The civil war in Liberia has left thousands of children without parents, and a Baltimore group with ties to that violence-torn nation hopes to raise enough money to build an orphanage for youngsters there.
The effort begins today with several events at the Gaimei N.N. Woah-Tee Neighborhood Center on York Road, said J. Mamadee Woah-Tee, a Baltimore resident who last visited his native Liberia in 1995.
Woah-Tee, an organizer of today's fund-raising activities, said as many as 3,000 children could benefit from an orphanage in Bong County, Liberia. The facility, which he estimates would cost about $300,000, would also provide assistance to women, he said.
Local efforts to raise money for an orphanage coincide with President Bush's order yesterday for three U.S. warships to be stationed off the coast of Liberia to support the arrival of West African peacekeepers. Liberian government troops battled rebels this week for control of the port in the capital, Monrovia.
"In our efforts, we want to ask for immediate and future assistance from citizens around here and other parts of the country to help feed the children whose parents have been killed and who have no hope right now in Liberia," Woah-Tee said.
"The orphanage ... will take care of those children, provide [for] educational, health and other needs for them," he said. "It will also make an attempt to help women who have been traumatized and provide counseling services for them, and provide clothes for the women and children."
The fund-raiser at the neighborhood center will feature speakers, as well as food from Liberia, Jamaica and America. There will also be a rally, where future donations will be solicited and a prayer service held for those who have fallen victim to Liberia's war, Woah-Tee said.
The fund-raiser begins at 5 p.m. at the center, 4335-4339 York Road, and ends at 10 p.m. with an Independence Day Ball, Woah-Tee said. Attendees will be asked to contribute a minimum of $10, he said.
"Looking at the neighborhood we're in, we didn't want to say $200 and discourage people from coming," Woah-Tee said. "But if people want to give more than $10, we [will] certainly accept it."
Woah-Tee hopes people who attend the fund-raiser also will bring nonperishable food items that can be sent to Liberia.
"We have already sent 50, 100-pound bags of rice over there," he said.
The orphanage would be built on land donated by tribal chiefs, Woah-Tee said. If enough money is raised quickly, construction of the orphanage could begin as soon as next year, he said.
When Woah-Tee visited Liberia in 1995, he took clothing and medicine to refugee camps there and in Ghana and Nigeria, other West African countries. He said he longs for home.
"I definitely want to go back to help with the reconstruction of Liberia," Woah-Tee said. "But it's not safe."