Dayton nonprofit helping Liberians survive coronavirus
A family in Liberia receives a donation of rice from the Library for Africa coordinator amid the coronavirus pandemic.
By Sarah Franks
Staff Writer
When someone has a heart like Veleta Jenkins, all it takes is one chance meeting to start changing the world.

In 2017, Jenkins was a reading and English teacher at Dayton Jobs Corp. when she had a student named Darius Ricks in her class. Ricks, from Liberia, one day asked Jenkins if he could take a box of old teacher manuals and encyclopedias that were meant for the trash to send back to his hometown in Africa.

“He said he worked a parttime job and he and his mom would save up their extra money, they would go into thrift stores and flea markets to catch things on sale and they would send it back to Liberia to a school that was struggling,” Jenkins said. “So I asked him one simple question, ‘How can I help?’ And that’s why we’re here today.”

In 2019, Jenkins quit her job as a teacher to co-found the Library for Africa organization with Ricks and work full-time to raise enough money to build a public library there. That mission has needed to take a backseat because of the spread of COVID-19 into Liberia.

“We are still raising money to get this library built but since the virus hit, we are shifting our focus just temporarily,”

Jenkins said. “At this moment, I can’t talk about building a library when people are literally starving.”

Much of Ricks’ family still lives in Liberia in communities where the average person makes $1.75 a day, according to Jenkins. When Ricks told Jenkins the virus had reached Liberia, she knew what it meant for the already struggling country where Ricks once watched his loved ones live through the Ebola epidemic.

“Liberia is on lockdown from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” Jenkins said. “Everyone has to be in the house by 3 p.m. If they’re not in the house they will be dealt with. Number one, you’re poor as it as, and number two, you can’t even go out and make the little bit of money that you were making.”

For the past three weeks, Library for Africa has had its regional coordinator in Liberia distribute rice, hand sanitizer, bleach and cleaning supplies to small towns especially at risk. A donation of $10 to Library for Africa can feed one Liberian family for one week.

People can help communities in Liberia survive the coronavirus pandemic by donating locally through Library for Africa’s website at

As it is extremely expensive to ship the supplies to Africa, Jenkins is asking people to only make monetary donations.

“I know we’re just making a tiny impact,” Jenkins said. “But hopefully it will prompt other people to say, ‘OK, so now what can I do?’ If everybody has that attitude, what would it be like if thousands of people said, ‘What can I do to help?’ We would impact a greater amount of people.”

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