By Peggy Maynard, GlobalFingerprints, Liberia
The Liberian people were devastated by war in their country from 1989-1997, and then again from 1999-2003. When I went to Liberia recently, I heard stories of people who ran for their lives, went hungry, lost everything, and watched family members killed right before their eyes.
More recently, Liberians were traumatized by the Ebola crisis during 2014-2015. Many lost loved ones from this deadly disease. Poverty is high in Liberia. According to the World Food Program, 83.3% of the population lives on less than $1.25/day.
Many people ask how many of our program children are orphans. I have guessed around 50% but decided to gather and analyze the information on the children. One problem is how to define an orphan. According to the World Health Organization, a child who has lost one parent is an orphan. But what about children abandoned by their parents or whose parents are unable or unwilling to support them? That’s why our mission statement is to reach the world’s “vulnerable” children. Children are vulnerable for many reasons. Being orphaned is certainly a big one, but there are many other factors such as poverty, war, disease, and malnutrition.
In November of 2017 we had 179 children entered in the program. I was very close in my estimation – 51% (92) of our children have lost one or both of their parents. What was surprising was that one or both parents abandoned 67 of our children. Of the children who lost one parent, the other parent also abandoned 15 of them. This means 80% of our children have lost, or been abandoned by, one or both parents. This not only creates physical hardship for them, but emotional and social trauma.
The children who have both parents living are often not living with their parents or their parents are unable to provide adequate schooling and care for them. Lack of work is the biggest reason. Unemployment in Liberia is very high and even those who want to work often cannot find jobs. In addition, ten of the parents are either mentally or physically disabled and unable to care for their child adequately.
The challenges in Liberia are great. However, the Lord is using GlobalFingerprints to bring hope to the hopeless. Our mission is to transform the most vulnerable children in the world with the fingerprint of Christ. We accomplish this is by meeting the spiritual, educational, medical, nutritional and other needs of children through partnership with the local church.
We want to share the Gospel and introduce children to real hope that can be found in Christ alone. We want to help them grow in their relationship with the Lord, and one of the important ways to grow is through disciple-making relationships. This is a major distinction between GlobalFingerprints and some other child sponsorship organizations that may just focus on the physical needs of a child.
Marie (pictured above) is an example of one of those vulnerable children helped by the program. Both her parents died during the recent Ebola outbreak, leaving eight children orphaned. The children were divided among different relatives.
Marie lives with two of her younger siblings. Their caregiver lives elsewhere and checks on them occasionally. Marie was in 9th grade at the time. Thanks to a GlobalFingerprints sponsor, she was able to graduate from high school last year and is now attending a vocational school. She is also working as an aide at her former school in order to learn job skills. One of our staff is doing a great job mentoring her, helping her make good decisions, and preparing her for the future. This is our goal for our children and we are very happy to see the progress Marie has made and is making. She is thankful to God and to GlobalFingerprints for making a huge difference in her life.
Marie was fortunate to get a sponsor right away. Other children have been waiting for up to three years for a sponsor. We have also expanded to new schools where vulnerable children are in desperate need of help. Pray for God to raise up sponsors to help these children.