If you’ve been tracking with us since the story of Let Them LOL’s beginning we’ve celebrated the start of our organization from one water well to establishing a water program. From there we grew to encompass children’s homes and a school on our campus within a new community. We’ve struggled through the death of loved ones, uprooted and rebuilt, and outlasted the world’s worst outbreak of Ebola as it ravaged Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.
As we move forward through 2015, Buffalo comes together on Beaver Island to walk in solidarity with our neighbors in Sierra Leone to help raise funds and awareness in the Great Water Walk! Heading into 2016, we’re looking to the future with great hope, and a lot of grit.
As our operations in Sierra Leone continue to grow and flourish, we realize an increasing need for a central, accommodating place of community in our Buffalo neighborhood. With a steady influx of volunteers, yearly events, and enriching opportunities, a space to call our own becomes the new dream: a Volunteer Center! What if we could provide a physical space where people could come to not only hear about the story, but see it, step into it, and get involved with their friends and family? What if we could provide a multi-purpose space for community events, birthday parties, meetings, and a general feeling of welcome? We also learn with the right facility we’d be able to take on the task of packing the nutritious meals needed for our campus – an incredible and meaningful opportunity for local families, and partnership opportunity for serving our local community as well.
As the dream grows we fundraise and pray together, and the vision steadily comes alive! On June 5, 2017 we put shovels to the earth, breaking ground and declaring something good will come to this place. By July walls are going up! Soon, the shipping container (which has served as our epic stage backdrop and functional storage, while visually tying our two ‘worlds’ together) is set in place and before we know it a haven of hope exists where there was once nothing.
By October, we’re adjusting to our new space and celebrate a [not so] formal Open House and Gala Preview night.
In 2017, our new Volunteer Center officially opens our doors for a range of incredible new things! In September, we partner with the Food Bank of WNY for a two day meal packing event and have been excited to partner ever since to help provide for local families. In March, we host our first annual Kid’s Gala – allowing kids of all ages to have a night of fun and make an incredible change – and in May we host a leadership simulcast event.
Amidst all the excitement, the needs remain heavy. As progress continues, we ache for the harsh realities of our neighbors and move forward with greater resolve.
In March 2016, the grave statistics putting Sierra Leone at the very worst among the world’s Maternal Mortality rates hit close to home as our staff team is asked to care for a newborn child, baby Hope, newly orphaned as her mother has just passed in childbirth. Just 8 months later, the nightmare is repeated. Though our long-term hope is to empower a community to lean into this need (and indeed we have begun to see this change in some of our staff who voluntarily foster after ebola), the economic burden remains too extreme for the average household to accommodate newborn children; our house mothers agree to take two newborn infant twins in the same predicament. Then, crushingly, despite the best efforts of staff, one of the twins named Joy, passes suddenly in July 2017. At such a critical age, Joy had contracted Malaria and her health declined quickly beyond what local healthcare could recover in time. Her brother Joshua continues to grow and thrive. These devastating circumstances, along with the daily realities, will plant seeds for a major future health project.
In June 2016 we mourn the loss of the incredible man who helped point us in the direction of Sierra Leone when our co-founders first dialed in on the problem of dirty water. This man’s life and legacy have touched many people and parts of the world, and truly there is more to come as tangible examples of his impact will come to impact Hope Campus and Sierra Leone before long. This legacy begins with a clean water well, funded and completed in his honor and memory in October 2016.
Meanwhile, Let Them LOL experiences a pivotal unexpected moment. As construction on our Volunteer Center is underway, an anonymous donor steps in to offer a matching grant for up to $500,000 over three years toward our infrastructure. This life-changing gift immediately sparks several building projects on Hope Campus as we scramble to begin fundraising with renewed focus and energy, inspired by the multiplied potential for life change and always pressing need for major impact.
As Let Them LOL celebrates drilling our 100th well, a generous donor’s gift of a uniquely accessible wheelchair, a beautiful staff marriage, and baby Hope’s first steps followed by her first birthday, much needed new classrooms begin to be constructed on Hope Campus.
And in all of the excitement, the way is being made for one of the most moving new projects – one which LTLOL had hoped to pursue for years – the Girl’s Empowerment Program or Girl’s Dorm. A place of rescue! As this miracle unfolds, despite the ups and downs, there is more to come in 2018.
Thanks for following along on the rollercoaster ride (and really this is just a highlight reel) of ten years of Let Them LOL. We can’t wait to celebrate with you in October at our Ten Year Anniversary Gala!