The three teenagers traveled to Philadelphia earlier this year to begin intensive physical therapy at Shriners Hospital through a partnership with Global Medical Relief Fund. Amie, age 17, lost both of her legs last year after being hit by a car. Abigail, 15, and Cecelia, 13, each lost one leg when they were younger after infections in their feet went to the bone. While at Shriners, they are learning to use their new prosthetic legs. “We are trying to get better every day,” says Cecilia.
After hours of daily therapy, the girls return to the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House at Front & Erie where they are staying for the duration of their treatment. The House has helped the girls and their families feel welcome and adjust to being in an unfamiliar place thousands of miles away from their home in West Africa.
“When we came, the way people embraced us, we felt like this place was our home,” says Abigail’s aunt Joanna, who is also acting as Cecelia’s guardian while in the United States. “They take good care of us. I feel good living at the Ronald McDonald House with the kids.”
Amie, who is staying here with her mother Taywah, agrees. “I love everything about the Ronald McDonald House.” she says. She explains that the staff, especially Social Worker Tara Duffy, are key to her positive experience at the House. “Tara is so nice. She welcomed us. She said, ‘If you want anything, you come to the front desk. I will be there for you.’ I love her. Everybody loves Tara.”
Tara has also been a source of support to Joanna. “She encourages you,” she says. “She helps you feel relaxed and that there is a place for every one of us here. “Johanna especially appreciates the little touches that make a big difference when you are so far from home, such as the princess-themed party. Tara coordinated for Cecelia’s 13th birthday with the support of the Hope for the Henry foundation. “She did a great job – getting a nice cake for her, getting her gifts,” says Joanna. “I am so thankful for her.”
Each year, the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House welcomes families from all around the world. So far, this year families from 12 countries, including Liberia, have stayed at our two Houses. Health-based non-profits such as Global Medical Relief Fund are instrumental in making sure international patients like Amie, Abigail, and Cecelia get necessary medical care, and we make sure they have a place to stay and support they need.
While the girls and their families have enjoyed their time in the United States, they are of course looking forward to returning home, especially with their newfound ability to walk on their own. However, they all know they will not forget their time at the House and the people they have met while in Philadelphia. “I will miss Ronald McDonald House when I go back,” says Amie.