One Bronx-based pastor has organized a massive project to aid residents of Liberia who are trying to contain the Ebola virus while dealing with food insecurity.
Rev. Dr. J. Albert Bush of the Walker Memorial Baptist Church is leading the aid project through his missionary organization So Send I You, which plans to send six or seven shipping containers full of food and medical supplies throughout the coming months.
Bush learned of the dire need for food from his contacts at churches in Liberia, a country that suffered from sky-high unemployment rates before it was hit with the Ebola crisis.
While the need for medical supplies in villages throughout the afflicted West African countries is well documented, the issue of hunger has not been addressed by the media, said Bush.
“If it were not for our contacts we would not have heard about it,” he said.
Bush developed relationships with church leaders on the ground throughout the world when he previously worked as executive secretary of the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
“They are people we know very well,” Bush said about those
who will be receiving the shipping containers.
The goods collected and purchased through the project will be sent to the Providence Baptist Church in Monrovia, Liberia, where the church leaders will divide and distribute the food and supplies to villages in the area.
Bush has enlisted the help of the Empire State Baptist Convention, an organization of more than 300 churches across the state, in order to collect goods and donations for the cause.
The first week of December, a truck from the organization visited collection points throughout the state and delivered items to Walker Memorial, where they were packed up to be shipped out later in the week.
Donations have also started to flood in from throughout the state and beyond for So Send I You to purchase food and supplies in bulk.
A little money can go a long way to provide non-perishable food, said Bush. For example: $11.08 buys 20 lbs. of rice, $25.50 buys 50 lbs. of pinto beans, $42.32 buys a case of peanut butter.
While the bulk of the space in the 40-foot shipping containers will be filled with food, the organization is also collecting, purchasing and sending medical supplies to help combat the Ebola crisis.
These include gowns and masks, but also bleach to sanitize and energy drinks to rehydrate patients.
“The kind of stuff they’ll fight the disease with,” he said.
The first shipping container is scheduled to be sent around December 6, and it should arrive in Liberia around the New Year. Bush wants to send six more, staggering their arrival every three or four weeks for the coming months.
“The need is so great,” Bush said about the situation in Liberia. “I’m certain what we’re doing is a drop in the bucket.”
One local elected official was inspired when she heard about what Bush was trying to accomplish. Assemblywoman-elect Latoya Joyner of the 77th Assembly District has been trying to raise awareness of the project at Walker Memorial, and is encouraging people in the Bronx to contribute.
“With the outbreak of Ebola and its diminishing effect on the food supply, I wanted to help in a meaningful way because this directly hits home for a large number of my district’s residents; many families are either from, or have loved ones or friends still living in Liberia,” she said. “While many of us are not on the front lines assisting with medical relief, the community can take steps to alleviate the hunger crisis.”
To learn more about the project or how to donate, call the Walker Memorial Baptist Church at (718) 588-4262.