When the Ebola crisis struck Liberia in March 2014, Bill worked long days helping his community stay safe. But life wasn’t always like this for Bill.

Food for work: sweeping off the rubbish from an abandoned building in West Point slum Community. Monrovia, Liberia. March 26th 2015. Photo/Ahmed Jallanzo

Growing up in West Point slum in Liberia’s capital Monrovia, it can be hard for young people like Bill to have big dreams. Wedged between the ocean and the rest of the city, and home to more than 75,000 people, the slum is overcrowded. Without enough toilets or clean water points, the community is prone to illness including cholera and diarrhoea, which impact on people’s daily lives and ability to work.

The power of self assurance

Bill is President of the YMCA Youth Advocacy Group in West Point.

Bill is President of the YMCA Youth Advocacy Group in West Point.

For Bill, it was difficult to see that a better life was possible. “All I did in the past was to go to school and after classes, I hung out with my friends to discuss football and other irrelevant issues. I didn’t have a regular source of income.”

Bill’s life changed when he became involved with Liberia YMCA. “The YMCA has helped me to be confident and build self-esteem.”

Bill’s newfound confidence has transformed his life. He now attends the University of Liberia while supporting four people at home. And he has not stopped at simply improving his own life. Bill is the secretary for a savings group in West Point slum which allows young women to save money and cover business costs.

Keeping safe from Ebola
But it was when West Point became the epicentre of the Ebola crisis in Liberia – and was put under quarantine – that Bill came to value YMCA Liberia’s support fully. With the YMCA’s help, Bill’s community team was one of many that took to the streets to share information about avoiding transmission of the deadly disease.

Bill believes the long-term relationship that YMCA Liberia developed with his community saved many lives: “YMCA is living here with us. They bring projects which live with us for years. They don’t just come in an emergency response; they come to be with us. Even during [the Ebola] quarantine when it was impossible to visit, they continued to call us and ask how we were.”

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Food for work: sweeping off the rubbish from an abandoned building in West Point slum Community. Monrovia, Liberia. March 26th 2015. Photo/Ahmed Jallanzo

Liberia

Young people in Liberia have grown up in a country scarred by civil war. The conflict claimed more than 200,000 lives and destroyed the economy, the education system, and most of the country’s infrastructure.

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