The following entry was written by Charles Redding, CEO & President of MedShare. It is his second update on his travels in Liberia.
Another incredible day of discovery, dialogue, and dedication to finding solutions to some of the most pressing issues in Liberia. All throughout the day, one theme continued to echo during every meeting, “We will prevail.” A country ravaged by civil war and brought close to the point of no return by the Ebola Virus, refused to give up and exhibited an extraordinary zeal to find ways to improve.
Our day started with a visit to Vice President H.E. Joseph N. Boakai’s office. What a gracious host and thoughtful leader. He took time out of his busy schedule to sit down with us to understand each of our goals and what was needed to be successful. This gave me the opportunity to discuss MedShare’s mission, to detail the support given to Liberia during the Ebola Outbreak, and to communicate our desire to partner with MAP and the MOH to help Liberia strengthen its health system. He was aware and very appreciative of our support during the Ebola Crisis and reaffirmed that it would indeed take a great deal of effort and intervention to improve access to quality healthcare. Although we did not have time to go into great detail, the vice president listened intently to all of our objectives and lauded our efforts to help his country.
Our next stop was a lunch meeting with the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Axel M. Addy. Beyond the flavor of the food, the discussion was rich with opportunities for many who had traveled to Liberia from Georgia to explore business partnerships. Liberia, a country rich in rubber, cocoa, and oil palm, is looking for strategic investors to increase production of certified products. Fishing and other agricultural opportunities were also explored. It was clear that for Liberia to be able to rebuild and prevail, it must generate employment opportunities for its people. The unemployment rate in Liberia is a whopping 80%. The Savannah Port is a strategic partner with the National Port Authority in Liberia. Thousands of containers are shipped from Georgia to Liberia each year carrying everything from chicken parts to medical supplies and equipment from MedShare. It was noted that the majority of these containers are sent back to Savannah empty. What a golden opportunity to increase outputs in Liberia and haul items back to Georgia.
We then headed to a roundtable discussion with the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection. Participants in this discussion included members of CDC Liberia, the Carter Center, Savannah State University, A.M.E. University, MAP International, MedShare, and the Liberian Consulate for Georgia. Unfortunately, the Minister of Health was not able to attend. Topics ranging from strengthening the healthcare system to improving social welfare were discussed. Again, both MedShare and MAP were lauded for our efforts during the Ebola Outbreak. What I was most proud of was that Masmina Sirleaf from the HEARTT Foundation openly complimented MedShare’s work during the Ebola Outbreak. She stated that she worked with Jason and Amanda on a container shipment and really appreciated that they were allowed to select the items that they needed. Needless to say I was beaming with joy and satisfaction. Our model works!
Our hectic pace did not subside. After our lunch meeting we hurried to the U.S. Embassy to meet with Ambassador Christine Elder. Upon entering the embassy it felt like we had returned home. Ambassador Elder was very gracious with her time and listened as each of us communicated the purpose and objective of our visit. She thanked MedShare for the support we provided during the Ebola Outbreak and reiterated the need for training on equipment usage and repairs. She committed her support for our efforts to help strengthen Liberia’s healthcare system. Her aide also indicated that she would like to partner with MedShare and MAP to support a local Free Clinic that provides healthcare to people in Monrovia who cannot afford to pay. Of course we are all over this!
Our day could not have ended on a grander note. The vice president hosted us at a VIP Welcome Reception, complete with food, music, drummers, and African Dancers. What an incredible evening! I was very moved by many things this evening but the Ebola Recovery Song –We Will Prevail, sung to the tune of We Will Survive– as well as receiving a stole with “Liberia is Ebola Free” inscribed on it, and a Liberian pin, topped the list.
As I complete this blog, exhausted from an extremely hectic day, I am confident that Liberia will indeed prevail. But it needs help from organizations like MedShare, MAP, educational institutions, business leaders, and others. It is the little engine that can. I am so proud that MedShare played such a pivotal role in the nation’s efforts to combat the Ebola Virus and will continue to work with them to ensure the long-term sustainability of a robust healthcare system. This is why we do what we do!