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UNDP, partners fete West Point kids

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Christmas came early to West Point, where hundreds of children were thrown a big party courtesy of staff from UNDP, UN agencies and NGOs in Liberia and around the world on Wednesday, December 24, 2014.

According to a press release, the Local NGO Department of Children and Families (DCF) organized fourteen parties around Montserrado, the area that was hardest hit by the Ebola virus disease (EVD), targeting children who have lost one or both parents to Ebola. Victor Faiyah, the founder of DCF, developed the idea after seeing how children were suffering in West Point and other communities.

“The whole community is suffering – people have gone months without an income and they’re trying to cope with the loss of their loved ones,” he said.

“The children who have lost their parents are suffering from grief, and for many it’s a struggle to survive on their own.” “At DCF we didn’t want these children to spend Christmas thinking about what they’ve gone through. It should be a happy day. The UN and NGO staff has been so supportive in making this happen.” Abraham Massaley, 14, lost both parents to Ebola, and now lives with relatives. He said that it was great to celebrate Christmas with all his friends from the community.

“It’s been hard since my parents died, and some of my friends also lost their parents. We are happy that we can still celebrate Christmas today,” he said. Arefina Davies’ sister died leaving three children behind. She’s taken them in, but says it’s hard to support them.

“I love the children, they’re smart, and they’re great. But it’s a struggle – I’m alone and my income is very low. It’s nice for the children to have Christmas lunch here today because I wouldn’t be able to provide all these nice things myself!” Staff from UNDP in Liberia, New York, Belarus and Turkey, as well as staff from the UN mission in Liberia, the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, World Food Program, International Federation of the Red Cross and the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency all contributed funds, along with individuals’ donations from around the world, in order to provide lunch, drinks, presents and entertainment for thousands of children.

Two parties were held on Christmas Eve, followed by twelve on Christmas Day. Each child had special lunch of rice, chicken, popcorn, juice and biscuits, as well as small toys. They danced to Christmas carols, competed in sack races and ‘lime and spoon’ races, and were inspired by Liberia’s international film star Frank Artus.

Frank said, he was glad to be part of an event that put smiles on the faces of children who have been made orphan by the deadly Ebola virus disease. “I want to tell the children of West Point not to lose hope because life is not about where you come from…but how hard you work to break from your past for a brighter and better future…” Artus challenged.

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