A Founder’s Journey – Meet Saiba Khasu Roberts

I remember growing up as little boy in Monrovia, attending theatre performances written, directed, produced and starred in by my father. My father James Emmanuel Roberts aka Kona Khasu ran the Blamandon Theatre Workshop. The purpose of the theatrical and television productions was to highlight the social and political inequalities in Liberia and also to help unite citizens from various tribes into viewing themselves as Liberians first and foremost. Today the work continues as Blamandon Center for the Arts (a/k/a BCA).

During the same time, I recall visiting many towns and villages with my mother, Catherine W. Khasu. She was always so concern about the welfare and education of people living in the various communities. I developed a strong passion for helping those less fortunate than I and impressing on them the value in having a solid education. The foundation of who I am today was laid during this period. I observed both of my parents putting the needs of others before their own.

As an adolescent boy in my neighborhood, The Weasay enclave of Sinkor-Fiamah, I would take my clothes and gave them to ‘less fortunate’ children. Set back from Tubman Boulevard, this working class neighborhood, was in the paved and lit central artery of Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa. My older Cousin Miatta would chastise me and I would say, but I have so many and they hardly have any.  And this was true: there were countless surrounding neighborhoods that had even less. As I matured I really began to understand the extent of the economical blight on the communities of greater Liberia.

About four years ago, I returned to work on a documentary project for children. We shot for about three weeks around Monrovia, Grand Cape Mount County and departed for Sierra Leone on a three week trip. The project was supposed to take us to dozens of countries around the world focusing on children literacy and culture, but by the end of the first week; the funders had become more “interested” in minerals and other investments opportunities there. This was not my intention.

I left the project and headed back to Liberia where I experienced the holidays for the first time since my own childhood. Those three weeks were very painful. So many children loitering around with no organized activities geared towards experiencing a truly healthy childhood. Staggering unemployment, food insecurity and variations on the realities of poverty had led many young women and men to engage in activities detrimental to themselves and their future.

On Christmas Day I walked through the Weasay neighborhood talking to children and getting to know them. So many children I ran into had only underwear on or an underwear with a t-shirt. I headed home, grabbed a duffel bag full of t-shirts, tank tops and handed them out. There was a family of 5 children aged from 2 through 8  that I met and I’ve gotten to know quite well. I returned to the states with a heavy heart, but determined to assist in whatever way I could.

I decided I would travel to Liberia every few months to organize a series of events that would revolve around education, recreational activity and environmental awareness. Due to the urgency of the matter, I decided to use my personal savings for funding the start-up of something more organized. I thought it was critical to start a campaign on education and to help expose the girls and boys to a variety of topics and career choices at an early age. After ten visits over the past three and a half years, I have enlisted 20 youths in  what has come to be our Seenajah Community Outreach Program.

My father’s best friend, Mr Jehu Richardson, a man of impeccable character and of the highest integrity has been an key advisor to me along with my parents. Over the past four years we have spent countless hours on a weekly basis, focused on how to best support education of youths in Liberia and create jobs for them in the future. I’ve also asked a great team of individuals to join us and I’m excited to see what we’ll get done in the years to come.

The Future of Liberia has become my greatest passion. I hope the efforts of my team and myself will evoke the needed change in Liberia, in the shortest time possible.

-SKR

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