Fri 20 May 2016 Download Pdf

Keeping Kids in School Despite Ebola

Ebola crippled the lives of many in Liberia. With the country plunged into a health crisis and many suffering and others fleeing, finances, social services and education were paralyzed. Aid response in the region was delayed and many populations in need were left hopeless.

For many locals, the first reaction was to help. Unfortunately, they were not trained health professionals. They could therefore only watch from a distance as the situation continued to deteriorate.

But not Brenda Moore.

While Brenda Brewer-Moore was homeschooling her children following the closure of schools due to Ebola, she saw that there was a need in the community. Many children were out of school. Brenda thought it a good idea to extend these services to the children in her immediate community.

The idea was to print out worksheets and distribute them to the kids in her immediate community. She hoped that this would keep them engaged with school despite Ebola.

“I would print free worksheets and coloring pages per grade level and place in a plastic folder with crayons, pencils sharpeners, and distribute free of charge,” says Brenda. Every week, along with a team of volunteers, they would go back out to the families to check on the progress of the kids and if they completed the homework, provide the team would provide a new set.”

During this time, Brenda and her team of volunteers were able to reach 19 communities and through their direct intervention, they impacted around 3000 children without any support from the local government or international organizations.

So far, Brenda’s organization, Kids Educations Engagement Project (KEEP) has received support from Action Aid Liberia, which has been working on empowering local NGOs in the region. With the assistance of Action Aid, KEEP was able to extend their education program to the 52 communities where Action Aid worked in Liberia. Through this partnership, they were able to directly reach about 6,000 children.

Even with the support of some international organizations in the region, Brenda says that there was still a gap that needed to be filled in administering aid, and that was the involvement of local actors.

“Local actors serve as first responders. They are also keenly aware of the cultural setting and the applicability and impact of relief support to communities. They know the geographical settings and terrain. Because local actors are usually locals themselves, they inspire the trust of the affected people”, Brenda adds.

Like many other local organizations, KEEP has had challenges securing support from international NGOs who always cite KEEP’s short operation time and lack of track record or capacity. They have however partnered with Action Aid Liberia, who have been supportive of their work.

Brenda believes that the international humanitarian system is bureaucratic and sometimes slow in responding to situations. Additionally, the nature of policies may sometimes restrict the bigger organization’s ability to move and respond speedily in crisis and disaster situations.

“They have a lot of resources available but sometimes they are brought in too late to help and make meaningful impact.”

Brenda hopes that NEAR will form a database that will help local organizations through capacity building, networking, experience sharing and direct link to funding to enable local organizations to work more effectively.

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