This is her story.
From the Slums of Wood Camp, Paynesville to a Harvard Graduate!
At a very young age, I developed a deep passion for maternal health and its role in community development. An inspiration I received from my mother who is a certified midwife and became the de facto doctor for thousands of families as hospitals were non – existent during the war. I grew up in a home that was often turned into a theatre for the safe delivery of babies and provision of maternal and infant care.
When I accepted the advice from a good friend to apply to Harvard, I was laughed off by everyone I reached out to for help. Some felt I was too poor and did not have the necessary connections, while others who have always believed in me thought I was aiming too high beyond my means.
I began to question myself, on what grounds would Harvard even grant me admission? Nevertheless, I applied because of my conviction that everyone regardless of status or class should have access to quality education, and Harvard stands out among equals when it comes to providing the type of world class education and training that I could only experience watching movies. However, my greatest motivation was the quest to inspire young girls in my slum community of Redlight, Gobachop Market, Barclays mission, who like me were always reminded that we were not good enough to aspire for more. Despite all the challenges, questions in my mind and everything I was told, here we are today, I am a super proud Harvard graduate with a Master of Medical Science in Global Health and Social medicine.
But forget about how I feel for a moment and think about the reaction on the faces of young girls and market women in my community when I return to celebrate this victory with them. I am honored that my story will be a reference for them and many young women around the world who have been told repeatedly that they are not as good as their male counterparts to aspire for the best or that their dreams and aspirations should be limited by their socio-economic status. Today, I want to dedicate this achievement to every girl around the world especially in Liberia, who have been subjected to poverty and abuse, told that they are no good to pursue higher education. If nothing will, please allow my journey to serve as a reference that you can become a champion of possibilities and not a mere victim of your circumstances. Succeeding at Harvard became my topmost priority not because of the prestige, rather, it presented me with a powerful catalyst to accomplish my mission of motivating girls in Liberia to always aim for the best.
Thanks to my friend Katie, for introducing me to the wonderful family at the department of Global health and Social Medicine. Thank you to those who provided scholarship funding: Rhonda Stryker and William Johnston, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) , for affording me such a scholarship opportunity that was out of the realm of reality for my family.
To the faculty of this department, I want to say thanks for all the support in making my journey such an incredible success. Christina Lively Thompson and Bailey Merlin, I cannot imagine what this program would have been without you, thank you for all the support and for going the extra mile to baby sit my son when I had no one to take care of him while attending classes.
Thanks to Dr. Paul Farmer and Joia for looking beyond themselves and empowering grass roots advocates to change the narratives in places like Liberia where many people like me have lost their voices. To my wonderful thesis committee at Harvard and in Liberia, Carole Mitnick, Arlene Katz, Jafet Arrieta, Benjamin Mator Freeman Jr., Cynthia Kallon – Nagbe: thank you for putting in the extra hours to ensure my project was meaningful and impactful. And to the women and midwives of Bong county and Montserrado who were willing to share their experiences with me, I say thank you!
To my mother MA .V, as we affectionately call you, I want to say thank you mama for your prayers, support and words of encouragement; to my brother and his fiancée, I want to say thanks for putting the pieces together in the background resulting to the beautiful scenes created all along this journey. To the most understanding and intelligent son Joel Rudolph Dennis, thank you for adapting so fast to a totally different lifestyle and been that humble and understanding son during the time I have been in school and away from you.
Georgia and Terry Winson, thanks for the all the help and support that words cannot describe, Mark John Stewart, thank you for always being there when called upon. To my friend G Ursuline Togbah turned big sister, thanks to you and your wonderful husband for being there always.
And to my wonderful “family at heart”, my classmates, you were the best part of my experience at Harvard. Thanks for all your feedback and support, I appreciate you all. For those of you who supported me along the way that I could not mention, I want to say thank you as well.
Yes it’s the end of another beautiful journey, and the beginning of making bigger impact in the lives of women and girls in Liberia and around the world.
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
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