National Fund Development and Communications Manager SOS Children's Villages in Liberia
photo: © Stefan Lechner Photography
Personal Commitment in difficult times
I would like to tell you a little about my journey at SOS Children’s Villages Liberia. Six years ago, I joined SOS Children’s Village Liberia as a volunteer. It did not take too long until I was appointed as Assistant National Education Advisor. Near the end of 2014, I was then appointed as Sponsorship Officer because the National Sponsorship Coordinator at the time was near retirement. Upon taking over my new role, it was a bit of a challenge to adjust. My responsibilities were hugely different and demanding. However, I accepted the challenge and began to contribute meaningfully by working with SOS mothers, social workers and other colleagues at the village level. I started collecting material to compile stories of the children and young people who were in the sponsorship programme. My supervisor provided a few weeks of training and I quickly mastered working with the sponsorship software (SPS), now the Donor Services Application (DSapp). I began to love my new role and started building strong relationships with my colleagues as well as the children and young people.
When circumstances change….
A few months later, the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) began to spread rapidly in Liberia. This was a difficult moment for SOS Children’s Villages Liberia and the entire country. During this Ebola outbreak, several preventive measures were put in place in the village. SOS mothers, children and young people stayed inside the village to avoid contact with people from outside and regular hand washing became a routine. All educational facilities, including the SOS Hermann Gmeiner International Schools, were closed by the government primarily as a means of preventing the spread of the virus. The SOS Family Strengthening Programme was closed and several staff members were asked to stay at home until further notice from the management. During this period, SOS Children’s Villages Liberia provided medical services to a lot of people at the SOS medical centre. The village also started an emergency programme to help affected children, families and communities. The Ebola Virus Disease claimed the lives of many Liberians, leaving several children as orphans.
Keeping the focus in challenging times
In the midst of everything, I continued working with the National Sponsorship team preparing reports on the children and young people in the sponsorship programmes. This was a challenging period for me. Every day I travelled to work from the outskirts of Monrovia, about 16 kilometres from my home. Using public transport at the time was a risk because the cases of EVD were increasing on a daily basis. Regardless of this situation, I put the interest of the children first. I believed that it was important to contribute to keeping sponsors informed about the welfare of the children and young people in SOS programmes. I was aware that the village needed the contributions of sponsors in these difficult times to continue providing quality care for the children. With these in mind, I mustered the courage and continued working to ensure that my team achieved its goals. Through the support of the senior management team, all the necessary logistics were provided and we kept the sponsors updated about the situation every step of the way.
My special moment
Have you ever overcome a great obstacle in your life? I guess you have experienced such a fulfilling moment before. It feels like all of your troubles have suddenly disappeared. This was how I felt when the spread of EVD ended in Liberia. Everyone was excited on the day Liberia was declared free of the Ebola Virus Disease. You can imagine the joy on people’s faces. The children, young people, mothers and staff braved the storm and together we conquered Ebola. We were happy to have survived those difficult days. Finally, the children could go back to school, play with friends and interact freely in the environment. Shortly after, other staff members resumed work and things got back to normal.
A few months later, I served as a member of a team put together to carry out an assessment of the cases of children referred to SOS Liberia by the government Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MOGCSP) to join Family Based Care, now called SOS Family Care. At this point, I felt it was another magical moment to make a direct impact on the life of a child. It was a chance to be a part of restoring the hope of children who were vulnerable as a result of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. A series of meetings were held with MOGCSP and we started the assessment. We walked long distances, from one community to another, talking to community leaders and inhabitants to determine if the children were in the SOS target group.
Welcoming 60 children in one year
With the support of other colleagues such as the Village Director and social workers, we assessed all the cases referred to the village and welcomed over 60 children that year. My participation in this exercise was a great accomplishment for me. I was happy to have been involved in a process which eventually gave hope to children who came from a desperate situation. Today, you can imagine the joy it brings seeing these children grow up in a loving home with SOS mothers, brothers and sisters to call their own. Never again do they have to remember their horrible past.
As I now serve as the Fund Development and Communications Manager, my personal commitment to ensuring that every child succeeds in life continues to inspire me. My goal is to develop and implement several innovative approaches to mobilize resources locally and grow SOS Liberia’s local income to reach many more needy children.
Miatta H Sherman Jallah
There are two things Miatta possesses, which serve as motivation in her work life: the love for what she does and her commitment to improve the lives of others. Working as a Fund Development and Communications Manager enables Miatta to lead a team of six people and perform several duties, such as securing funding for SOS Children’s Villages Liberia, managing small grants, organising and hosting fundraising events, etc.
Miatta grew up in a small family on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, where many girls did not have the chance to go to school. Her single mother sacrificed everything to ensure that Miatta was educated. As a young mother, she wants to continue showing that light, not just for her children but for all children living in poverty.
Liberia is located in West Africa and shares borders with Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and Sierra Leone. After 14 years of civil war, which ended in 2003, and the recent Ebola outbreak, the country is still in a recovery process. However, Liberians are working hard to overcome those challenges and better their own lives. Miatta likes to do her part for the community, spending her free time teaching and coaching girls to become change makers in their communities.