West Point is a slum community in the Republic of Liberia
Born and raised in West Point, Musa quickly came to learn the challenges faced by children in the slum -- especially when it comes to receiving an education. Two civil wars and the worst Ebola epidemic outbreak in history have kept Liberia from advancing and the children of West Point still to this day have little means to obtain an education.
His lifelong dream is to change this so that his son and all future generations of children born into West Point can go to school and graduate from university with the knowledge and skills they need to pursue their dreams.
In June, Musa wrote an article for Liberia's Bush Chicken publication entitled, "Liberians Must Pick Up Slack When Int’l NGOs Leave" where he encouraged fellow Liberians to continue working in social justice in Liberia long after many international NGOs continue to leave now that peace is restored and Ebola is over. In this article, he wrote,
"As we all ask ourselves what is next, let’s remember social justice. Let’s remember that the future of Liberia rests in our hands and no one else’s. To begin, we can start small and if everyone does their part, the difference we can make will be even greater.
For me personally, I am returning from working with the Danish Refugee Council and I am returning to my home community of West Point, Monrovia with one mission and one mission only – to educate West Point.
If I’ve learned anything over these past five years working for an international NGOs, it is that the best thing we Liberians can focus on to improve our lives and the fate of our country is education – education for girls and boys."
Read Musa's full story below.
Raised by his single mother, Musa and his family fled West Point when the Liberian civil crisis took a turn for the worse, and left for Guinea in search of safety. His mother had no choice but to leave her two taxis and small trade business back in West Point to sell bagged water and milk sachets in Guinea to try and feed her family. Barely surviving as refugees, they had no choice but to return to West Point under former warlord Charles Taylor's regime. They lost everything.
Musa's education, along with most other Liberian children at the time, kept being interrupted by the ongoing wars. He had to give it up to help his mother feed the family -- something not uncommon for many of the children in West Point, both back then up until today.
Unfortunately, Musa's story is not uncommon, but rather the norm for many children born in West Point. EWP’s beneficiaries were born into absolute poverty with almost no means to get themselves out. Economic distress is increasing our children's vulnerability to rights violations, such as: violence, child labor, trafficking, and even prostitution.
If that wasn't enough, Ebola then hit and wreaked havoc over the country and in particular the West Point community. A trained mechanic at this point, Musa became an ambulance driver in West Point during the epidemic responding to cases as they spread rapidly throughout the slum.
It was at this time that Musa met US Co-Founder Mitch Mercer who was in Liberia as a Peace Corps volunteer when Ebola hit and later transitioned to work for the Emergency Response Program in West Point run by Liberian NGO More Than Me. Together Musa and Mitch responded to Ebola in West Point and after it was thankfully all over, the two moved to Harper, Maryland County to work for NGOs together - both ultimately landing at the Danish Refugee Council, Mitch as Area Manager and Musa as a driver.
It was here that both Musa and Mitch met US Co-Founder Katie Letheren who was working for Partners In Health on a post-Ebola health system strengthening response project.
Mitch and Katie heard Musa talk about his dreams to transform West Point starting with improved access to education.
His inspiration was contagious and together we founded Educate West Point (EWP) and we will not stop until every single child in West Point is going to school receiving the quality education they deserve.
The answer is education. We hope you will join us.
After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Sciences and serving in the Peace Corps in Liberia for 15 months as a secondary education Biology instructor, Mitch was sent home with the rest of the volunteers when Ebola hit. He went home, but then he came right back to respond to the Ebola outbreak in West Point as part of the Emergency Response Program for Liberian NGO More Than Me. Working on the frontline of the epidemic alongside Musa, Mitch was exposed to the grotesque lack of opportunity and services available in West Point. Once Ebola was finally over, Mitch relocated to Southeast Liberia to work for Africa Development Corps as the Education Program Manager and Head of Office before then being hired by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) where he worked for two more years in a variety of Managerial capacities, ultimately managing a proportioned 5 million dollar project portfolio funded by four international donors and supervising all program and operational staff of two field offices. When DRC pulled out of the country after more than a decade, Mitch has since taken a new job with them in Northern Nigeria but was not ready to leave Liberia, his best friend Musa or the people of West Point behind.
Prior to her work at EWP, Katie worked as Clinical Operations Officer for Partners In Health in Maryland County, Liberia where she was named PIH Liberia Employee of the Year 2016. Here she learned the challenges the people face with some of the worst health outcomes in the world, but also the challenges when it comes to access to education and income generation. Her strong desire to get to the root cause of the poor health outcomes she witnessed is what ultimately led her to get involved in the education field — the same place she began her 7+ year international career beginning as an English teacher in China. In between, Katie worked in Shanghai's finance sector before stumbling into international development work where she served as the Communications Manager for Angkor Hospital for Children, Clinic Manager of a rural clinic in Namibia serving the San people, as well as being hired by a Swedish refugee relief organization to establish and coordinate an emergency medical clinic on the shores of Lesvos, Greece where thousands of refugees were arriving by boat every day. Katie completed her BA in Political Science at New York University, as well as the Global Health Delivery Intensive program at Harvard School of Public Health.