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Ebola heroines: Brenda's story

Tuesday, May 5, 2015 - 16:52

Brenda Moore is an HR professional and a married mother of two children (an eight year old boy and a six year old girl). During the Ebola crisis, Brenda launched the Kids Educational Engagement Project as a response to the indefinite closure of schools in the country. Schools had been shut by the government as a measure to help contain the rapidly escalating Ebola outbreak in Liberia.

Brenda works with a government agency and during the Ebola outbreak they were placed on intermittent work schedule. This meant that she could start work later than the normal office hours. So she decided use the extra morning hours she had to homeschool her children. She would print out free  activities sheets from online and then take a couple of hours each morning to sit with her children and tutor them through the lessons.  

Each morning as Brenda left home for work after tutoring her children, she would see other children in the community just sitting around not during anything. Being a mother and someone who valued education, she was moved to doing something about the situation.

Brenda started to reach out to friends to see if she could get support to put together little educational packs - work sheet, crayon, pencils, books, etc - that she could give out to the children in her community to help them learn even though schools were shut. The materials were in line with the Ministry of Education’s national curriculum. ActionAid Liberia supported the initiative with some reading materials and worksheets geared towards primary school students in the early days.

When she had collected the materials, Brenda visited each home in her community to give out packs to the children. At each home, she showed the children how to use the packs and the worksheets in the packs. She also encouraged the parents to spend time tutoring their children and helping them with the activities in the packs, so that they would not fall behind in their lessons or struggle when schools reopened.

Brenda’s effort was so well-received that she began to gather packs to distribute to other communities besides her own. Eventually she was able to provide school packs for more than three thousand children in 16 communities in Montserrado County alone.

Later on she received support from ActionAid Liberia to take the project into Grand Gedeh and Gbarpolu counties where she was able to provide at-home educational packs for more than five thousand children. The project also received support from other organizations including the Rotary Club of Monrovia, the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, The Liberia Telecommunications Authority, Liberians United Against Ebola (a group of US-based Liberians).

The Ebola outbreak began to subside at the beginning of 2015 and eventually schools were able to reopen in February. Since then, children across the country have had the chance to sit exams. Children in Brenda’s community, where it all started, have brought their progress reports to show to her, proud of their performance in their schools.

Brenda recalled, “Recently, a lot of children in my community, after taking their first period test, came to me with their grade sheets showing that they had passed. They wanted me to see how the work sheets that we provided for them during the Ebola crisis had helped them.”

In Gbarpolu and Grand Gedeh counties, Brenda and the rest of the team at KEEP have carried out follow up assessments with the children they gave packs to. The packs have really helped children the communities. Brenda recounted her impression of one of the follow-up assessments she carried out.

“I can tell you that the packs have made an impact and I feel very, very, fulfilled. Up to now a lot of the community schools in those counties have not received support from the government. We walked into some schools and we saw the children in class using the KEEP study materials we had given to study or be taught.  That in itself is very fulfilling. But it is also very sad and moving because I couldn’t help thinking that if we have not come in, these children would not even have these supplies to learn.  The response from the parents have been really, really encouraging as well, because, a lot of people were focusing on the medical response to the Ebola crisis, and a lot of people weren’t thinking on the impact of the outbreak on other aspects of the society. The parents really appreciated the fact that people were thinking about their children and how the outbreak impacted their education.

Also, because we were also able to provide these supplies free of charge, it means that family did not have to worry about the extra expense to purchase learning materials. They could use that money that they would have taken to buy note books, crayon, pencils, etc and use it on other essentials. For me, being able to help in this way was very fulfilling.”