West Point is a slum community in the Republic of Liberia
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 6 more years among the Senior Management teams of Liberia, Nigeria, Yemen, Syria and Somalia, ranging in roles from Emergency Response Manager, Area Manager, Head of Operations, and Country Director. Mitch has further worked in South Sudan as a Program Officer with BHA, USAID and is currently working as a Consultant with the United Nations in Yemen, designing projects to transition from Emergency to Resilience Programming. It was in 2017 when DRC pulled out of Liberia that he decided he could not leave Liberia behind and decided to start Educate West Point to serve members of the slum community of "West Point".
Katie is a social justice and global health equity advocate with a passion for operations and project management. Prior to co-founding Educate West Point (EWP), Katie worked as Clinical Operations Officer for Partners In Health (PIH) in Maryland County, Liberia where she was named PIH Liberia Employee of the Year 2016. Here she learned not only the challenges faced with some of the worst health outcomes in the world, but how much these outcomes were tied to a lack of access to quality education and income generating opportunities. When Musa therefore asked Katie and Mitch to help him help his home community in West Point by starting an education nonprofit, the two had spent much time there coming to know the reality for the residents of West Point, and also knew what Musa could accomplish -- so frankly speaking, it was a no brainer for the three of them to jump in a taxi to the Ministry of Education to begin the conversation.
Katie’s 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 10 yr+ international career beginning as an English teacher in Hangzhou, 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, Emergency Coordinator for a Swedish refugee relief organization where she established the first emergency medical clinic on the shores of Lesvos, Greece during the heart of the 2015 refugee crisis where thousands of refugees were arriving by boat every day. Katie was also the founding Campus Operations Director for PIH’s University of Global Health Equity where she led the team to operationalize a brand new medical school campus in rural Rwanda, and she is now serving as the Deputy Director for PIH’s Massachusetts Covid Response helping to oversee a contact tracing initiative.
Katie completed her BA in Political Science at New York University, the Global Health Delivery Intensive program at Harvard School of Public Health, and is soon to complete her Masters in International Development with a focus in Global Health from The University of Edinburgh, along with her dissertation on COVID-19 & the road to global vaccine equity.