Covid-19 had hit to a nerve wracking proportion and brought everything to a standstill. But in spite of the onslaught of the virulent disease, the Jewel Starfish Foundation remained adamant that notwithstanding the tempest of storm brought on by the global outbreak, there was still a need to reach out to girls and their families that were benefiting from the organization’s benevolence. To this end, the Foundation reached more than 1,391 girls across the 15 counties of Liberia to ensure they remained in school and get mentored against Sexual Gender Based violence that was already on the increase in homes due to the vulnerability of young women due to lockdown.
During the period July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, the adverse effects of the Covid-19 outbreak reduce the foundation’s targeted retention rate of 90% to 86% with about 48% passing national exams.
Since learning was impeded as a direct consequence of the outbreak, the Foundation placed more emphasis on mentoring its beneficiaries as a way of boosting girls self confidence; instill values that help girls find passion in their education and prepare them for leadership roles in their communities.
In addition to the Foundation’s overarching objectives, the Jewel Starfish Foundation (JSF) made several interventions as its quota to national efforts against the deadly disease. The JSF distributed hand cleaning and sanitary materials as well as food items to its beneficiaries in Gbapolu, Montserrado, Bong, Margibi, Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount, Nimba, Lofa, Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru and Bomi counties. The Foundation also donated 5 oxygen tanks to the 14 Military hospital and other medical supplies to healthcare facilities across the country to augment already ongoing efforts.
Chief Dr. Cllr. Jewel Howard Taylor, founder of the Foundation said “if each of you [partners, JSF team and beneficiaries] had not remained committed to this vision, it would have been difficult, at least, to reach this far. With your continued support, in this school year, we hope to exceed the expectations of our beneficiaries and their parents; whilst keeping in mind that there are many more who urgently need to access the life changing opportunities being offered by JSF”.
The Board Chairperson of the Foundation, Ms. Norwu G. Howard said “the Jewel Starfish Foundation is proud of the work done during the pandemic; mentoring trips to 9 of the 15 counties allowed us to learn from our beneficiaries what they were going through during those times. Stories were sad and hopes were lost, as school gave most girls a place to dream, learn and get away from the stark realities of poverty and in some cases abuse.”
She added that girls and young women are among the most vulnerable groups but when they are protected and given tools to succeed, they can be force to reckon with.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made us realize how vulnerable we all are; with thousands of deaths worldwide, lockdowns and curfews, our girls still had a right to be protected from forced labor, rape, violence, unwanted pregnancy and early marriage,” the JSF Board Chairperson stressed.
For her part, the Foundation’s Executive Director, Ms. Stephene Audrey Kpoto said “our team remains hopeful that this year’s activities and those for the years ahead will continue to inspire our partners and donors to remain in partnership with JSF on this journey of empowering future Liberian female leaders, thus encouraging our beneficiaries to dream big and work harder to achieve their goals”.
In the next few years, the Foundation plans to begin the construction of a dormitory in Bong County for the beneficiaries in Gbarnga which will offer them much security and access to better facilities. This will cover the rest of the 14 counties over time and take the total number of targeted beneficiaries to 2000 girls in Liberia while starting the recruitment of beneficiaries from Sierra Leone and Ghana.