Starting on Saturday at 7 p.m., the Sounds for Liberia series will feature the music of Rickey Cole, August Rain and Scarlet Wool at The Church at The Well, 801 West Ave. in Cartersville. Concerts also will be held July 5 and Aug. 2, with the performers to be announced at a later date.
“We’ve been doing this for six years now and the community has always been very supportive,” said Daryl Roberts, founder of Orphan Aid, Liberia. “I think the people of Cartersville and Bartow County are just phenomenal people with big hearts and are generous folks. I’m very grateful for what they have done and what they’ll continue to do and hopefully we can grow this program as more people get involved.”
Spearheaded by Roberts, Orphan Aid, Liberia was established in 2008 through the Cartersville-based nonprofit Medical Missions Unlimited Inc. The Cartersville resident was inspired to improve the lives of orphaned children after initially meeting them on a 10-day mission trip to the village of Balama. Many of the 19-month- to 19-year-olds were still struggling to regain a sense of normalcy after witnessing the death of their parents during the country’s civil wars that ended in 2003.
Built by Orphan Aid, Liberia in 2010, the orphanage complex — two dormitories currently housing 126 youth and a school, which is situated on 10 acres of land purchased by the ministry — are a far cry from the children’s former living situation in Balama. The youths were residing in two mud houses that were open to the elements and sleeping at least three to a single bed fashioned out of wooden pallets and foam.
Funds raised through the Sounds for Liberia concert series will support the nonprofit’s deworming efforts and help kick off its Child Sponsorship Program, which also will assist youths residing in other orphanages located in eight Liberian counties.
“The proceeds are going towards our deworming program,” Roberts said. “We just finished deworming two weeks ago about 4,000 kids all over the country. The worms themselves are very harmful to the kids, because they don’t get a lot of nourishment anyway. The worms pretty much rob their bodies of what they do get and that causes a breakdown of skin and hair and their immune system. All of these kids, they contract malaria from time to time and their bodies are not as strong as they need to be to fight it off effectively. So it’s definitely a life and death issue for some kids.
“The sponsorship program provides funding for us to continue to deworm as well as provide school supplies for thousands of children and in addition to that it will allow us to be able to reach out to even more children to do the same. These kids go to school. They don’t have school supplies. So it’s very difficult for them to learn. They can’t take notes. They don’t have pens or pencils or paper. So it’s just basic school supplies that will make a difference in their learning as well as the deworming, because if they’re sick they’re not able to focus and it certainly affects their ability to learn.”
Along with financially assisting the organization, some supporters have seen Orphan Aid, Liberia’s work firsthand by participating in various construction-oriented trips. One of these individuals is Haley Benefield, a 22-year-old Cartersville resident who serves as the nonprofit’s child sponsorship coordinator.
“I have been able to go on three trips with Orphan Aid, Liberia and I believe that my response is the general consensus of everyone that travels with us: You just can’t come back the same,” Benefield said. “I was always hesitant to go on trips because I thought that you could do so much more by just sending the money, but I quickly realized that there is just something different about being there and holding a child that may have otherwise never been given a hug that entire year.
“People that go on these trips come back ready to transform their passion into action. Whether it be through concerts, cookouts or raffles, Orphan Aid supporters are ready to do what it takes to change the lives of these children, one by one.”
Tickets to Sounds for Liberia — $10 per person and $25 per family — can be purchased at the door. For more information about Orphan Aid, Liberia, visit www.orphanaidliberia.com or visit the organization’s Facebook page “Orphan Aid, Liberia.”