When I first graduated from college and then graduate school, I opted to teach for several years in return at the time for the cancellation of my accumulated college debt. Armed with an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education and counseling, I first went to work for Northwestern University’s Laboratory School in Evanston, IL in America. I had so wanted to take a post at an inner-city all black school on the south side of Chicago, but my father put his foot down with a firm NO – and for some reason I obeyed him. Looking back now, I wonder why…So, I went to the north side of Chicago to the largely affluent suburb of Evanston, which had an integrated population for many years, and economic extremes. My assignment was a special education class for “emotionally disturbed” children. OMG that label haunts me now. I had perhaps 10 students, primarily children of color. Despite big challenges, we loved each other as a family. Joy is my remembrance.
Monrovia, Liberia - I opened my email yesterday morning to find a message from my dear friend Franklin "I am now in tears mommy, my daughter graduated from K2 on June 29 and died July 4."
He took his daughter to the biggest government hospital here on Wednesday. She died Thursday morning. He told me it was yellow fever, a disease that is transmitted by an infected mosquito and easily prevented by a vaccination. Like malaria, yellow fever lives where poverty lives. Inflation is at a historic nearly 25% - where people can no longer afford to buy cold water or rice – where hospitals have no medicine.
The Foundation for Women cannot solve all the problems of the world. We can however bring some light to the darkness. This week we celebrated the first 8 months of operation of the Liberia Community Health Clinic, our first attempt at bringing quality healthcare to the 1000+ students at one of our partner schools.
Monrovia, Liberia - It feels like Ebola time. Fear. Wonderment. Confusion. Prayers.
I am one of only a very few people staying in my familiar Liberian compound/home, a place with a capacity for perhaps 200 and usually full of life and joy; as in addition to guests from elsewhere, so many local people come to the Kendeja to enjoy the pool and beach and very special seaside setting. It is a sacred place. And today it is empty. The one major airline that serves Liberia whose crew stays here, Brussels Air, is gone until at least Sunday – even though they kept coming during the long civil war and Ebola; not now.
Monrovia - After months of being home here, I am awe-stuck by the daily reality of members of our human family in Liberia. Friend Emmanuel, who is a lifeguard here where I live and who I consider a son for years now, saw me Saturday and said, “I have a small problem at home – that’s why I have not been here lately.” He then proceeded to tell me that his older sister had just died giving birth, not at home alone but in a hospital. The baby girl lived, Emmanuel’s sister died. Really?? I asked him if he was now taking care of the baby, and he told me his Mom has her; an African grandmother now raising an infant. He then told me that even though it is almost the end of March, he has not received pay for February – so he has had to stop credit in his phone to find transport money to work – even though he is not being paid. I expressed my sincere sympathies as he walked off saying, “All will be OK Mom.” Really?
Monrovia - I am learning more and more about malaria now that I am personally experiencing it for the second time, this time here in Africa. It is a beyond challenging and humbling disease.
Enjoy this clip about new skateboarding programs at three schools in conjunction with the YMCA and the nonprofit SaveMoreKids.org.
November 2018 - To My Treasured Foundation for Women Community,
After 12 continuous years working on the ground in Liberia, in spite of a post-conflict environment where infrastructure remains limited, the devastating outbreak of Ebola in 2014-2015, and a recent fire in our partnering medical hospital, the Foundation for Women can report we’re stronger than ever! When I step back, it is truly amazing to acknowledge that FFW Liberia has become a respected humanitarian hub within this country. We are endorsed by the World Bank, by the country’s Ministers of Finance and Commerce, and by the former Vice President Boakai who has been our Chief Patron since the inception of our work here. Our hub has begun attracting smart risk-taking partners who are coming to us with proven methodologies that have worked in other poverty-stricken countries. They want a link to what we have: a vibrant web comprised of market women, small business enterprises, independent schools and community health clinics who are recreating their nation from the ground up.
A modern health facility valued at over US$60,000 has been officially opened to the public in the Pipeline Community in Paynesville, outside Monrovia. The facility, which is an initiative of Liberia branch of the Foundation for Women, an international non-governmental organization (NGO), according to the organizers, will help buttress government’s Pro-poor Agenda to provide quality healthcare delivery system. The initiative is also a joint effort of the authority of the Benson Hospital and administration of the Henry Reeves School, also in Paynesville. As part of the foundation’s effort to improve the country’s healthcare delivery system, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation for Women, Deborah Lindholm, said that their desire is to empower Liberians. Read the full article at LiberianObserver.com.
Monrovia, Liberia - On October 11, 2018, ProPublica and TIME Magazine published a report about the sexual assault and rape of girls in the care of an NGO based in West Point, Monrovia, Liberia. Since then I have been present with the news – no sharing on social media, a few conversations with trusted colleagues and FFW board members, sitting with the heart-breaking reality that an American NGO founded by a woman could have allowed this to happen to desperately poor and innocent girls striving to create a better future for themselves in this country. I have heard from many of you in the US, questioning how it could have happened and wondering if I’ll stay in Liberia and continue my work in a place I have called home for 12 years.
Good news from Liberia!! From this to this!
Fire disaster in July - Hospital rebuilt by October. Thank you Foundation for Women friends and supporters! Your contributions and support help make this possible. We're so grateful for our FFW community!
Check out this article from the Daily Observer in Liberia about Benson Hospital and FFW partnering for community clinics and the fire :
About the Author
Deborah Lindhom is the Founder and CEO of the Foundation for Women. For over 20 years she has lived and worked in Africa, India and the United States on issues of poverty, education and microcredit.
"Just a quick note to say how we appreciate all that you are doing in Liberia and wish we could do more to help. We enjoy reading your newsletters which are always so well written.
All the best!" ~ Ian and Julie Allen, Africa and Beyond Art Gallery