Friends of Liberia Receives Prestigious Award for Ebola Relief Initiative

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA – Friends of Liberia, an organization started by former Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Liberia, has proudly received the Loret Miller Ruppe Award for outstanding community service.

The group received the award from the National Peace Corps Association last Friday at the Peace Corps Connect Conference in Washington, D.C. The award was in recognition of FOL’s work in providing support to community initiatives to contain and prevent the spread of Ebola in Liberia in 2014 and 2015.

FOL President Stephanie Vickers said NPCA described her organization as one that “exemplifies that spirit of practical idealism that remains infused in the Peace Corps and stays with members for life as former Peace Corps Volunteers.”

Vickers said she was honored to receive the recognition on behalf of her organization. “I am proud to be a part of an organization that has for many years attempted to help with the needs that face Liberia,” she added.

She said FOL was given the recognition because its members care deeply about Liberia and seek to find ways to support and work for the country’s future.

In 2014, as Liberia struggled with an unprecedented health crisis caused by the Ebola outbreak, FOL partnered with local organizations to get much-needed supplies to hard-hit areas long before other international organizations could react.

Members provided shipping support to send protective suits for healthcare workers on the front lines of the epidemic. [Disclosure: The Bush Chicken’s co-founder Jefferson Krua is a former board member of the Friends of Liberia.]

Vickers said FOL sent more than US$150,000 in grants to local organizations in the country to keep communities safe and provide needs for victims.

Vickers noted that FOL’s Small Grants Program continues to give Liberian organizations money to do what they propose to do for their communities, particularly in the wake of Ebola. “The group continues to fund communities to recover from the effects of the crisis,” she said.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf served as keynote speaker at the conference.

FOL has meanwhile renewed its 30-year commitment to Liberian education with the Family Literacy Initiative. The program teaches families how to prepare their pre-school age children for reading and numeracy tasks before they go to school.

In partnership with Home Instruction for Parents and Preschool Youth and the WE-CARE Foundation, FOL hired the services of home visitors to instruct parents and caregivers how to prepare their children for school.

The program ended its first year on Friday with test scores that show children achieving incredible progress toward reading and math. Sixty-four families in three underprivileged communities – Duazon, Caldwell, and West Point successfully completed the first year curriculum of the three-year program.

Vickers said her organization also ran a 14-year teacher training program in Liberia, rebuilt schools and a clinic and sent elections monitors to assure fair voting in the 1997 election.

FOL also received the NPCA Ruppe Award in 1993 for providing over US$100,000 in direct relief to Liberian refugees and for its advocacy in the US with lawmakers. The organization’s effort was instrumental in the establishment of Temporary Protected Status to provide Liberians in the US with work permits.

Other recipients of this year’s award included Friends of Sierra Leone and Friends of Guinea. Founded in 1986, FOL has more than 2,000 members.

Featured photo courtesy of Friends of Liberia

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is currently a senior student at the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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