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Inspired to Give Back

Social Workers United Collecting School Supplies for Children in Liberia
Four people sitting together showing school supplies they have collected

Members of the Social Workers United (SWU) student group from Falk College are collecting school supplies for children in Liberia. From left to right, SWU members Carina St. Andrews, Benetta Dousuah, Gideon Casper, and Mary Claytor.

The West African nation of Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Seven out of 10 children live in extreme poverty and the educational system has faced many challenges, including a lack of learning materials and school supplies.

Benetta Dousuah, a graduate student in the School of Social Work in the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics at Syracuse University, is well aware of the hardships experienced by Liberian families. Dousuah’s family escaped from Liberia during back-to-back civil wars that ravaged the nation between 1989 and 2003, and it took almost a decade at a refugee camp in Ghana before they could immigrate to the United States.

Dousuah is a member of the Social Workers United (SWU) student group from Falk College, and she asked the organization to help her with a drive to collect school supplies for children in Liberia.

“Donating school supplies to children in Liberia is an impactful gesture that resonates deeply with me,” Dousuah says. “As someone who fled Liberia during the civil war and found refuge in the United States, I understand firsthand the transformative power of access to education.”

The drive is underway through July 15, and SWU is asking for donations of school supplies: pens, pencils, paper, folders, binders, crayons, backpacks, glue, tape, calculators, sporting goods, and scissors. Donations can be dropped off in the School of Social Work Suite 244H in Falk College’s White Hall, or made through SWU’s Amazon Wishlist.

The enduring memories of U.S. Army soldiers providing humanitarian aid in her homeland influenced Dousuah’s decision to enlist in the military. She served as a U.S. Army unit supply specialist–a crucial role in the logistical backbone supporting the U.S. military’s global presence–and the units often play a vital role in humanitarian operations.

“My family’s journey from a refugee camp in Ghana to the United States was made possible by the generosity of others, inspiring me to give back,” Dousuah says. “The school supplies–which will be donated to Victory International Christian School System, Paynesville Harvest Christian Academy, and Pamela Kay High School–will directly enrich the educational experiences of countless children. These supplies, ranging from backpacks to writing materials, hold the potential to empower Liberian students and enhance their learning environments.”

Two people gathering school supplies to give out

Social Workers United students Carina St. Andrews (left) and Gideon Casper are asking members of the campus community to donate school supplies for children in Liberia. Donations can be dropped off in Suite 244H, White Hall, or made through this Amazon Wishlist.

Faculty and staff advisors Jennifer Genovese, Nadaya Brantley, and Kristin Esposito advise and support SWU students as they develop service projects, but the students lead the projects.

“Being involved in this donation drive is truly remarkable,” says SWU President Mary Claytor, a graduate assistant in the School of Social Work. “SWU is dedicated to fostering service projects aligned with students’ passions, and Benetta’s contribution exemplifies the limitless potential of our initiatives.”

This the third donation drive organized by SWU this year, following the Hendricks Chapel Food Pantry in the fall and Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital in the spring. It’s the first international drive facilitated by SWU.

“The students of Social Workers United continue to exemplify the core values of social work: service, social justice, human dignity, the importance of relationships, integrity, and competence,” says Genovese, social work associate teaching professor and Master of Social Work Program director. “These key values drive all social workers and can be seen in action in the students of Social Workers United.”

Genovese and Dousuah say it’ll take about three months for the school supplies to reach Liberia by boat, so they’ll be shipped by the end of July to ensure delivery during the school year.

“Personally, I plan to visit Liberia in December to distribute the supplies myself, allowing me to witness firsthand the impact of our collective contribution,” Dousuah says. “By supporting education in Liberia, we are investing in the future of these children and fostering global education equity.

“Together,” Dousuah adds, “we can make a difference in the lives of Liberian students, providing them with the tools they need to build brighter futures.”

U.S. News and World Report has ranked the Syracuse University School of Social Work among the “Best Schools of Social Work” in the country. To learn more about the School of Social Work’s academic programs, experiential learning, and career opportunities, visit the Falk College website.