BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — Liberian schools closed for months because of the deadly Ebola epidemic are reopening with the aid of $44,000 in grants from the National Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) and its foundation.
Olu Menjay, principal of the Ricks Institute, a Baptist school in Liberia that serves more than 600 kindergarten through high school students, said the gift brings renewed hope in the country where more than 3,500 people died from the Ebola outbreak that erupted in 2014.
“Schools have been shut down for seven months. This gift ignites renewed hope in a seemingly hopeless situation,” Menjay said. The grants from the Humanitarian Emergency Aid for Rebuilding Tomorrow (HEART) fund will partly fund operations at three schools.
Ricks Institute will receive $35,000, which Menjay said is enough to cover meals for students for one month, at a cost of $5 a day per student.
The Marla Corts School and the Dellanna O’Brien School, both located in rural Liberian villages, will together receive $9,000 to help them comply with new safety protocols designed to control the spread of disease. All schools will be required to use chlorinated water and soap, monitor temperatures using thermometers, and wear uniforms that leave less skin exposed.
Liberian government officials allowed schools to reopen after the number of Ebola cases significantly declined. The health crisis left many unemployed and caused a desperate hunger crisis. Reopening schools is a considered to be a significant progressive step.
“Although returning to school is a great sign of improvement, many Liberians have been unemployed for months,” WMU Foundation President David George said. “There will be a number of financial needs, and these grants will help meet some of those needs. We’ve had a great partnership with Liberian Baptists for many years, and we remain committed to helping in meaningful ways.”
At the height of the Ebola crisis last fall, the WMU Foundation partnered with Liberians in Birmingham, Ala., to pack a shipping container with rice, beans and other dry goods to send to Liberia. The food arrived in Monrovia in December 2014, and an emergency response team from the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention began distributing the food.
“We opened our hearts and our arms to our friends in Liberia. We want to send our prayers but also provide something tangible,” WMU Foundation board member Judith Edwards said.
For more information on how you can help, go to WMU Foundation’s website at wmufoundation.com.