On February 17, 2021, a story entitled “Liberia: 86-Year-Old Government’s Retiree Survives on Garbage Collection” appeared on the website of Liberia’s current most popular newspaper, FrontPage Africa, and online versions of other Liberian media institutions—Smart News, News Public Trust, and Global News Network (GNN)
The story was from a chat between this writer and the nonagenarian— James Weah, born in 1935—on February 12—who had worked as a “street sweeper” with a Liberian Government’s Agency—Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) over “ten years”, but was retired in 2001.
“I can go hustle—collect garbage from stores and people’s homes and throw away to get food money for me and my woman sitting over there. I was a street sweeper for the MCC over ten years, but they retired me because of my old age, but they haven’t paid my pension benefits over two years now. So, I’m collecting garbage around to survive,” the 86-year-old man had said during his first interaction with this writer.
He had provided genuine proofs of his claims against the Governments of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and George Manneh Weah.
Mr. Weah’s ‘plight’ shared on the World Wide Web, through FrontPage Africa and other Liberian media institutions, has attracted the attention of “Liberians Supporting Liberians Initiative (LISULI)”, a United States-based Liberian humanitarian organization headed by Mr. Michael Padmore.
“When we read Mr. Weah’s story on FrontPage Africa’s website, we were moved on empathy with his plight, and decided on lending a helping hand, so we went around appealing to individuals and organizations to help us help Mr. Weah,” LISULI’s official, Glendy Jane Junius, said, via the Organization’s Social Media page, to a relative of Mr. Weah’s 78-year-old wife, Elizabeth Weah, a day after the story appeared on FrontPage Africa’s website.
LISULI is in its “seventh month of existence,” Madam Junius added.
The Organization has fulfilled its promise of “help” to Mr. Weah.
The assistance is a seventy-five United States Dollar (US$75) per month for a 12-month period beginning from the month the story appeared on the web pages of Liberian media institutions.
But fifty U.S. Dollars (US$50) will be in uncooked food items, while the balance be in cash, LISUSL’s partner in Liberia, Mrs. Ne-Suah Beyan-Livingstone, told this writer via an on-phone discussion on February 23.
“The balance, twenty-five Dollars, will be for soups throughout the month, cash to be given to Mr. Weah,” added Mrs. Livingstone, who runs a humanitarian organization named Rescue for Abandoned & Children in Hardship (REACH). The Organization collects children abandoned in garbage dumpsites and other odd places by their parents or guardians, and provides cooked meals to a huge community of abandoned children in its Care Home. One of REACH’s partners is Cape Mesurado Lions Club of Lions Club International.
On February 25, Mrs. Beyan-Livingstone purchased the foods, and with help from this writer, located Mr. Weah’s one-room zinc house in West Point (a predominantly slum community) to make presentation on behalf of LISULI. The foods included two bags of 25 kilograms bags of imported rice, one gallon vegetable oil (20 liters), four gallons of locally produced palm oil (in five-liter gallon), two packs of 100-in-pack cooking cubes (Shrimp flavor), two packs of “Benny Brand” soup seasoning, and two bags of cooking coals (produced from wood chips)
“In Liberia, majority of people or organization don’t take care of the old people; in America and other Countries, people do that,” LISULI’s representative, Mrs. Beyan-Livingstone said to beneficiary Weah (standing with his wife) at the presentation ceremony witnessed by the couple’s neighbors and persons who were passing through the area.
“Mr. Weah, the people who sent the money tp me to buy these foods for you do not want you to go around again, to pick garbage just to survive. At your current age, you need to rest. This is why the organization in America has come in to support you with foods and soup money every month for twelve months, beginning from the month we are in,” LISULI’s representative added.
For his response, the 86-year-old man began with a song—done in his native dialect, Kru, of southeastern Liberia—done with a metal Tambourine he had brought from his room.
“I’m a choir director! God like singer!” the old man announced. “My song is entitled ‘Thank You’,” he added and started singing, smacking his musical instrument producing rhythmic sounds accompanying the voice.
“Thank you to the people in America who gave me food and money. You are my friend,” the old man said amidst the singing.
The old man’s wife sang along, clapping her hands as her ‘musical instruments’ since she didn’t have an artificial one.
After Mr. Weah’s musical gratitude, and LISULI’s representative suggested a closed-door meeting for presentation of the ‘soup money’, and she invited this writer to be a ‘witness’.
The interior of Mr. Weah’s room (measured less than eight meters in length and width) during LISULI’s gifts presentation confirmed his ‘extreme poverty level’: Cooking stoves (made from scrapped metal wreckages) and water containers (gallons and open rubber buckets) were half yards to the couple’s bed made from pads of clothes and cartons and being held over visible beach sand by sticks.
The heat in the room (with only one ventilation point—the doorway) was near to heat in a bakery.
“This money is for the soup for the whole month,” the LISULI’s representative said after releasing Bills of American currency to the 86-year-old Liberian on the Liberian Government’s pension line that had taken ‘unnecessary longer time’ to reach him and many others.