It’s essential for parents and families to stress and prioritize education to their children Most children in Liberia grow up in extreme poverty and don’t even know if they will eat that day, let alone go to school. One young lady, Oretha Snyder Davis, shows us how education can change the future and break the poverty cycle. Oretha grew up in Liberia’s Montserado and Nimba Counties. Though her parents did not have much, they valued education and created a good foundation for Oretha and her 12 siblings. Her father died when she was only four years old, but Oretha’s mother raised all her children with a strong sense of core values, discipline and a firm foundation in the Bible. At the age of 18, Oretha completed high school and moved to the city of Monrovia to attend the University of Liberia where she obtained a bachelor’s degree. To pay her way through school, she sought work in the private sector. Oretha spent some time working in the oil industry, in the airline/travel industry, then eventually ended up spending 16 years working for the United Nations.
Meet Jefferson. Like many other young men in Liberia, he spends a lot of his time roaming the streets with very little supervision. School days here are short, ending around 1:30 p.m. and that’s when you will find hundreds of teenagers just hanging out. There is very little in the way of extracurricular or supervised after-school activities. Thus, the country’s teenage pregnancy rate is one of the highest in Africa.
Unable to care for her young child and not knowing what to do, a young mother abandoned him in the streets of Liberia where he didn’t stand a chance against the life of crime, drugs, and violence. This is Excellent’s story: A woman at the market noticed the young boy alone and after much searching realized he had been abandoned. Without any other options available, she could not just leave him there, so she took him home to her community. There he roamed amongst the various shanties, sometimes naked. He was often found sleeping outside and food was provided by random, sympathetic neighbors. One woman in the community, Velma, took pity on the small child and took him in to live with her. Although she had no money, she could not bare to see the boy suffer. It was Velma who gave him his name, Excellent.
Meet Surprise. This sincere little six year old and her brother have just had their futures change. Her story was one of loss and suffering, but now it’s filled with hope. Surprise is one of six children. Her father died in 2008 from injuries suffered during the war. Her mother, Maybell, does her best to provide for them, but because she only has a fourth grade education, life is difficult. Maybell finds work by doing others’ wash and tending their children. Because of her efforts, she manages to provide a little food for her children at the end of each day.