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Anyone who has visited Monrovia's slum communities will not fail to be touched by the plight and sheer poverty of the people, who have so little and yet remain happy, content and smile as if they are blessed in abundance.
The children touched our hearts in a way that we will never forget. Their enthusiasm as they chased us from playground to a waiting vehicle, their constant smiles and excitement, their gratitude and joy at the smallest of surprises, and their curiosity as they took their gifts and inspected our Michael-related bags and clothes contributed to the most beautiful memories that will last a lifetime.
The first school we visited was the Billie Call Christian Institute, where sisters Praise and Joy study, their education afforded only because two kind-hearted MJL sponsors. The fact that it is called 'Billie' Call was not lost on our Michael-inspired hearts. It just added to our list of ever-increasing coincidences (the pastor heading up the project has a father called Joseph, and a daughter called Princess, and aside from his main church, he also pastors a church with 'Victory' in its title).
The children at the Billie Call Institute were positively delightful. We were fortunate in that we arrived while they were on recess, which means we were pretty much mobbed from the beginning of our visit, until the end, when we were chased from playground to waiting vehicle! So excited were they to see our cameras and to have their photos taken, that they would squeal with delight each time our cameras flashed, and they would huddle together in order to all get into a picture they might never see, for they are not familiar with owning anything, least of all the luxury of a photo. As we tried to show them the photos on our digital screens, we were pretty much surrounded by eager children, all so excited on seeing themselves in a picture. We had to hold our cameras tightly and numerous little excited hands pulled them this way and that.
Here are a few pictures of the school and the children who gave us not just precious photos, but special memories that we will cherish forever. Needless to say, I sent every photo we'd taken while there once I was back home, so that these beautiful children and this school that does such incredible work against the odds, would also have something to cherish.
ABOVE Praise and Joy, two young sisters being sponsored through MJL, show off their bags full of goodies, one of which was given to every sponsored child during this trip.
ABOVE: A young student is happy to pose for a photo and, right, the principal of the school.
ABOVE: The adorable children chase us from the playground to a waiting vehicle, into which we do a nosedive!
BELOW: The following photos are taken at another nearby school, again one which is attended by children supported by MJL sponsors.
ABOVE: Sponsored child Darine is greeted by the team in his classroom during school time.
BELOW: Sponsored child Frank, holds up a harmonica as he is greeted by the MJL team in his classroom.
BELOW: Little Frank is joined by his friends who all want to be in the picture, and (right), sponsored child Eric stands up as he is greeted by the team.
BELOW: Little Eric is grateful to be in school thanks to a supporter's sponsorship.
ABOVE RIGHT: Little Favor (sponsored by MJL's Karen) holds up his copy of 'Ever After', a beautiful children's book about Michael, written by Brenda Jenkyns and illustrated by our artist Mimi O'Garren.
ABOVE LEFT: This is the school's computer room. Full of old, broken computers. This doesn't stop the children from learning about computers however. When we visited, one classroom was full of children learning about how the mouse, monitor and keyboard interact...through diagrams on a chalkboard.
ABOVE LEFT: Little Olivia proudly holds her copy of 'Ever After'.
ABOVE: Alongside his classmates, Joe reads from his lesson book to us before showing off his copy of 'Ever After'.
ABOVE: This adorable little boy was brought to the front of his class to meet us. He is so small in comparison to his classmates, and this is because he is top boy at his school and is doing so well in every subject. Each child has so much potential once they get an education, and thanks to Michael's fans across the world, many children are getting just that.