During the spring of 2014, Sierra Leone was hit with the worst Ebola epidemic in history. Public gatherings were prohibited, schools were closed, and the country lost 3,956 lives.
Due to the threat of infection, students were out of school from May 2015 to August 2016, and relied solely on government radio classes to continue their education. The closures also banned local community groups and activities, including the much beloved Girls Club.
Girls Club was created by Beautiful World, a Toronto-based non-profit that focuses on providing post-secondary scholarships to women in Uganda, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone. The organization implemented Girls Club in Sierra Leone to give additional support to scholarship recipients. Girls Club included mentoring sessions, career workshops, health classes, artisanal training, and sporting activities.
The Ebola crisis devastated communities, but by April 2016 Sierra Leone was officially declared Ebola-free. This status brought with it the reopening of schools and the reinstatement of public activities.
With the ban on public gatherings lifted, Girls Club also recommenced. Despite having been in isolation and quarantine since the outbreak, the attendance at the first Girls Club meeting was outstanding. Students had greatly missed being among their peers and taking part in their favourite activities. They were given the opportunity to voice their concerns over the education system and discuss their lives since the outbreak. Students also took part in handicrafts and weaving in the courtyard, while others competed in sporting events.
The increased interest in Girls Club has led to greater demand for Beautiful World scholarships. The organization depends on generous donations to continue running programs like Girls Club and to increase the number of scholarships granted to students.