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.

International Women’s day!

L.A.C.E.S.  celebrated International Women’s day!

Fact: Females makes up  50% of the children and coaches in  L.A.C.E.S. program.

As we celebrate international Women’s day on March 8, 2015 , we recognized the work of our female coaches on being a positive role model to our children.Watch this video and meet the women of L.A.C.E.S. who are empowered to change the future of Liberia.

 

 

Ebola Update

L.A.C.E.S. leveraging sport in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus.

Responding to the Ebola crisis changes every day. This requires consistent interaction with community members and more specifically to those in the L.A.C.E.S. network and families. We are continuing the essential components of our program while keeping the children safe, engaged, active, and preparing them for the end of Ebola. We are investing in our children now to avoid the long-term neglect and deficit in development this crisis threatens.

As the news of L.A.C.E.S. Ebola efforts begins to be more known, many questions have come in over the last few months. For this blog post we asked our founder Seren Fryatt to answer some of those questions.

Q: Why do you think the L.A.C.E.S. communities have been Ebola-free?

SF: One of the major challenges identified by the CDC when the outbreak first began was a lack of trust the locals had in the international organizations. From the local perspective, internationals were telling them about a terrifying disease that they did not understand and when someone became sick what the locals saw was their family members being taken into an isolation unit, where they are unable to see them, and when they did come out in the beginning 90% of the people were dying. From their perspective it was difficult to trust the very people they associated with their family member’s death. I think organizations like L.A.C.E.S. have been successful in the fight against Ebola because all our staff are Liberian. All of the coaches in the 4 communities we work in live in the same community as the children they mentor. So families already know these coaches, many of their children go to school together. So there is trust. When your neighbor who you have known for years and is from your same culture tells you about this terrifying disease their words hold more weight and allow people to hear the Ebola message.

We believed when we first started fighting Ebola that trust and education would save lives, and we are seeing proof of that. Although areas nearby have been quarantined in recent months, none of the communities L.A.C.E.S. works in have reported cases of Ebola.

Q: How do sports help fight the spread of Ebola?

SF: Currently the government of Liberia has banned all sporting events to reduce the gathering of groups. Therefore we are not able to carry out the sport aspect of the program. Instead we have integrated a health curriculum that we share with the families and do weekly check-ups with the children in our program. While the physical activity of sport is not specifically helping in the fight against Ebola, what sport has done and will always do is build relationships. When we started L.A.C.E.S. 7 years ago we did not expect that we would be fighting Ebola. However the values of empowerment, mentorship, and local leadership that are core to our organization have allowed our staff in Liberia to respond to the Ebola crisis quickly and effectively. This approach will continue to allow us in the future to respond to difficult times that Liberians will face.

Q: What other (if any) initiatives will be taken to ensure your communities you work with will continue to experience restoration and health?

SF: The route we are taking today to address Ebola is different than what it was 5 months ago. Five months ago we were doing house to house awareness and education, then we began giving out personal protective equipment, and now as Ebola has continued it is economically devastating the country. Many families are having a hard time getting one meal a day. So as funding becomes available we will begin a feeding program for all 500 of the children in our program along with their families. This is a challenging time for many in Liberia, but as Ebola evolves so must our approach on how to address the changing needs of the people.

Schools have been closed since August and will be indefinitely. Every week instead of playing soccer games our children are coming together to engage their minds through “Meet the Challenge”. Teams compete against each other by using brain teasers that ask fun questions about the ideas they learned that week while the coach visited their home. It keeps learning fun!

Ebola will leave Liberia one day, but it will leave a void in the lives of children. Once Ebola has left they estimate over 8,000 children will be orphaned, and we know many will experience great loss. We will be opening up a program in an area that was heavily devastated by Ebola. We do not want the children to face the same void they faced during Liberia’s 14 year civil war. By investing in them we can avoid the long term neglect and deficit in development this crisis threatens. We are working hard every day to keep our communities Ebola free while building the future of Liberia.

Q: What role do you feel the hope offered by sports plays in changing the lives of those involved with L.A.C.E.S. during this crisis?

SF: I believe sport is a tool for changing a person’s life. A coach becomes a leader in her community and has built confidence in her ability to lead, and teach. A child who was kicked out of his home at age 9 lives on the street, he sells drugs, and does not go to school, but because of the relationship he has built with his coach he now has someone who cares for him, believes in him, and advocates for him. A result of that transformational relationship is that the 9 year old boy has now been reconciled with his family, he no longer sells drugs, and attends school. Sport is the conduit for relationships to be built, values to be reinforced in a fun way, and reconciliation of broken relationships. When we feel valued we are able to believe in others, and hope for a better future.

Beyond Sport Summit

Key Strategies for using sports to combat Ebola…

I had the privilege of speaking at the Beyond Sport Summit in South Africa in October about L.A.C.E.S. fight against Ebola. The Summit brought together a community of people doing life changing work through sports from around the world. I was inspired by their work, learned new ideas how we can improve L.A.C.E.S. programs, and walked away with friends and future partnerships. I want to highlight one specific organization that I believe is perfectly positioned to change history in the Middle East. The Peres Center for Peace brings together Palestinian and Israeli youth to play soccer. Youth from each country cross each other’s borders weekly to be on the same team with the focus of “getting to know the person on the other side”. The results they have seen in relationships being fostered among groups of people that are at odds with each other daily are remarkable. It just reinforced once again the power sports has in changing lives, and changing history.

As Ebola has circulated the global news, Beyond Sport heard about how we were using sports to combat the deadly virus, and asked if I would share L.A.C.E.S. strategies at their annual summit. When asked to share about Ebola I decided not to discuss the statistics and stories of Ebola, but to share with the hundreds of other sport for development organizations at the summit how our core values allowed us to respond to Ebola quickly and effectively. When we started L.A.C.E.S. seven years ago we did not expect that we would be fighting Ebola. However the values of empowerment, mentorship, and local leadership that are core to our organization have allowed our staff in Liberia to respond to the Ebola crisis quickly and effectively. Through history of local leadership, a philosophy of mentoring that resonates throughout daily interactions, and empowering staff to determine the best way to address the social issues in their society has allowed us to not only face Ebola, but in the future we believe will once again allow us to respond to difficult times that Liberians will face. I shared our success and failures over the last seven years in hopes people would learn from our mistakes, but also to encourage them to consider how they might incorporate these strategies into their organizational decision making so they can have the ability to address social issues like child homelessness, neglect, abuse, and communicable diseases when these challenges arise.

Thank you for all of your support in making it possible for us to fight Ebola!

Seren Fryatt

Liberians facing their greatest threat since war

Letter from Seren Fryatt L.A.C.E.S. founder: The Realities of Ebola

Tears roll down my face as I write to you today. How do I clearly communicate the pain and suffering that is happening in Liberia, and the ability that you have to change that?

The World Health Organization published a report on Tuesday stating that “The disease is spreading particularly quickly in Liberia, more than 500 new cases were recorded in a week.” The organization warned that “it expects thousands of new cases in the country in the coming weeks.”

Until Ebola is defeated, the people of Liberia and their struggle to defeat Ebola burdens my heart daily. I know that you carry this burden with me. I know this because the outpouring of emails, text messages, phone calls, and prayers lets me know that you care and that you want to make sure the statistic that the WHO predicts will not come true. They are predicting that over 20,000 people will be infected with the virus before this outbreak is under control. Currently 3,000 people have been infected which means we have not even seen the worst.

This fight will not be won by treating the sick it will be won by preventing the other estimated 17,000 from becoming infected.  Men, women, children, and babies – no one is spared from this deadly virus. This virus does not pick and choose, it just goes from one person to the next. Which means the 500 children in our program and their families could become one of those 17,000. The good news is that they don’t have to be. They can be educated on how to protect their families and given simple tools such as a bucket and Clorox. When that happens their lives can be spared.

You can give them those tools. Our goal is to provide 500 families with these tools. All it costs is $25.00 for each household.

On average, the children in our program live in households of 5 people. When we reach our goal of 500 families, 2,500 people will be protected from Ebola. We can do this, but not alone. I am coming to each of you who have shown a heart for our children in some way over the last seven years.

Bring hope and the tools necessary to help 2,500 men, women, children, and babies protect themselves from Ebola. Give $25 today. Give $50 today. Give $500 today, Give $1,000 today. Give, what YOU can today to fight for our kids!

Help us STAND behind families and fight Ebola in Liberia

With Deepest Gratitude,

Seren

L.A.C.E.S. Fights Deadly Ebola Virus

The deadliest outbreak of the Ebola virus recorded is attacking Liberia.  Ebola is an infectious and fatal disease that takes the life of approx. 80-90% of the people who contract the virus.

Ebola is gaining strength every day in Liberia and the longer it stays the faster the death toll will rise. Co – discoverer of the Ebola Virus Professor Peter Piot states two ways that we can combat the virus.

“The combination of quarantine of those with the disease and relatives to make sure they are not spreading the infection, and community mobilization. Information can save lives here. The fear of the virus and running away from health services contributes to perpetuating the spread of the Ebola virus.”

The President of Liberia has declared this a “National Emergency”

Over the last 7 years L.A.C.E.S. has built strong relationships with 4 communities throughout Liberia. In response to the outbreak we will combat Ebola through community mobilitzation.  Information will save lives.

Some of the communities we work with are situated in the Hot Zones (were Ebola cases have been reported), and L.A.C.E.S. will respond by using our existing network to carry out awareness activities. We estimate that through our activities at least 1500 people will have heard the following:

  • What is Ebola and how does it spread?
  • What are the symptoms of Ebola?
  • Prevention of Ebola and what to do if you get sick.

HOW WE WILL SPREAD AWARENESS

  1. Train community leaders and coaches using materials provided by the Ministry of Health in Liberia.
  2. Work with L.A.C.E.S. coaches and staff to carry out house to house Ebola awareness starting with the homes of the children we are working with.
  3. Hold community wide awareness events.  During these events our children will perform dramas on how Ebola spreads, we will pass out educational materials, and do demonstrations on how to prevent Ebola.

We are grateful to share that currently none of our children, coaches, or staff have contracted Ebola however they are at risk for exposure so prayers for safety are appreciated.

Thank you for your commitment to our children,

Seren Fryatt
Founder of L.A.C.E.S.