by Stefan Lako, Programs Director

I often find myself contemplating this quote from Walt Disney, “If you can dream it, you can do it”.  It is a curious statement, one that I hope is correct, but often struggle to fully believe.

At Orphan Relief and Rescue we dream of a future where children are safe from the dangers of abuse, trafficking, and neglect. We dream of hope and prosperity, peace and joy.  I long for these dreams to be actualized, and it is for this very reason that we exist.  We realize dreaming isn’t enough – we need actionable, sustainable, and effective strategies to help create this reality.  This is precisely why we implemented the Break The Silence program; to empower children through equipping them with knowledge and tools to stay safe and get help if needed, all while instilling a sense that they are truly valuable.

Last month, our Liberian Country Director, Stephen Pasinski, gave me an update in regards to the National Anti-Trafficking and Abuse Hotline. The Hotline is exclusively funded by Orphan Relief and Rescue, and staffed by the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Gender, whose employees are trained by ORR. I found this report both encouraging and tragic at the same time.

“A call was placed by a concerned “old ma” in the community. It was her first time calling the hotline that she had heard about through a presentation given at her daughter’s school by our staff members. She called the hotline to report that a 13-year-old girl had been gang raped in her community. (We’ll call the girl Hilda.) The Hotline operators remained calm and assured her they would help. Following their training, they immediately got a hold of the Liberia National Police Chief Investigator for Women and Child Protection Services, and he followed up the case by contacting their local commander. The hotline operators arranged for the local police chief to meet with Hilda to take her testimony, and as she identified the names of her attackers the search began. As the police began mobilizing, the operator connected Hilda with a One Stop Center (clinics specifically designed to handle rape cases). Here, she was met with medical professionals and social workers to take care of her physical and emotional needs. It has been one month since her report and her attackers have still not been found. This may not be the justice we seek; this is not the ending we are looking for, but it is a step in the right direction.”

This truly cuts to the core – it sends me reeling in so many directions. The atrocities and lack of justice that Hilda experienced leave me outraged, but also with a sense of gratitude for the care she received through contacting the hotline.  Stephen explains why the hotline is so important.

“In Liberia, there is no 911.  Every police station has their own non-standardized phone number, of which most are not known by the general public or even the police themselves. The hotline provides one number to call, in which responders act, to help those who are hurt by the worst that society has to offer. The hotline encouraged Hilda to speak up and connected her to available resources. This has empowered her to take the first steps towards recovering from this awful event.”

Actualizing dreams can take tremendous time and energy, but I strongly believe with determination, strategy, and collaboration, it can be done.  Thank you so much for supporting ORR in our efforts to bring justice and freedom to the children in Benin and Liberia, we could not do this without your help.

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