MONROVIA, Montserrado – Musu Torkolon, a 15-year-old 8th-grade student at the Len Miller Salvation Army School in Sinkor, lives with visually impaired parents in a makeshift one-bedroom apartment in the Fiamah community.
When it rains at night, Musu and her parents have to shift their few belongings from one location to another and stand in a corner all night.
Musu’s father, Jefferson Torkolon, told The Bush Chicken that it was in 1994 that he first started experiencing problems with his eyes. He eventually lost his sight in 2004. The decade-long civil war did not allow him the chance to get his eyes properly taken care of and Torkolon said he isn’t sure of the specific cause of his blindness.
“My sight has led to me being unemployed, and my daughter risks not going to school,” Torkolon said.
Though he is able to send his daughter to school now because of help he receives from others, Torkolon said “even those that are assisting Musu are complaining of hardship.”
Less than 10 miles away in Paynesville is Victoria Y. Miazee, a 15-year-old girl in the ninth grade at the Calvary Temple Assembly of God Mission School in Neezoe.
Miazee was born blind and has since been living with her visually impaired foster parents.
She explained that in 2016, her father died following a period of illness. After her father’s death, the neighbors took her in and she has lived there since.
But Miazee often worries about burden that she has become on her foster family, who also have their own children to look after.
Miazee added that even if she has been receiving assistance from people to continue her education, “times have become hard even on those [who] are assisting her.”
Organizations like the Destined Kids Assistance Program, a local nongovernmental organization founded in 2012, has tried to respond to the plight of these children.
However, according to their executive director, Helena D. K. Wenneh, they could use some help. In fact, they crave for the support.
In an interview with The Bush Chicken, Wenneh said that her organization aims to promote the educational needs and well-being of these underprivileged children.
“The children’s future rests on each and every Liberian,” she says.
Wenneh said that her group currently supports 79 children in 28 schools in Montserrado and nearby communities.
Actually, “the number has increased to over 100,” she adds.
She said that due to the increase in the number of children seeking assistance from her organization, a total of US$15,000 is needed to pay the children’s tuition, purchase uniforms, text books, exercise books, school bags, and shoes.
Wenneh concedes that getting the money is the greatest challenge. Her small organization does not have such funds and she is worried that if the money is not raised before the start of the 2017-2018 academic year, “the children risk being out of school.”
She named the Kids Educational Engagement Project, Liberia Ghana Mission, African Dream Academy, and the Kollah Foundation as some of the institutions that have been helping her provide assistance to the children over the years.
She explained that her organization is currently providing assistance to children whose parents are visually impaired and Ebola orphans from a variety of communities across Monrovia and Paynesville.
If such assistance does not come from her and other groups, she said the children will be sent to fend for their parents in the streets. On Monrovia’s streets, it is far too common to see children selling or guiding their blind parents through vehicles, begging for money.
Wenneh hopes that the children she support can gain education and serve as a beacon of light to their families.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah