medical treatment when needed only in exceptional circumstances, sleep under canvas or leaky corrugated iron rooves, educate their children at enormous cost and sacrifice; and often only work if they are lucky.
So we, in the developed world, need to share what we have with these people; in doing so, enabling them to help themselves. And Elizabeth’s Legacy of Hope plays a very special role in this; because child amputees are, undoubtedly, some of the most disadvantaged of the disadvantaged, the help we give them is absolutely vital – not only for the children as individuals, but because of what these individuals can give to their society, if we give them what they need to be part of society.
Elizabeth’s Legacy of Hope has recently begun working with a new partnership in Liberia; Williette Safehouse which is a Liberian disability organisation, established three years ago by one of the country’s few philanthropists, Samuel Stryker. Samuel Stryker has made his money over the years running a successful funeral business; and chose to devote much of his profits and his time to reaching out to the disabled community, a group not only marginalised – in his words – by the “disability of their bodies but unfortunately by the world.” Named after his mother Williette and now run by his daughter Rita, their mission is clear – to “enrich the lives of future generations of Liberians who live with disability.”
I went to Liberia at the end of September with fellow Trustee Bronwen Hinton, to see how the partnership is developing, and meet the children we are helping, together. We were moved and encouraged by all that we saw; the devotion and conscientious of the staff of Williette Safehouse was apparent in all our meetings. Three out of nine of our beneficiaries have received surgery; bone-trimming operations which in this country are a challenge to organise because doctors and surgeons are terribly over-worked and booked up. It was, therefore, heartening to know these surgeries had happened because a bone protruding through a residual limb is very dangerous for amputees, leading to possible infection.
Below are some photographs of the children; all of whom live in and near Monrovia, the capital, along muddy, bumpy tracks, often miles into the rural out-skirts; but, that said, no matter how far from the centre we seemed to get, people were everywhere – and no matter how poor, or apparently long suffering, smiles abounded and a joy seemed to radiate.
The limbs we provide for the children are made at a clinic called DOORIS; a fairly ramshackle building in a rough part of the town – but in no way am I discrediting it because the staff, Dooris and Morris – achieve amazing results. With our support; they obtain materials for the prosthetic legs from Togo and we provide the feet; manufactured at a clinic in Switzerland.
It is a complex process, but vital and completely life-changing for our children – and we don’t stop there! We fund their education too; books, uniform, fees and transport costs – and counselling support – our aim is to give them the same opportunities as their friends; and make their difficult lives so much happier.
Williette is run by Rita Stryker, who manages her team of project workers Jacob, Richard and Joseph wonderfully. Please enjoy the photographs below of some of our beneficiaries:
Yatta, 14, and is waiting for two below-the-knee prosthetic legs:
Abanigo and Moses, both 15, and pictured here at the boarding school they are attending. Both have been cared for and measured for prostheses at the DOORIS clinic – and will receive their legs soon!
Geronimo, 16, also waiting for his first prosthesis. Longing to join an amputee football team … pictured here with his family: