After 2017 brought unfathomable hurt mixed with profound new need and early foundations of hope (if you’re just jumping into the story now, it might be more helpful to start from the beginning!). We lost two mothers and a baby. We lost a dear friend to cancer. We’ve opened a home for vulnerable girls and their healing is hopeful but their pain is heavy. We also head into 2018 ready to take on the crucial opportunity of an infrastructure-based matching grant, and with a new physical home base in the US. We’ve been through a lot together, and despite the pain, we’re stronger. We’re ready to fight for those we love, and our love is more fierce than ever. So we brush ourselves off. We choose to keep moving forward, together.
This determined love-in-motion of our community is swiftly felt. Fundraising sweeps us off our feet as our Buffalo friends and business donors (known as One Drop Buffalo partners) gather together to help begin and complete several groundbreaking and community-altering projects. Following the funding of a well in his memory, a Community Center is funded and constructed in honor of the life and legacy of our friend Daryl (learn how he helped shape our journey). This building not only provides a central hub for community life and nourishment, it provides jobs, holds a library, LTLOL office space and conference room, computer lab, and space for a classroom and future marketplace. Let Them LOL takes donations of books, an amazon wishlist combined with Sierra Leonean craftsmanship and a fundraiser of custom coffee mugs to help furnish the cafe, and in the space of one year this project goes from vision to reality. In September 2018, students on Hope Rising Campus flood the library for the first time, flipping through pages of maps and space and creatures, eyes full of wonder and LTLOL staff stand by a US team to welcome Daryl’s wife into what seems like an impossible dream turned reality. We don’t stop there.
Our first-hand experience (taking in several children orphaned when their mothers did not survive their birth) and knowledge of the tragic Maternal Mortality Rate in Sierra Leone – worst in the world – has us more anxious than ever to begin constructing our Hope Rising Health Center. A donor steps into our Volunteer Center curious to learn about Let Them LOL. After hearing about our story, they decide to help us fundraise nearly the entire project. Another dedicated volunteer rallies family and friends and fully funds a Labor and Delivery Room in honor of her late grandmother who was a pediatric nurse. As the Buffalo Children’s hospital prepares to relate, they generously extend access to equipment and supplies they’ll no longer be using. By September 2018, the Health Center construction is completed, equipment is being loaded and sorted, our new Chief Health Officer Joseph and our Nurse Marion transfer ongoing care for Hope Rising Academy to this new prime location as they prepare and work toward the clinic’s official approval for opening to the community.
If this isn’t enough, our farming program begins to explore, research, and invest in coffee farming on and around Hope Campus, and a valued donor steps forward in incredible generosity to donate a second drilling rig to our clean water program. Once the rig ships over the sea, our Sierra Leonean drilling team takes time to train on the new equipment and learns its capabilities allow maximum impact with far less labor. This means we can our hard working crew can be used across more efficiently and more effectively, greatly increasing our impact in an area of consistently pressing need. As people are dying daily from the water they are drinking, there is hardly anything we can get more excited about than making a greater impact with the resources we have!
At Hope Rising Academy, the momentum continues with a profound impact: High School! Those words may not mean much to you (or they may make you shudder), but to some of our dearest friends across the ocean they are revolutionary! In February 2018, on Hope Campus the first 52 students (including 36 newly sought out youth from the local village) begin as our first high school freshman class. Previously, there was no High School in this area. This left the majority of students with no choice but to drop out due to inability to travel, or find funds even if relocation is possible (the fees for this level of schooling are much higher than previous years, and a further distance from remote areas). But not anymore! Not to mention, all our students got the joy of a brand new football (soccer, to America) field! This serves as a place where our kids can be just that, kids. Teamwork, self-worth, confidence, and healthy play can happen here in a safe environment. With the partnership of donors and our Sierra Leonean team, we’re thrilled to send a clear message of hope and worth to every student, and their families with each step toward hope.
We know that we will always be a community here with a community there, and with our new local “home”, we’re excited to have ways to call our people to action for and with the city of good neighbors. In 2018 Let Them LOL organizes a Hope Rising Buffalo initiative, and are able to collect winter clothes to be distributed through a local community we care for!
We’re amazed at the steps forward 2018 brought as we look back. With a chance to rebuild and restore, as we embrace all we’ve learned we continue onward knowing we are stronger even with the hard things we’ve walked through together. And when more difficulty comes, we keep moving forward. It doesn’t stop there, either! Get ready to plunge into 2019 – year number 10 – thus far, and don’t forget to join the celebration October 19 at Buffalo Riverworks!