The arrival of COVID-19 and its effects on the global economy has placed tremendous obstacles in the path of SMK’s endeavors. However, the SMK team has valuable experience, having survived the Ebola crisis in 2014. The lessons learned during that event were used again to protect the safety and well-being of the children and our staff in Liberia. As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded in March of 2020, Executive Director, Quanuquanei Karmue, Project Coordinator, Tyler Papula, and two Witness Experience travelers, Urs and Ursula Baumann arrived in Liberia only to find that they were unable to leave due to the closure of the country’s airport. In addition, the arrival of the coronavirus caused the supply of rice imported from China and India to be interrupted, creating a severe national shortage of this staple food. Suddenly, the team’s highest priorities were to keep everyone safe from the coronavirus, and to provide food for our children, staff, and their families. The CCH Orphanage family was relocated from the busy city of Gbarnga to the safety of the countryside village of Garmu, Bong County. There, amid Liberia’s dense forests and vast swamplands, Q and the team turned their attention to the goal of feeding the SMK community. Thus, the Agricultural Impact Project was born.
The Agricultural Impact project was designed to feed the community, while also keeping the CCH children inspired and hopeful during a difficult time. This endeavor also produced opportunities for SMK youth to explore vocations in agriculture. The SMK team realized they needed to create more than a solution to the food shortage, it was important to inspire the young people to turn a crisis into an opportunity and create solutions for their own communities. The Agricultural Impact Program produces both results by ensuring sustainable food production and vocational opportunities. The initiative provides a hands-on “playground” for local young adults to engage in a range of professional practices, including project planning, team management, and budgeting. As a result of hard work and the expertise of the farm team, we anticipate a successful harvest of rice and produce that will provide food for the school and the surrounding community by the end of 2020.