Give a man fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.
This is not just a proverb but a strategy to help people who need it most. This is what we strive to do at ROAD (Rose’s Organization for Advocacy and Development), a non-governmental organization dedicated to improving the lives of underprivileged and disabled Liberians through long-term solutions and the provision of opportunities.
Based in Liberia and the US, ROAD was co-founded by psychologist Benjamin Rose and educator Levi Gaye in 2014, both of whom are native Liberians and have witnessed the hardships of its people. After 14 years of civil unrest, the West African state finally held democratic elections in 2005 that led to the election of Africa’s first woman president and future Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Despite the turn to a more democratic government, though, a staggering 83 percent of Liberia’s population still falls below the international poverty line (from 2015 data from the World Food Program).
“Struggle is commonplace in Liberia,” said the team at ROAD. “What makes the challenges even more heartbreaking is that the adults’ problems directly impact the children.”
ROAD’s projects specifically seek to benefit underprivileged families with children, with the aim of bettering their chances at a better life than what their parents have had, and they have personally experienced. The organization’s support typically begins through the usual provision of funds for food and other necessities but is geared toward getting the children through school and eventually achieving self-sufficiency.
In addition to ROAD’s scholarship program, they also assist and raise funds for physically disabled parents. ROAD’s does this by providing for basic needs, as well as training these individuals in skills they can use to open their own small business and earn an adequate income for their families.
One such parent is James Sobue, who, as a child, was caught in a crossfire during the war that permanently paralyzed his legs. A father of three, James has had to choose whether to spend his day’s earnings on his daughters’ transportation to school or for their lunch. Now, he receives support from ROAD for setting up a shoe repair workshop from which he can earn a sufficient income long-term. “I do not want them to be at a disadvantage in life,” James said of his children. “I do not want them to join others in the streets and be abused by men and become a liability to society like myself.”
An estimated three million other Liberians still face hardships like what James did. Their children need not suffer the same fate and choose between food and education.
If ROAD had its way, they would have both.
Interested donors may find out more about ROAD’s projects and donate online via its website: https://rosesoad.org/.