CINCINNATI, Ohio — A former teacher and her former student in Ohio are working together to send protective coronavirus gear to Africa. The idea stemmed from an effort to give students there an opportunity.

What You Need To Know

  • The pair started a book drive to give Liberians an opportunity to read

  • Their mission shifted after coronavirus hit and they're now sending food and supplies

  • They hope to eventually get back to raising money to build a library in Africa

Darius Ricks came to the U.S., to Cincinnati, from Liberia, Africa. That’s more than 5,000 miles away he traveled to get something he says doesn’t come easy where he’s from— a chance to read.

“Since I was born in Liberia I know no place called library, I’ve never seen a popular library in Liberia all my life,” said Ricks. 

He started off learning English when he got here, but when he met his teacher Veleta Jenkins, he was shocked when he saw what she was about to do.

“He was helping me to put our school library together, some books on the shelves and I asked him to throw away some books,” said Jenkins.

“It pains me to see myself getting rid of books that I know that can be used in my country,” said Ricks.

Then, they say one question would change everything.

“She asked me one question, ‘how can I help?,’ said Ricks.

“That how can I help. One question led us here,” said Jenkins.

The pair would team up to help build a library for struggling schools in Liberia. They started a book drive for donations and planned to start the build in Africa this summer. But then the coronavirus hit.

“The people that we support asked us, you know, we need food right now, we need food,” said Jenkins.

The need changed, and so did their mission to help. Instead of a library, the donations started going to food to help feed families in Liberia.

“We come up with 600 bags of rice, and the 600 bags of rice we give out every weekend,” said Ricks.

He says they’ve been doing that since the pandemic started. They’ve been getting food, supplies to these families in the villages.

“We have a regional coordinator in Liberia and we send the fund from the donations we receive over to Liberia, our volunteers purchase the rice, hand sanitizer, bleach and now we’re doing face masks,” said Jenkins.

The team says they plan to keep doing it as long as there’s a need.

But when things start winding down from the coronavirus, Darius and Ms. Jenkins hope to start back where they left off— building a library for Libera.

“I’ll always believe that we have to make a change,” said Ricks.