It has been a journey since the days when Ebola was at its peak, and we worked on a small scale in quarantine centers to today with the UNICEF grant! In October 2014, a few volunteers supported launching Playing to Live activities in a quarantine center for children (called an Interim Care Center) with about thirty children who were to spend 21 days in isolation to wait out if they developed Ebola. Most of the children were highly traumatized by losing family to Ebola, and then being forced into the quarantine center with no familiar faces to turn to. Playing to Live activities was one of the only times in the day that they could just be 'children' care-free and express their feelings through drawing and dancing.
With Ebola cases dropping in Liberia, Playing to Live partnered with Renewed Energy Serving Humanity (RESH) to expand our programming to communities that were former hot zones, in households were many had sadly died of Ebola and the surviving family had to carry on. I often joined the team- Jessica (Project Supervisor), Prisie (Program Manager), and Smith (RESH Director), to visit one of our sites in Banjor, Montserrado, with a group of families with one living adult per ten children. Moreover, the adults were women who were market sellers, who said they had little income due to the stigma against families who had been affected by the virus. After Ebola hit a house, neighbors and community members often believe that the family with Ebola will spread it even after it is gone from the house, and that in fact, the family is 'cursed' and should be avoided. Less people bought from the women's market bins. The stress that these amazing women experienced was tragic. Playing to Live staff visited their homes twice a week to spend time with the female adults and with the children doing play and art therapy.
The quality of our work grew and soon I was hearing from different professionals that they had heard of our work and were interested to see it. This included representatives of the US Embassy, the United Nations, and UNICEF. UNICEF's representative was so glad with our work that she offered we apply for a grant to expand our program in partnership with the Ministry of Gender. While generous, this UNICEF grant only funds the program in Liberia- we still need donor support and funding to expand the program globally. To help us expand please donate now at:
I spend weeks with my team developing our grant proposal. It was our first of this size. There were so many processes, or hoops to jump through. I spend most days staring at Excel sheets and drafting our indicators with our Program Manager and the RESH Director. We wanted to have a program we could be proud of. RESH stepped forward as our lead partner, sharing its already established administrative systems. After a week-long audit by UNICEF of RESH's systems and reporting, we were deemed a good implementer to partner with. Our grant was submitted and approved! We were ecstatic! We will have to make our little office in Congo Town in Monrovia larger to take on the new staff, including 40 Project Associates (all of whom are women who survived Ebola selected by the national Ebola Survivors' Network) and 40 Social Workers (through RESH). The ramp up to our orientation training this week feels like putting on the parachute as we approach the point of jumping out of a plane. It is nerve-racking, thrilling, emotional, and joyful all at the same time. I have to return to the United States after over 6 months in Liberia this trip to pursue a Ph.D. But to have the fortune to be here as our UNICEF Project beginnings is so humbling. Our national team in Liberia is incredible, with a leadership and passion that is unparalleled in many start-up organizations.
"Our grant was submitted and approved! We were ecstatic! We will have to make our little office in Congo Town in Monrovia larger to take on the new staff, including 40 Project Associates (all of whom are women who survived Ebola selected by the national Ebola Survivors' Network) and 40 Social Workers (through RESH)".
"The ramp up to our orientation training this week feels like putting on the parachute as we approach the point of jumping out of a plane".