THE ARC MERCER, MERCER COUNTY’S PREMIER BEHAVIORAL HEALTH/ HUMAN SERVICES AGENCY UNVEILED PLANS TO HELP THE PEOPLE OF LIBERIA
Philadelphia, PA (8/8/2022)- What could very well be termed, “A Dream Comes True” for the citizens of the war ravished nation of Liberia was recently witnessed by hundreds of celebrants during the country’s Independence Day celebration that took place in Ewing, NJ, at the headquarters of The ARC MERCER, Mercer County’s leading organization that has provided psychosocial, medical, and educational supports/ resources to countless of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities for over seventy years. At a well-attended occasion, graced by dignitaries, professionals, and a host of Liberians and friends, the Executive Director/ CEO of THE ARC MERCER, Mr. Steve Cook unveiled his plans to help Liberians with intellectual and developmental disabilities achieve the fullest potentials. As a leader and CEO with a proven track of excellence, Steve committed to partnering with the government of Liberia to embark on a mutual capacity building project in Liberia. According to the CEO, Mr. Steve Cook, who was also described as, “Mr. Talk N Do,” the proposed partnership initiative—LIBERIA- ARC, signifies the ARC MERCER’s appreciation to all of our Liberian staff here at ARC MERCER. Accordingly, Mr. Cook thanked Liberians working at ARC MERCER for their hard-work and passionate services provided to the Consumers of ARC MERCER. Further, Mr. Cook stated that, “This is one way I want to express my fervent appreciation for all you continue to do by creating Liberia-ARC.”
On behalf of the Republic of Liberia, Hon. R. Thomson of the Liberian Diplomatic Mission in the United States, and Hon. D. Zoegar Wilson, Minister of Youth and Sports, welcomed and applauded the hardworking CEO of ARC MERCER, Mr. Steve Cook, who was also honored during the event by the Liberian Community for his service to the Liberian Community. Also, during a Ceremony in celebration of Liberian Independence Day, Liberian officials shared that, “…this partnership will enhance the quality of life for Liberian people with developmental disabilities, and their families.”
The Arc Mercer has a long history of embracing its diverse workforce, to include the formation of the employee-based “Liberian Community Connection Group.” This group inspired the initiative to recruit staff directly from Liberia to train in New Jersey and build skills to return with to Liberia.
Mayor Reed Gusciora of Trenton celebrated this project as “a wonderful companion to the plans to form a Sister City relationship between Monrovia in Liberia and the city of Trenton”.
The Consul General’s office for the Republic of Liberia shared the belief that “staff trained through a visa program would learn great skills, and would have an infrastructure to put them to use once back home in Liberia”
Arc Mercer, at Tuesday’s ceremony, committed to partnering with the government of Liberia to embark on a mutual capacity building project in Liberia. “Individuals, in Liberia, with disabilities face a lack of resources and infrastructure to help them integrate with their community” said Steven Cook, Executive Director of The Arc Mercer, “We recognized an opportunity to bring our standard of excellence to the people of Liberia to help these people live fuller lives, while demonstrating our commitment to our Liberian Arc Mercer staff, that we share their vision of a better Liberia for their loved ones.”
The Arc Mercer joined with Peter Berns, CEO of the Arc of the United States to announce this initiative. Mr. Berns shared that “this would be the first international chapter of the Arc and could serve as a model for more international proliferation in the future.” Mr. Berns added, “Arc Mercer could be poised to have a significantly positive impact on the supports people with Intellectual and developmental disabilities receive in many areas in need of advocacy and supports, and we are proud to support this effort.”
Clearly, it is barely disputable that in addition to much financial help, this small west African country, yet Africa’s oldest independent nation with enormous ties to the United States, stands in desperate need of professional support/ resources, particularly, in areas of psychosocial-mental and behavioral health services. Liberia, as many are aware, was pulverized by civil wars between 1989 and 2003, and sadly, such wars have obliterated as much as 90% of the economy —causing significant mental and behavioral health challenges. Today, data revealed that despite a wealth of natural resources, including rubbers, timbers, golds, and diamonds, Liberia remains the world’s fourth- or fifth-poorest country, and one of few countries with copious medical and behavioral health needs. However, despite such growing and alarming needs, overpowering the cultural perceptions of most Liberians, chiefly indigenous Liberians seems to emerge as a fundamental task. Even in the cities and a few colleges across Liberia, three-quarters of people are of the belief that mental health challenges are associated with demons and rituals. “Overcoming this cultural myth remains a key challenge for all of us,” remarked Dr. Wilhemina S. Jallah, Liberia’s Health and Social Welfare Minister. In closing, during an interview with ANA- James O. Frank, Dr. Jallah stated that, “Although there would be a few challenges, we are happy to hear that help is finally coming…we have been looking forward to this day as it is the first time we will have this kind of direct help in this part of the world for people with behavioral needs. We know that this will be a blessing to us…”