Liberia trip hit Ed Sheeran really hard
Ed Sheeran writes about his trip to Liberia with Comic Relief and why he'll never forget the children he met there and one young girl in particular.
I knew I wanted to get involved in Red Nose Day this year. But then I decided to take it one step further. I'd wanted to go on a Comic Relief trip for years and here was the perfect opportunity, so I agreed to take my first ever trip to Liberia in West Africa. During the trip, we visited a school in West Point, the largest and most dangerous slum in Liberia's capital, Monrovia. It was really shocking seeing the appalling conditions that people live in and it was far worse than I could have ever imagined. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw, but despite all of this, everyone's positivity was overwhelming.
The welcome from the kids was amazing, especially when they saw my tattoos; they went nuts and couldn't understand what they were. Some of the younger kids tried to wipe them off. Everyone wanted to know what we were doing and where we were from. They absolutely loved singing and clapping along to my songs and for a few hours it was easy to forget that these kids live in such awful conditions. I was completely blown away by their eagerness to learn. They really wanted to be in school and all had big dreams for the future. Despite living in one of the poorest places on Earth, they weren't prepared to let their circumstances hold them back.
I asked a lot of them what they wanted to be when they grow up and "doctor", "teacher" and "politician" were common responses. I got a sense that they really meant it. They've seen what life is like for people with no qualifications or jobs and it's the motivation they need to keep studying. There are hundreds of thousands of people crammed in to West Point, most of them living in squalor, so getting an education is a privilege and not something all of the kids get to do. As we were taking a break from filming, a little girl came over to talk to me. Her name was Peaches and unlike the other children I'd met, she wasn't in a uniform. She explained that since her father's death during the Ebola crisis, her mother couldn't afford to send her to school any more.
At just 12 years old, she had already been working for over a year helping to support her family. Unfortunately, Peaches' story is not uncommon. We had an impromptu jamming session and the girl could really sing. Peaches sang a song that reminded her of her father and as she did, tears started to roll down her face. The enthusiasm that was initially shining out of her disappeared. It was at this point that the reality of Peaches' situation, and many, many kids just like her, hit me really hard.