By: John Dennis Weah, Jr.
The Jewel Starfish Foundation (JSF), yesterday January 16, 2019, dedicated its offices at the Jubilee Plaza in Congo Town, Monrovia. Gracing the occasion was the brain behind the foundation, Liberia’s Vice President, Chief Dr. Jewel Howard-Taylor, also former First Lady of Liberia, who said girls’ situation in Liberia was appalling with devastation. She was at the occasion along with visiting Nigerian prelate and philanthropist, Reverend Mother Esther Abimbola Ajayi.
VP Howard-Taylor’s dream about the foundation has finally come to fruition and is now on the move with the official opening of its offices intended to allow the foundation’s staff work as a team, to sit together and refine their strategic plan, plot their next steps….and achieve their lofty goal of changing lives, one person at a time.
The Jewel Starfish Foundation, with a motto, “Changing Lives and Making a Difference-One Girl at a Time” and the vision of serving as a spring board of opportunities to females, so that they will be given the proper tools to learn, grow, achieve and inspire others and has as part of the JSF’s mission to show by example, that if you educate females, you secure the future of the next generation with the goal to continue to provide opportunities for females and reduce the levels of inequality that persist at all levels and thereby reaching a 50-50 ratio.
Making remarks at the dedicatory ceremony, VP Howard-Taylor thanked her guest Rev. Mother Ajayi who offered prayers for the dedication of the offices for coming to Liberia. She said her dream for what is today known as the Jewel Starfish Foundation dated far back in 1997 upon her return to Liberia from abroad, during which time she served as First Lady of Liberia.
Madam Howard Taylor said that the situation surrounding girls was appalling with devastation and so she decided to think about what could be done to better the conditions of girls in the country and further explained that there have been other social and humanitarian works carried out by her in about five counties of Liberia, noting that plan for the extension of offices in the 15 political sub divisions of the country is underway.
The Reverend and philanthropist, Mother Ajayi in her remarks, commended Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor for her kind humanitarian gesture to have the foundation established “Honesty is something that we have to build and not when we become billionaire” stating that the character of giving starts from the little that is shared when one does not have, she noted.
Mother Ajayi who spoke briefly, highlighted the issue of ‘dishonesty’ which she indicated, has a trigger down effect in the unions of marriage and pointed out that deceitful character of not being honest is seen in some husbands who are in the habit of hiding their belongings or savings from their wives is wrong because sometimes when they died the wealth goes into waste.
In her opening statement, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Jewel Starfish Foundation, Madam Norwu Howard expressed great pleasure and extended to all, a warm welcome to the new home of the Jewel Starfish Foundation. “I especially would like to welcome our newest partner and friend, the Mother Teresa of Africa, Reverend Mother Esther Abimbola Ajayi, the General Overseer of the Love of Christ Generation C & S Church, headquartered in Clapham, London. We thank you for your partnership and commitment to philanthropy, and welcome you back to Liberia!”
The Foundation’s Board Chairman said, “Today is an exciting day for us at the Jewel Starfish Foundation, and this is, in many ways, a milestone moment. The opening of this office gives birth to one of our dreams, to have a place where the recipients of this Foundation, and others who feel threatened, can run to.
“This journey began many years ago, when our Founder, Madame Jewel Howard Taylor dreamed of making the world a better place for young girls and women. For those of you who are not aware, after the civil war, Madame Taylor created a safe place for young women to grow and thrive; some of which are college graduates with Master’s degrees today, and are major contributors to our society. Fast forward to 2019, she currently has over 1,500 girls in schools all over Liberia.
“This space is significant, because it allows us, as a team, to sit together and refine our strategic plan, plot our next steps….and achieve our lofty goal of changing lives, one person at a time. We believe that it is against this background, that communities will begin to change, around Liberia, and eventually, around the world.
“Please allow me to briefly introduce you all to the members of our team, all of whom are volunteering their services, to ensure the success of this Foundation” Madam Norwu Howard further indicated.
In conclusion, she quoted Proverbs 19:17 which states, if you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord, and He will repay you.
It can be recalled that last October, at the end of the International Sheroes Forum in Monrovia and Graced by former Malawian President, Dr. Joyce Banda, former Zimbabwean Vice President Dr. Joice Mujuru, and former Ghanaian First Lady Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings; Liberia’s Vice President, Chief Dr. Jewel Howard Taylor launched the Jewel Starfish Foundation at the Monrovia City Hall and admonished all to support the education of the underprivileged Liberian child.
The launching of the foundation was also witnessed by President George Manneh Weah and First Lady Clar Weah. VP Taylor described President Weah as a “Starfish picker” who continues to lift Liberian girls and educate them for better future.
Under the theme, “Changing Lives and Making a difference –One girl at the time,” Madam Taylor symbolically likens the Liberian girl to a starfish and “Let’s work to secure a better future for Liberia through investing in education, especially in women and girls.”
“A boy wakes up every morning, goes to the beach and throws a starfish back into the sea. I believe that every Liberian girl child is a starfish,” she said.
The former Liberian First Lady said if the Liberian girl is left alone, and not thrown back into the sea like the starfish, she would die, apparently restating the extent to which the underprivileged Liberian girl needs assistance.
“We want you all to join me as we throw them back in the sea as a means of lifting Liberian girls from the state of suffering and to educate them,” she pleaded, saying that the Liberian girls are fragile as a starfish that stands to die if no one throws it back to the sea.”
She noted that the Jewel Starfish Foundation seeks to provide scholarships for girls’ education and to cater to victims of gender-based violence across Liberia.
The Liberian Vice President told her audience at the launch that the Jewel Starfish Foundation will further strengthen her resolve and commitment to empower more girls across Liberia.