Mercy Dahn, 17, had been working on her father’s rubber farm in Karnwee, Liberia since she was nine years old. At first, her job was to dig holes and plant young rubber trees. But as she grew older, the work became more challenging and dangerous. Mercy had to clean the collection cups used to harvest latex by filling them with acid – a task she dreaded. The strong and unpleasant smell severely affected her health. Balancing heavy buckets of latex and solid rubber above her head, she felt the latex wastewater dripping onto her face and getting into her eyes, nose and mouth.
Mercy’s life began to change in 2014, when the ARCH project came to Karnwee and enrolled her along with 80 other youth in a Model Farm School. Here, Mercy and her peers learned techniques in agriculture and alternative income generation. After graduating from the program, Mercy returned to school, leaving the days of dangerous work behind her.
ARCH’s Model Farm School program has inspired Mercy to tap into her own potential and give back to her community. She now spreads the message among her peers, raising awareness of the importance of school. "ARCH trained us to be peer mentors, so I will be telling them that it is not time to do serious work for money," she says. When Ebola broke out in her community last year, Mercy stepped in to help educate her community about good hygiene and prevention practices.
While continuing to focus on her studies, in her spare time Mercy has also joined a group of 5 fellow graduates to use the skills they’ve learned to make extra money doing safe work, providing additional income for their families and serving her community.