YMCA Liberia provided food-for-work and revitalised small businesses to help entrepreneurs get back on their feet after Ebola. Photo credit: YCI YMCA Liberia provided food-for-work and revitalised small businesses to help entrepreneurs get back on their feet after Ebola.

During the Ebola crisis in Liberia, resources were pushed beyond their limits, movement was restricted and a feeling of fear reigned. With many businesses destroyed, Ebola closed many doors and 75% of Liberian families saw a 39% decline in their income.

Having celebrated Global Entrepreneurship Week 2015 last week, we take a look at how young entrepreneurs are getting back on their feet and opening new doors in their determination to succeed. With the help of the Liberia YMCA they are rebuilding their confidence, their incomes and their lives.

Yamah is a 24-year-old widow. Having lost her husband during the war, she is no stranger to hardship. Despite her loss, she had been able to support her family until the Ebola outbreak all but destroyed her business. Yamah explains: “Before Ebola started in Liberia, I was doing business and supporting my children. When Ebola started in Liberia people could not move around, all the borders were closed so we ate all the business money and things went bad with us.”

Food for Work workers clearing West Point slum in Liberia.

Food for Work workers clearing West Point slum in Liberia. Photo/Ahmed Jallanzo

To respond to the devastating economic impacts of Ebola we provided food-for-work and revitalised small businesses to help entrepreneurs get back on their feet. Yamah signed up to receive vital financial support from the YMCA, which she needed to get her business back off the ground and make her own way in life again: “Because of the support YMCA gave to me, my children and I have food on our table. I am also able to send my children to school. I am so happy that my business has grown bigger than before and I appreciated the YMCA for checking on me every time.”

For many young people, it has not been possible to go to school since the outbreak, particularly with siblings or children to support. Training them in a trade gave them an opportunity to earn their own incomes and gain independence.

Twenty-year-old Joanna lost both her parents to the virus, and has five brothers and a sister. She says: “Life was very difficult for me and my siblings before joining the YMCA. We were living on hand-outs from our neighbours.” Since joining the programme and learning hairdressing and beauty treatment skills, Joanna describes how: “life has changed for me; I now have people to talk to and encourage me to move forward in life.”

Joanna has developed skills to provide food for herself and her siblings, and with it, hope for the future that: “all is not lost; I can still make it in life.”

Our work continues to help young people like Yamah and Joanna rebuild their lives after the Ebola outbreak and take care of their families. With the help of our Tools for Recovery campaign earlier this year, we hope to reach 12,960 more slum dwellers recover from the outbreak.