On 19 November 2004, Quendi Appleton from Liberia, Maryland County, was awarded the Hermann Gmeiner Prize which she received in a ceremonial setting at the SOS Children's Village Hermann Gmeiner Academy in Innsbruck.
"In a country marked by war, poverty and natural disasters, Quendi has made her way and has not only helped her brothers and sisters but as a nurse also the people of her country. With great appreciation of her achievements and her attitude of sharing, I am very happy to present this prize to her". (Helmut Kutin, President of SOS Children's Villages.
The 28-year-old nurse was not only honoured for making her way in life and becoming a qualified nurse in a country suffering from civil war, but also for providing her help to thousands of fellow Liberians during the chaos of war. "Quendi Appleton's life is both an example and a model of what a single person and all those helping can achieve in defiance of unfavourable conditions", says Josef Kittl, Regional Director of Western Africa, in his eulogy. "I extend my thanks and appreciation to SOS Liberia, especially SOS-Kinderdorf-International for the continuous support in making me whom I am and the many others who have found a family in SOS. You can be assured that your efforts will be utilized to improve not only my life, but also the lives of many others through me, directly or indirectly", promises Quendi Appleton, who was present at the presentation of the prize in Innsbruck.
Quendi Appleton knows what it means to live without a family. As an infant she lost both parents, was placed in an orphanage together with some of her brothers and sisters and then transferred to yet another. At the age of five she and her four brothers and sisters finally found a new home with their SOS mother Ma Martha in the SOS Children's Village Monrovia/Liberia: "The warmth and care, coupled with the regular hot meals are all too nostalgic even at 28. The more love she poured out, the freer I became and the freer I began growing into myself."
Soon Quendi Appleton turned out to be a brilliant pupil. However, her life was also influenced by the turmoil of the civil war. Shortly before getting her Junior High School degree she had to leave school. "Civil activities were disrupted entirely and my entire SOS family had to be evacuated to a town hall in the southern suburb of Monrovia. We sought refuge for about two months under extreme hardship and risk. We were surrounded entirely by armed men. Life was a misery. This was one time when I so heartily appreciated the roles of our mothers and the village father. We held together as one family even under the strenuous circumstances." Even after the evacuated people had been able to return to the SOS Children's Village Monrovia, the civil war was still omnipresent in their daily life. They lacked the bare necessities of life such as food and medicine. Quendi Appleton suffered from being unable to really help the people, although she would have loved to. It was during this time of helplessness that her desire to become a nurse was born. After being able to finish school she was determined to achieve this goal, while in 2001 she passed her final exam in nursing with distinction. Next year she will obtain her "Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing".
It was already last year that she passed the acid test as a nurse. Josef Kittl: "In 2003, when Liberia's battered people faced the most horrendous atrocities and the final end seemed to be certain, it was her, together with a small SOS emergency team, who offered help, comfort and safety to thousands of people who flooded the SOS Children's Village to find a safe heaven. Mortars pounding the surrounding neighbourhood, bullets falling from the sky, they attended to the wounded, fed the young and old, helped, gave birth to new life and offered hope to those who had given up. Amidst the slaughter and anarchy that surrounded them they stood firm and continued their service on mankind."
Regarded in that way, Quendi Appleton has already started to keep her promise in that she passes on to others the help she herself received by SOS Children's Villages - as a step towards peace in her home country suffering from so many crises.