Let's Give Thanks!
20 Students in 20 days
Over the next 20 days we plan to introduce you to 20 students in an effort to focus on something positive! We want to give THANKS for all that God has done to provide, protect and offer hope for a better future through education to 93 students in Liberia, West Africa. This past school year 2019/2020, has just come to an end after being interrupted by COVID-19. Thanks to the generosity of many people around the globe, 93 students and their families have not only received an education but have also been given food, masks and cleaning supplies while being quarantined due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, all of our students and their families have weathered the challenges and although some have suffered from malaria and other common illnesses, no one has become ill with COVID-19. We are grateful for the Keyara’s Gift Director, Supervisor and the five Case Workers in Liberia who have worked to help educate families on the importance of wearing masks, social distancing, proper hand washing and for delivering school work and lessons to students allowing them to continue learning during their mandatory curfew and quarantine.
This past year has been challenging for everyone! We have watched uncertainty become normal as our lives have been turned upside down. Many have experienced cancelled plans, school and work moved online and the way we interact with friends and family has changed drastically in an effort to protect each other. As the United States prepares for the upcoming Presidential Election, the news is filled with adversity and for many it’s causing a feeling of unrest. So, for the next 20 days, we hope you’ll join us in spending two minutes each day to focus on something positive - the face of a grateful child. Each one has been given the gift of education and healthcare that their families could not afford.
It currently costs about $425 per year, per student, which includes their school fees, uniforms, book bags, school supplies and shoes. Although our seven Liberian Staff are paid, their salaries are paid by private donations so that any money you give today will go directly towards a student and their education. Thank you in advance for your generosity and offering hope through education to a student in Liberia.
Kreig and Karen Ecklund
Keyara's Gift Co-Founders
Grade: Kinder - 2
Daniel is an Ebola orphan taken in by Keyara’s Gift Supervisor, Mamie in 2014. In May 2019, we shared that Daniel had suffered severe burns on his buttocks and legs when he fell backward and landed into a bucket of boiling water. We are grateful for the generosity of donors to help pay for Daniel’s skin graft surgeries, hospitalizations and extra food which allowed him to eat high protein helping his body heal. It has been an extra challenging five months and we were concerned that Daniel would have a hard time walking and sitting - but we are told that Daniel is completely healed now. He has been doing physical therapy exercises which has helped his skin stretch and he is now walking and moving on his own.
Daniel continues to steal our hearts with his smile and in the future he wants to be a pastor to help people know God loves them.
If you'd like to contribute to the 2020/2021 school year, helping Daniel and others to go to school, choose one of the options below to donate now:
Alvina's father died when she was young, leaving her mom alone and struggling to support Alvina and her sister. In Liberia, a good annual salary is about $400 per year, but that requires you to have a job. Although Alvina's mom was fortunate to earn a high school diploma, she was unable to find steady work. This lack of income made putting food on the table a daily challenge and the dream of an education for Alvina seemed impossible. For the past four years, Keyara's Gift has helped to lift that burden and given Alvina the gift of education.
Alvina currently lives with her mom, stepfather and sister. Her mother runs a small table market in their yard and her stepfather does small jobs for friends. Alvina recently shared with one of our Case Workers that she loves to read and write. She is a news reader at her school and aspires to be a journalist someday.
If you'd like to contribute to the 2020/2021 school year, helping Alvina and others to go to school, choose one of the options below to donate now:
Yesterday, Day #2, you met Alvina – now meet her younger sister, Linda. Once their father died, the girls’ mother struggled and had little hope of sending them to school. When Goldy, a Keyara’s Gift Caseworker, learned of this family’s plight – she recommended sponsorship and ended up becoming Linda’s caseworker.
Goldy’s job, like each of the five Keyara’s Gift Caseworkers, is to spend time getting to know each of the 15-18 students assigned to their care. Not only do they check in with students at school, monitor attendance, attend PTA meetings, and advocate for their education – they also become trusted adults – there to help students through any challenges they may face, ensuring their safety and health.
In January of 2020, Goldy learned that Linda was missing school. After an in-person visit, she found Linda very weak with the whites of her eyes yellow. Knowing there was no money for a doctor’s visit (medical care must be paid for BEFORE treatment is rendered in Liberia) Goldy transported Linda to the hospital and arranged for treatment with funds from Keyara’s Gift. They discovered she had liver problems and a very low blood count. After several tenuous days of blood transfusions, medicine, rest and prayer – Linda made a full recovery and today aspires to become a doctor herself.
We are thankful for each of the Keyara’s Gift Caseworkers who have a lasting impact on the students they serve. While Linda’s mom is thrilled that her girls are being educated this year, she is most grateful that her daughter’s life was saved!
If you'd like to contribute to the 2020/2021 school year, helping Linda and others to go to school, choose one of the options below to donate now:
Benedict lives with his Aunt Mammie, in an underdeveloped and overpopulated part of Monrovia known as Peace Island. Mammie, the Supervisor for the Keyara's Gift caseworkers, has a huge heart and an open door for anyone in need - especially children. When her own nephew, Benedict, was just 3 years old, his father abandoned the family - moving “up country” and out of Benedict’s life. This disaster was compounded when Benedict’s mother, Kortu, became ill and unable to care for herself or her children.
Mammie knew Benedict’s only chance would be to join her family - and that his only chance at an education would be sponsorship by Keyara’s Gift. For the last four years, Benedict has been a wonderful addition to Mammie’s family. He is helpful, kind, and polite - contributing to the family’s income (Mammie is a single mother herself) by selling common household supplies from a table in their front yard. As a beloved part of the Peace Island community, Benedict enjoys his education and playing soccer, waiting for the day when his dream of joining the Liberian Army, in order to help protect his people and serve his country, can be realized.
If you'd like to contribute to the 2020/2021 school year, helping Benedict and others to go to school, choose one of the options below to donate now:
We can’t introduce Amalyn, without also highlighting her remarkable grandmother, Musu. Like many families in Liberia, resources are pooled in order to make it through to the next day. In this case, Musu who is a widow, shares her small plot of land and two small cement block houses, with about twenty people. Amalyn became one of them, along with her siblings, when it became clear their single mother couldn’t provide for them where they lived in the countryside.
During the week, Amalyn and her brothers live with Musu, attending school through sponsorship by Keyara’s Gift. Amalyn aspires to be a nurse and helps with cooking and household chores, while her brothers contribute by breaking up large rocks into smaller chunks to be sold as construction gravel. They spend weekends with their mother but enjoy the bustle and activity of Musu’s home during the week - which almost always includes a lively game of kickball with the neighborhood kids.
(For more about Musu’s story, and the beginnings of Keyara's Gift - read Karen’s blog post from 2009.)
If you'd like to contribute to the 2020/2021 school year, helping Amalyn and others to go to school, choose one of the options below to donate now:
Alfred holds a special place in our hearts. When we first met ten-year-old Alfred, his future was bleak. After being struck by a car and losing his sight, it seemed he’d follow the dead-end life that most blind Liberians face. No education, no income, no adaptive tools, no safety net – total dependency.
What changed Alfred’s outcome? His full story of sponsorship is a tale of resiliency, hope, education and God’s grace – but it ultimately meant that after seven years in a
special boarding school for the blind, Alfred was equipped with the skills to enter public school. He might be one of the older 8th graders but Alfred is full of joy and ambition, now able to compete with other students and navigate life independently. He loves to sing gospel songs and prays he’ll one day become a pastor – sharing God’s love and hope with others.
Read Kaitlyn’s account of Alfred’s full story and consider contributing towards a special Keyara’s Gift fund of $1,200, to purchase Alfred a new computer, equipped with specialized, assistive software (add "Alfred Computer" into the donation note).
If you'd like to contribute to the 2020/2021 school year, helping Alfred and others to go to school, choose one of the options below to donate now:
Grade: High School Graduate
Thelma was born in 1998 in between two vicious civil wars that Liberia experienced. About a year after she was born, the second war started and various rebel factions tore the country apart. Sadly, when Thelma was three, her father was killed in the war. As a result, she grew up with a single mother and her siblings. In Liberia only 46%* of children age 15 or younger live with both parents. To get by, Thelma helped her mother sell petty goods in the market in order to pay for food, rent and her older siblings' school fees. Although she was able to attend school some years, often they did not have the money. With her spotty education, Thelma worried she might join the 52%* of Liberian women who are illiterate.
Fortunately, in 2014, before Keyara’s Gift was formed in 2017, she received a scholarship from the founders of Keyara’s Gift which began a stable base for her education. Thelma has been on the scholarship program ever since. This past school year, Thelma was able to graduate from high school at the age of 22. She is looking to continue her education by studying Management so that she can help support her mother who has given so much to her over the years. Thelma reflected, “I am more than happy that Keyara’s Gift has helped me achieve this milestone and recognized my value as a girl!”
If you'd like to contribute to the 2020/2021 school year, helping Thelma and others to go to school, choose one of the options below to donate now:
Today we meet Beatrice. If you’ve been following along, you might have ascertained that many of the students sponsored by Keyara’s Gift are being raised by a single parent, a grandparent, or by other extended family members. Families in Liberia share resources and living space, which means the composition of many households are blended and somewhat fluid.
When Beatrice was born, her mother suffered from severe, postpartum depression and paralysis, leaving newborn Beatrice in the care of her grandmother. At the age of five, Beatrice was adopted by her uncle, Prince, who is one of our five caseworkers. Beatrice is now a thriving 7th grader who loves to cook and enjoys working in a neighborhood cookshop when not in school. She hopes to become a medical doctor to help save lives.
If you'd like to contribute to the 2020/2021 school year, helping Beatrice and others to go to school, choose one of the options below to donate now:
Until he was 12 years old, Arries grew up in the rural interior of Liberia, which meant he had no access to a substantive education. His parents saw that he was bright and eager to learn, so together with his aunt who could provide him shelter, decided that his best chance for attending school would be moving to Liberia's capital city of Monrovia.
By moving in with his aunt, Arries was at least one step closer to attending school. However, his aunt as a single parent with many other dependents wondered how she could afford the $425 required for school fees, uniforms, and supplies. Keyara’s Gift began sponsoring Arries in 2017 and he has excelled! Despite missing many years of school, he has been promoted several times, skipping grades so that he is now on track to graduate with his peers. Arries' favorite subject is science and he dreams of one day becoming a pilot.
If you'd like to contribute to the 2020/2021 school year, helping Arries and others to go to school, choose one of the options below to donate now:
The first thing you’ll notice about Hawa, is that she is always smiling! She loves school and excels in science and reading - two subjects that will help her on the road to her dream of becoming a doctor. Hawa worked hard and received double promotions from lower grades, to be one of the younger 9th graders.
Education in Liberia can be disrupted for any number of reasons, from economic hardships, a change in life circumstances, political unrest, or outbreaks of diseases like Ebola in 2014 or now with COVID-19. In Hawa’s case, she had a late start, caused in part by the fact that her Muslim father abandoned the family when she was four, after her mother converted to Christianity. (According to the 2008 National Census, 85% of Liberian’s claim Christianity while Muslims make up around 12%.*) Thankfully, sponsorship through Keyara’s Gift since 2016 has enabled Hawa to stay in school and continue the joy of learning.
If you'd like to contribute to the 2020/2021 school year, helping Hawa and others to go to school, choose one of the options below to donate now:
Silas might be a familiar name to many of you. Perhaps you are even one of the generous donors who offered life-saving contributions after disaster struck Silas at the age of five. He inadvertently mistook caustic soda (a lye-based cleaner) for water, instantly burning and scarring his esophagus, making it impossible for him to swallow. His initial treatment, at a Doctor’s Without Borders Hospital in Monrovia, included the insertion of a feeding tube into his stomach. Several years later, Silas and his mother flew to Kenya for a surgery to repair his esophagus and after an additional eight months of recovery at Bethany’s Kid’s Hospital, he was able to sufficiently eat and drink.
This single mistake could have ended his life. Instead, through Keyara’s Gift, he received the healthcare he needed, supplemental nourishment and a scholarship. Silas is now able to attend school and pursue his high school diploma. He has seen many nurses in action during his treatments and aspires to become a nurse so he too can save lives.
Scroll to the bottom of this 2010 blog post to see younger Silas just two years after his accident.
If you'd like to contribute to the 2020/2021 school year, helping Silas and others to go to school, choose one of the options below to donate now:
Grade: High School Graduate
Yesterday we shared a bit of Silas’s story and today we’d like to introduce you to his older sister, Lydia. Lydia and Silas were fortunate to have engaged parents, who were supportive and enthusiastic about their kids' education and future. Unfortunately, when Silas and his mom spent eight months in Kenya for his treatment, their father strayed and life changed for everyone. All of their resources went into taking care of Silas, putting food on the table, and education therefore became an unattainable luxury.
Throughout all of this, Lydia’s educational prospects seemed uncertain. Thankfully, a Keyara’s Gift sponsorship beginning in 2012 meant she could pursue an education and has now graduated from high school, with her sights on a career in nursing. Kemah, Lydia’s mom couldn’t be more proud about her daughter’s accomplishments and shared, “Keyara’s Gift program is like an extra pair of hands or husband, not for Lydia alone, but for both of my children. This program helps all our children to have a better life than their parents."
If you'd like to contribute to the 2020/2021 school year, helping Lydia and others to go to school, choose one of the options below to donate now:
Blessing might be a unique first name in the United States but it perfectly embodies the student we highlight today. Blessing is oldest son to Eunice and older brother to Samuel, another student sponsored by Keyara’s Gift. Both boys struggle with sickle cell anemia, a genetic blood disease that distorts the shape of the oxygen-carrying blood protein hemoglobin, found in red blood cells.
Anemia, swelling of hands and feet, and painful attacks caused during “sickle cell crisis” are all realities Blessing, and especially his brother Samuel, must endure, but they face it together. Blessing accompanies Samuel to the hospital, carries him when he can’t walk, encourages his widowed mother with smiles and jokes, and despite many medical interruptions of his studies, is now in 11th grade. Blessing is truly a blessing to all those around him.
If you'd like to contribute to the 2020/2021 school year, helping Blessing and others to go to school, choose one of the options below to donate now:
Kumba, like many of our sponsored students, shoulders enormous responsibility within her family. Her mother and stepfather farm plantains and cassava, two crops that are harvested and sold only once a year. This means the family’s income can be unpredictable and precarious - everything rides on that single harvest. No room for natural disaster, low-yields, or poor market prices.
Without sponsorship, neither Kumba nor her siblings would be able to afford an education. But without Kumba's cooking, oversight, and care of her younger siblings- none of them could access that education. This is because the family farm is located in River Cess County, a one-day journey away from the schools of Monrovia. When Kumba’s mom must travel and work on the farm, Kumba is in charge. Even with her significant roll acting as a second mom - she excels in English and hopes to one day be an accountant.
If you'd like to contribute to the 2020/2021 school year, helping Kumba and others to go to school, choose one of the options below to donate now:
Yesterday we introduced Kumba, and mentioned she is like a second mother to her younger siblings. One of those siblings is Solomon, whom we met eleven years ago. At the time, he was in need of medical attention for a urinary tract problem that required sponsorship for travel to Kenya so that he could have surgery. Solomon is now completely healed and a student who excels in school – especially math, chemistry, and writing – all beneficial skills for his desire to become a doctor.
When Solomon and his mom traveled to Kenya for his surgery, we learned that his two sisters, Kumba and Jebbeh, were left in the care of their grandmother and unable to attend school. Today, all three siblings are sponsored students – pursuing education and careers we hope will change the course of their family’s future.
If you'd like to contribute to the 2020/2021 school year, helping Solomon and others to go to school, choose one of the options below to donate now:
This is Anthonite. As you can see, she has a sparkle in her eye and if you saw her play kickball – you’d see she is quick and agile. Anthonite is an only child living with her grandma since her parent’s split up four years ago. She is a good student and contributes to the household by helping her grandma as needed, usually by washing dishes.
The process of washing dishes in Anthonite’s home, and most Liberian homes, is exactly that - a process. It begins by fetching water in a 5-gallon jerry can from the nearest hand pump well. Depending on distance to the well, carrying back the filled, 45-pound jerry can is hard work or really hard work. In Anthonite’s case, she walks several hundred yards to the use the neighbor’s well, for a small fee, since her grandmother’s well caved in several year ago. Once water is procured, the cleaning begins. A bowl is filled, dirty dishes are washed and rinsed, and left to dry in the hot sun until the next meal. Day in, day out, this is what Anthonite does to help her family - she is a hard worker and we pray she never loses that sparkle.
If you'd like to contribute to the 2020/2021 school year, helping Anthonite and others to go to school, choose one of the options below to donate now:
Say hello to Abraham - or “AB” - as he is known by his friends and family. AB is a huge help to his mother, Mammie, by fetching water and doing housework. (If you read yesterday’s account of fetching water, you’ll know it's hard, daily work.) AB does well in his studies, improving semester over semester, even though his true passion is on display when he plays soccer with his neighbors on Peace Island, an area of Monrovia.
Although Keyara’s Gift sponsorship is chiefly about empowering kids through access to education, it most recently included COVID prevention relief. Their recent experience with Ebola has taught Liberians to treat outbreaks seriously, but as we know, these diseases are spread differently. We wanted students and their families to have information, training, and the necessary equipment for protection so we gave them cleaning supplies (plastic buckets, disinfectants, and soap) and face masks. Most families visit the market daily, purchasing food with the meager funds they have available. Since social distancing is essentially impossible at a Liberian market, each family was also provided with food staples (rice, oil) so they could avoid the crowded markets and save money for the purchase of other essentials.
We rejoice that none of our students have contracted COVID and pray for their continued protection!
If you'd like to contribute to the 2020/2021 school year, helping Abraham and others to go to school, choose one of the options below to donate now:
Today we shine the spotlight on Favor, or “Little Musu”, a nickname given because she takes after her grandmother Musu. Little Musu is an enthusiastic student and helper around the house. She has many friends and even though she was born with a deformed left arm, she is thriving, capable, and a hard worker.
Part of Little Musu’s weekly chores includes helping with the washing of clothes. Similar to the task of fetching water, doing laundry is a physically demanding, manual, and time-consuming endeavor. Water must be fetched and heated, clothes soaked and scrubbed - then rinsed and hung to dry. The drying of clothes is also a challenge, mostly because of Liberia's tropical monsoon climate, making it humid year-round, especially during the rainy season from May to October, but also because clothes are sometimes stolen from the clothesline. (Monrovia is “the wettest capital in the world” with an annual average rainfall of 182 inches!)
Little Musu, like all of our sponsored students, is given two school uniforms and two physical education uniforms because without a proper uniform, students are sent home and not allowed to attend class. Having a spare uniform provides a little buffer against dirty or stolen laundry and means students don’t miss out on their education!
If you'd like to contribute to the 2020/2021 school year, helping Favor and others to go to school, choose one of the options below to donate now:
We are pleased to introduce Rander - younger brother of Favor or “Little Musu", who you met yesterday. Like his sister, Rander is an eager student. He loves math, science, does well in spelling, and envisions a future as an engineer. He also is passionate about basketball.
Most 4th graders in the US are nine years old but this is a statistical achievement in Liberia, where many students are “overage” for their grade placement. Liberia’s 14-year civil war delayed or ended education for many and school closure during the 2014 Ebola outbreak further compounded the problem. Qualified teachers still haven’t returned and over 60% of school buildings (including water and sanitation facilities) that were destroyed during the war have yet to be rebuilt. Tragically, Liberia is behind the rest of Africa in almost all educational statistics.
We rejoice that Rander is on track to stay in school and we are grateful for the Keyara’s Gift supporters whose generosity has helped him beat the odds!
If you'd like to contribute to the 2020/2021 school year, helping Rander and others to go to school, choose one of the options below to donate now:
Thank you for lending us your ear, over these last 20 days. As our final featured student, we are delighted to introduce Reuben.
Reuben loves to read, excels in his schoolwork, shows tremendous grit, has a strong work ethic, and is very entrepreneurial - washing clothes and crushing rocks to earn money for his lunch and school transportation. He aspires to work with computers in IT. Sadly, Reuben’s mother died during childbirth when he was only two. His father died during the war, leaving him orphaned but not alone, as he now lives with his grandmother.
Transportation is another challenge in getting an education which we haven’t highlighted. Much of Liberia’s infrastructure has not yet been rebuilt and students often live miles from the nearest school. In Reuben’s case, he has a twenty-minute walk along a dirt road. During the rainy months, this becomes especially muddy and arduous. Taxis, which are often in poor repair, tend to be overcrowded and costly. At an average cost of one US dollar per ride, taxis aren’t a sustainable option for the many Liberian’s living on less than two dollars a day. (An average Liberian annual income is around $580 in 2019.) Due to these challenges, we do all we can to keep our students close to home and supporting the neighborhood schools.
Although today marks the end of our "Giving Thanks in 2020" campaign - it does not end our desire to see Liberian children overcome the crushing effects of poverty. By meeting a handful of our remarkable students, we hope you’ve better understood the challenges they face, their resiliency, and the importance of their education.
On behalf of Reuben, and all of our 93 sponsored students, we thank you for your support! Through your sponsorship they know they are loved, not forgotten, and are on the road to a brighter future!
If you'd like to contribute to the 2020/2021 school year, helping Reuben and others to go to school, choose one of the options below to donate now: