As a mother of two, I know all parents want the best for their children which includes an education. For millions of children in Sierra Leone and Liberia, the Ebola outbreak has put their education and their futures on hold.
Fifteen-year-old Mada Karimu has not been to his school since it closed on July 18th. But he's still learning. All he needs is a notebook and a small radio, on which he listens to classes each day.
More than 5,000 people have died in the worst Ebola outbreak the world has ever seen and more cases are confirmed each day. Tragically, Ebola's devastation does not end there. In Sierra Leone and Liberia, the countries hardest hit, whatever progress was made after years of brutal civil war has largely disintegrated.
Education -- the backbone of these countries' futures -- is not immune to Ebola's insidious reach. Schools across Liberia and Sierra Leone were forced to close their doors indefinitely, leaving Mada and three million other children unsure of when they will be able to go back, if ever.
This year I became the Global Ambassador of Concern Worldwide, an organization that for nearly five decades has been helping communities in 25 of the poorest and most volatile countries in the world to break the cycle of extreme poverty. Sierra Leone and Liberia are no exception. Concern has worked in those countries since the 1990s when they were both embroiled in civil wars. Today, Concern is doing whatever it takes to stop the spread of the disease, from managing the safe burial of bodies to educating people on how Ebola is contracted.
Concern is also helping children like Mada continue their education despite the outbreak. With schools shuttered, Concern is working with the governments in both countries to expand, improve, and deliver lessons by radio by bringing the classroom straight to children's homes. We are also training teachers and community members who will work with small groups of children, focusing on basic reading and math skills, and are getting books, stationery, and other learning materials out to families.
For these children, many of whom have lost family and friends to Ebola, the impact of having books to read and classes to tune into every day is even deeper than their education. It creates a sense of normalcy and stability when everything else seems uncertain.
Tuesday, December 2 is #GivingTuesday, the only day dedicated to giving back, and we hope you'll join us to reach as many kids as we can with tools to keep them learning.
Mada's favorite subject is science which he hopes to study at university someday. His dream is to one day be president of Sierra Leone. Together, we can make sure Ebola does not rob him and others of the future they envisioned before the outbreak.
Concern Worldwide is an international non-governmental organization dedicated to reducing extreme poverty through emergency response, recovery and development programs. For information, please visit concernusa.org or follow us on Twitter (@Concern). To join Toni Collette and help keep kids in Sierra Leone and Liberia learning, please visit here.
This post is part of a series produced in celebration of #GivingTuesday, which will take place this year (2014) on December 2. The idea behind #GivingTuesday is to kickoff the holiday-giving season, in the same way that Black Friday and Cyber Monday kickoff the holiday-shopping season. The Huffington Post will feature posts on #GivingTuesday all month in November. To see all the posts in the series, visit here; follow the conversation via #GivingTuesday and learn more here.