Above: Dr. Barbara Burke, Co-founder Restore Hope: Liberia with a child in Kolahun
RESTORE HOPE: LIBERIA – From humble beginnings to big impact.
MARGARET GIERATHS-NIMENE, PROGRAM DIRECTOR AND DR. BOB RUFSVOLD, CO-FOUNDER
Our journey started in 2013 when Dr. Bob Rufsvold, a family physician from New Hampshire, and Dr. Barbara Burke, an emergency physician from Alabama, joined forces. Both had served with the International Rescue Committee as medical director of the Kolahun District Hospital —Barbara in 2007 and Bob in 2008.
Then the Ebola epidemic hit in 2014.
This would be the largest and most deadly Ebola outbreak in history.
This outbreak caused the collapse of Liberia’s health systems and near-total economic collapse. Schools were closed.
At least 8,000 children had lost at least one parent to Ebola.
Bob and Barbara took action. They established an official
partnership with Kolahun officials. Together with Dr. David
Okiror, a Ugandan physician, they founded RESTORE HOPE:
LIBERIA, funding it with their own money.
Bob, Barbara and David had to act decisively with whatever
resources they could muster. Kolahun faced monumental
problems - hunger, substandard housing, lack of safe water
and sanitation, the stigma of Ebola, no school, and growing
exploitation and sexual violence. Mass rape had been used as
a tool of war. The result: 75% of women had been raped. The
sexual violence against women, girls and boys continued after
the end of the civil war.
In early 2015, with input from local officials 75 especially
vulnerable children aged 2 to 18 were identified. For these
children, RESTORE HOPE: LIBERIA put in place a structure of
support of health care and education.
RESTORE HOPE: LIBERIA had taken the first steps to improving Kolahun.
Now with your help, we will continue to save and educate lives – and now provide economic opportunity to them, as well.
The first year’s results were promising: 100% of the 75 enrolled children were still in school, and 95% had done well enough to be promoted to the next grade. These statistics contrast dramatically with Liberia's nationwide primary school net enrollment rate of 44%.