One Lesson at a Time

One Lesson at a Time…

Pictured above, Mamie poses for a quick photo in Liberia

When asked to spell her name, she got flustered and looked down at the dirt defeated. While already 10 years old, Mamie had never been afforded the chance to attend school and therefore had never learned how to read or write. In fact, she hadn’t experienced a lot of things that 10-year-old girls normally had. She’d never known what it was like to be tucked into bed at night by her parents or gotten to spend a Christmas at home with her family.

Apart from these significant experiences, Mamie had also been neglected of some major developmental milestones. Lessons she’s needed to learn throughout her childhood were never taught to her. Without proper guidance and a stable support system, the future for Mamie was inevitably bleak. However, as a current L.A.C.E.S. program participant, everything that she had been robbed of throughout her life was slowly being returned to her, one lesson at a time.

Contagious Joy…

pictured above, Mamie shows our photographer how high she can jump

During a recent staff trip to Liberia, our communications coordinator had the chance to sit down with Mamie and hear about her life and all she had been through. She stuck out among the crowd because of her small frame and willingness to jump into any activity the older kids were involved in. She put on a fearless face when interacting with her peers and was quick to hold her own on the soccer pitch. A bit bashful when she began her interview with us, she eventually became comfortable enough to show her true personality and contagious joy.

 

Most of the details surrounding Mamie’s early childhood are unknown. Her inability to recall much about her younger days is a testament to the incredible instability she’s endured. When we met with her in Liberia, she was being cared for by her friend’s family and seemed appreciative for the chance to be off of the streets. At night, she shared a room with her friend and was able to receive one meal a day that consisted mainly of rice. While this situation is anywhere from ideal, we at L.A.C.E.S. are thankful for the support that she has outside of our work. We are encouraged by the local community members who have taken her in as their own.

Knowing her worth…

pictured above, Mamie and her team pose for a photo after she kicked a home run

“At L.A.C.E.S. I am learning so much,” Mamie told us. She shared that her favorite lesson so far in the program has been self-esteem. When asked what self-esteem meant, she confidently raised her head high and said “Self-esteem means I feel good about myself!” Mamie laughed as we all high-fived her on such a job well done. Knowing and believing good things about herself despite her difficult circumstances is no small accomplishment. Many young girls like her in Liberia are lacking this crucial knowledge regarding their own worth and suffer for it dearly as they get older.

Apart from the lessons she is learning, Mamie shared that she loves coming to L.A.C.E.S. and playing kickball. She’s fast and is always one of the most enthusiastic players on her team. During our time visiting Kakata, Mamie was able to kick a home run and was celebrated by all of her coaches and teammates. As far as her interests and dreams, she shared that she’s a big fan of the color purple and wants to become a school teacher one day! With her spunk, fearlessness, and kind spirit, we know that she would make for an incredible teacher for children in Liberia.

 

We need your help…

Pictured above, Mamie takes one last photo before her kickball game

At L.A.C.E.S., we work hard to provide a space that is constructive, fun, safe, and beneficial to the at-risk children we serve. By allowing vulnerable kids to participate in our active feeding program, competitive soccer league, research backed-mentorship curriculum, and more, their lives are being changed forever.

Currently, we are impacting the lives of hundreds of children every day! Throughout our 12 years of operation, we have been honored and privileged to help bring restorative healing to the lives of more than 1,500 refugees, Ebola orphans, former child soldiers, and street children.

While we as an organization are excited about the progress we are seeing in our work, we know that none of it would be possible without our faithful donors and supporters. Without the generosity of our monthly and one-time givers, nothing we’ve accomplished so far would be possible. If you would be willing to consider donating to help vulnerable children around the world, you can do so today, here!

Why do Children Live on the Street in Liberia?

Street children exist throughout the world, including Liberia. These are children under the age of 18 for whom the street has become their home and/or source of livelihood. A recent report by Street Child of Liberia estimated that over 14,000 children existed on the streets of Monrovia, Liberia. Their lives are neither positive nor sustainable. Unable to meet their basic needs, these children are highly susceptible to violence, trafficking and sexual exploitation, and at risk for drug addiction, physical trauma, and trouble with the law; girls also run the risk of an unwanted pregnancy. Where did these children come from, and why are they here?

liberia

Politics has contributed to the problem. Liberia was plagued by a fourteen-year civil war (1989 – 2003), in which an estimated 270,000 people died while another 850,000 were displaced. During this war, over 10,000 children were recruited as child soldiers. After the war ended the children could return to civilian life, yet in many cases former child soldiers had no surviving relatives or could not locate their families post-conflict. Those that were reunited with their families often did not remain and chose a life on the street instead.

Social issues have played their part in the growth of street children. While attempting to rebuild, Liberia has suffered from war and disease which have, in turn, crippled the economy, destroyed the education system and devastated many communities. In 2014, Liberia was stuck by the Ebola virus, orphaning many as 7,500 children. By that time, most of the former child soldiers had grown up, but the massive fatality rate of Ebola in Liberia (as indicated by CDC – 45%) fostered a new generation of street children. In addition to losing entire families, the surviving children were subject to stigmatization and ostracization from their peers. Without families or caregivers and with no means of survival and no community support, orphaned children have to resort to street labor or prostitution to survive.

Before L.A.C.E.S. liberia2

The lack of economic opportunities and the declining education system have also played a role in children migrating to the streets. The WHO estimates that 64 percent of Liberians live below the poverty line ($1.25/day), with 1.3 million living in extreme poverty. This poverty has prompted parents to force their children to work on the city streets for extra income. Destitute and desperate rural parents often send their children to the city with local businessmen who promise an education and more opportunity. Unfortunately once in the city, children are exploited for their labor. Even if they flee the situation, they remain living the city, where they resort to prostitution and selling in the street to survive.

There are many reasons as to why a child may be living on the street in Liberia, yet one thing remains clear: street children face significant risks and are exceptionally vulnerable to violence, abuse, neglect, child labor and sexual exploitation. Even so, many of these children have hope for a future. Street children present a complex challenge, yet we cannot give up hope on them because hope is all they have.

Story from Liberia-Meet Mary

L.A.C.E.S. fitness challenge

Liberia declared Ebola free!

L.A.C.E.S. fought Ebola.

Over the last several months all sporting games were suspended by the Government of Liberia due to the vast spread of Ebola. While we couldn’t play games, instead we stayed on the ground to fight Ebola for our children. With the community-led sports leagues, we continue to impact the lives of our children and helped to end Ebola in Liberia! We are PROUD of our coaches and staff who stepped up and fought Ebola.

Success Story:Because of our COACH AND STAFF hard work not a single case of Ebola was reported in any of the communities L.A.C.E.S. works in which means over 15,000 people were protected.

On Saturday, May 9, 2015, the World Health Organization declared Liberia free of Ebola . We are over joyed to share that our kids will be back scoring goals again on the field! While Liberia has been declared Ebola free, we are not done yet!  We are still here and ready to not only continue to protect our communities, but work alongside Liberian’s as they recover.

In the meantime, watch the video below to hear first hand how our coaches and staff helped fight Ebola.