“They call her ‘Miracle Ammie,’ ” says Pastor George Everett, holding up a photo of a big-eyed girl in braids and a stretched out T-shirt. “This is one of the kids that I am taking care of.”
We’re sitting in the office of Transcontinental Christian Ministries, a small congregation of Liberian Americans based in an office park in Kent where he works. He’s describing to me how Ammie was orphaned in last year’s Ebola outbreak.
“She was just lying on her mom with her mouth on the breast when her mom died. … They took her from there and gave her to someone to take care of.”
He explains she’s a “miracle” because she never contracted the virus herself.
Ammie is a reminder that the disease, and its impacts, have lingered long after the news coverage moved on.
She’s one of 16,600 children who have lost one or both parents to the outbreaks of Ebola in West Africa last year. Everett is hoping to support 104 of those orphans in Liberia with a new orphanage, built with help from funders in the Pacific Northwest.
“In April of 2015, I went to Monrovia. … I went to do assessment on the condition of the kids,” says Everett, who himself is from Monrovia and came to our region as a refugee of Liberia’s civil war in the early 2000s. “We had heard that there are so many orphans all over, so we wanted to see their conditions and what we could do for them.”
But Everett’s commitment to giving back to his country began long before April. Last year I wrote about how Everett helped to send ambulances to Liberia. Since then, Transcontinental ministries has raised funds to send four shipping containers’ worth of medical supplies to the country.
But the trip in April inspired Everett to do more.
He describes the circumstances of more than 100 orphans there that he met and spoke with as “pathetic.” Many are living off the generosity of distant family or community members, who themselves are resource-stretched.
Since the trip, he’s been raising money, with aid from Mercer Island Presbyterian Church, to help cover the children’s expenses. But he and other volunteers are now thinking of longer-term solutions.
“We want $333,000 to build an orphanage,” says Harris Kannare, a volunteer with Transcontinental Christian Ministries. Kannare has experience with projects like this. He worked in community development and the nonprofit sector in Liberia before the country’s civil war. He even helped establish a school for children in the refugee camp where he lived in Ghana while awaiting resettlement to the United States.
“They will have a place for boys and a place for girls, a computer lab. They will have a reading room. … They will have a couple of teachers to help them with an after-school program,” says Kannare, describing the vision of the finished orphanage. “All of that will be right there.”
The first step toward this ambitious goal is an upcoming benefit concert, “After Ebola: Bringing Hope to Life,” scheduled for Dec. 12 at the Carco Theatre in Renton. The concert will be performed by “Trio Guadalevín,” a group of local musicians with backgrounds in international music. With the discovery of three new cases of Ebola in Liberia this week, the cause is particularly urgent.
“We bring together music from Andalusia, Spain, and the New World, Mexico and points south and influences along the way from Africa,” says musician August Denhard, who approached Everett when he heard of his work with Ebola victims and asked to help. “The idea of this trio is to bring as many pieces of music together and present them in the spirit intended, which is to unify people.”
Everett and Kannare agree that spirit of unity will be carried into the vision of the finished orphanage. They hope it will regularly host teachers from around the world. It’s a model Kannare used in the refugee school he helped build.
And they’re especially excited to recruit volunteers from the Pacific Northwest.