Ed Sheeran Reflects On Life-Changing Trip To Liberia For Red Nose Day

"I’m not ashamed to admit that I was totally overwhelmed."

Ed Sheeran has amassed quite the collection of Grammys, Brit Awards, MTV trophies and more in his career as a best-selling recording artist thus far, but it was a recent trip to Liberia as part of his 2017 Red Nose Day contribution that had the most profound effect on him.

In an article for People.com, the "Shape of You" singer provides a first-hand account of his visit to West Point — the largest and most dangerous slum in Monrovia, Liberia's capital city. Sheeran writes he was on a mission to make children laugh and show the "optimistic and progressive side of Liberia," which was devastated by the 2014 Ebola crisis.

According to the World Health Organization, there were 10,675 reported cases of Ebola in Liberia between 2014 and April 2016, and a staggering 4,809 deaths. 

Though Sheeran recalls "there was optimism everywhere," he was never far from devastation. At a school in West Point, he met a girl named Peaches who asked to sing for him and gave him what he calls "my first reality shock." 



As she sang she began to cry, because her father (who died after contracting Ebola) had taught her that song. Before long, Sheeran got emotional too. "In my whole career I have never cried on camera but I'm completely overwhelmed," he explains. "I can't imagine what this little girl has witnessed and I break down. I feel ridiculous and guilty about crying but I just can't stop myself."  

After accepting an invitation to Peaches' two-room house (which she shares with eight relatives) Sheeran realized he'd only seen "the tip of the iceberg" thus far.

Likening the slum to "hell," Sheeran writes, "Thousands of families are living in squalor and there's a stench of sewage everywhere. This is where Peaches calls home." But the living conditions, he notes, are just part of the problem for Peaches and other children like her, because many have been forced to drop out of school and earn whatever money they can for their families instead.

"The 'lucky' ones have parents or relatives to look out for them. The unlucky ones are homeless and sleep rough on the beach amongst the rubbish and human waste," he explains. "The one thing they have in common is they all just want to go to school. They know it's their only chance of escaping a hellishly hard life in the slum."

According to Sheeran, a portion of money raised from Red Nose Day will benefit Street Child Liberia, which aims to reunite homeless kids with their parents or relatives and offers business loans to help get families back on their feet. 

"Seeing the difference this money is making has definitely been the highlight of my trip," Sheeran concludes. "I've been involved with Red Nose Day back in the U.K. my whole life, but it's only standing in a Liberian slum that I finally make the connection between what we do back home — and now in the U.S. too — and what that means to a kid like Peaches.

Since its inception in 1988, Red Nose Day (a fundraising event that's part of the larger British charity, Comic Relief) has raised upwards of $1 billion worldwide. Last event year's event impacted the lives of 2,659,642 children.

To learn more about Red Nose Day and how you can help, click here.


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