Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Harry Kpoh. During the third annual Global Volunteer Month, we celebrate the power of people who tackle society’s greatest challenges, and build stronger, more vibrant communities through volunteerism and everyday actions, like Harry. Read his story, and join the Global Volunteer Month celebration.
Harry Kpoh witnessed the ravages of civil war while living in Liberia, and when he was able to immigrate to the United States as a young man, those memories of suffering stayed with him.
“I visited Liberia several years later,” says Harry, “and one man said he’d lost his wife and unborn baby because the nine-months-pregnant woman was taken on motorbike through trenches to get to the clinic, as there are no vehicles that travel in the area because of bad road conditions. She’d passed before she got help, and there was no medicine to provide treatment.”
Harry returned to his residence in Louisville, Kentucky, and started what is now the Trembo National Association of the Americas, Inc. (TRENAA), an organization dedicated to addressing Liberia’s critical need for life-saving medicine, medical equipment and food. After years of civil war, Harry describes a country ruined, its residents making do with the very little they have.
“If you imagine going a day without food, 80% of the country is unemployed, and one of the places that I visited, people still drink from river creeks. It was January 2022, and the village got their drinking water at the upper part of the creek and washed their clothes at the bottom of the creek — in this modern age. It’s sad. People are struggling, but interestingly, they are resilient. They are managing and making the maximum use of the little resources they have, just to survive.”
As founder and CEO of TRENAA, Harry is doing everything he can to provide help for Liberians. Packing shipping containers full of supplies and food, Harry travels on every container that goes to Liberia. Harry has also established key partnerships with organizations like Supplies Overseas (SOS), Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB) and Love The Hungry to support his efforts. He has even formed a strategic partnership with the Liberian Ministry of Health to facilitate logistics and transportation to help get supplies to rural areas. Teams of volunteers, both in the U.S. and Liberia, help with operations and distributions. The organization relies on donations to help provide assistance.
“Most of the time, it’s a three-day drive from the arrival city to the rural destination,” said Harry. “Sometimes you go without food to ensure our people get the benefits of help that our partners are providing. It’s a difficult journey. Big picture, we are providing medicine, but it doesn’t help if people are still drinking from the river and getting airborne diseases. We are addressing the issues that are sickening people. Trembo sponsors 350 students with free education and food in two different locations. It has just broken ground for a school building to bring all the students to one location. In the rural areas, where distribution is done, some walk five or ten miles barefoot to get food, so we provided 4,000 sneakers. We are currently working on a project to provide hand pumps in villages that rely on the creek for their drinking water.”
Harry says his dedication to supporting his fellow Liberians is based in the understanding of how desperate their situation is and how appreciative they are for any help.
“It’s the genuine gratitude that is shown by Liberians when you provide help. That’s the biggest motivation. People are hopeless. [In the U.S.,] you get sick and go to the hospital, knowing that you’ll be provided with medicine, but (in Liberia) you get to hospital and there’s no medicine. People become hopeless and don’t bother going to the hospital. We provide medicine, and you’ll receive a call at 3 a.m. on your home phone from Liberia, [the person on the other end] is expressing how much hope the service you provided has given to them. Those are the fighters who motivate me on a daily basis to do what I’m doing.”
Harry’s service is saving lives, says Solomon Qualah, a native Liberian himself who has volunteered with TRENAA and was involved in helping Harry’s family to resettle when they arrived in Louisville, Ky. According to Solomon, Harry’s determination to help others living the same struggle he once faced himself is going a long way.
“The conditions over there are overwhelming, especially in the medical area, but everything,” says Solomon. “He’s saving lives. The hospitals over there are missing certain things. To be able to fill in those goes a long, long, long way. Healthcare conditions in Liberia are deplorable, especially outside the city. [Harry] identifies clinics, fills their needs and saves many, many lives including pregnant women and little kids.”
Paying his blessings back is something Harry says he does joyfully, offering transformation for others.
“Volunteering is an incredible feeling to ensure that people can live their best,” he said. “They can tap into their potential if you provide help because we all do have potential in us, but we are limited because of the lack of the assistance that we need. You can see the transformation of somebody’s life if you provide that help for today. My immigration to the U.S. to have all the opportunities means I have a great platform to use resources to give back. Giving back through service is the best gift you can give the world.”
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Harry Kpoh? Find local volunteer opportunities.