Team Zim

1 Part Bleach, 3 Parts Sweat

SAM_1802Meet “Team Zim”: Obert and Simba are two IRC Sierra Leone short-term staff members from Zimbabwe. Both have been working in the Bo and Port Loko Isolation Units run by IRC. Obert is an Environmental Health Specialist and Simba is an Isolation Unit Nurse Supervisor. Both of their jobs require them to enter the low risk and high risk zones of the isolation units, for direct patient care or for managing the chlorine systems and WASH facilities. They also provide supervision to the local nurses and environmental health officers and sprayers. Obert is leaving to go back home to finish his post-graduate degree while Simba is taking a week of rest before returning for six more weeks of work inside the isolation units.

One of the best parts of my job is the opportunity to meet and work with so many inspiring people from all types of backgrounds. Thank you…

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Together we de fet Ebola

1 Part Bleach, 3 Parts Sweat

IMGP7211 Photo Credit: Mary O, IRC Sierra Leone

It’s tempting to drawcomparisons between the current Ebola outbreak to Sierra Leone’s civil war, which ended over 10 years ago. Many Sierra Leoneans have told me they think Ebola is worse than the civil war, because Ebola is an invisible enemy. Before, when the rebels were around you knew where to avoid. Now, you must be live with a constant guard around yourself and your family.

TIME called Ebola fighters 2014’s Person Of The Year. Some of us cringed at that title. Many healthcare workers have told me they reject the notion that they are “fighting an enemy” and want the narrative to be one of supporting local healthcare workers and communities, hard-work, and dedication.

Word choice aside, Ebola is a tough beast. The national and international nurses, doctors, environmental health and sanitation experts, sprayers, burial workers, community mobilizers, youth activists…

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The Smile of a Survivor

1 Part Bleach, 3 Parts Sweat

I had the opportunity to meet 3 strong women — 3 survivors. They were at the IRC-run isolation unit in Masiaka interviewing for nursing and laundry work. They expressed to me their happiness and blessings at surviving but without work, things are difficult for them. As of December 28, there were 1,780 Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone.

IMG_0595Survivors are about the only people in Sierra Leone you can hug and touch without any fear — you know they’re not infected! It is thought that immunity to the virus may last up to 10 years. The long-term effects of the illness are little known but joint pain and eye disorders are proving common. Ebola patients often lose everything — their family members who succomb to the illness, their personal items that are destroyed in the disinfection process, their place in the community as stigma takes hold. The fight against Ebola is…

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How Ebola Stole Christmas

I’m going to be writing about life and work in Sierra Leone here now; check it out and follow me!

1 Part Bleach, 3 Parts Sweat

“Tomorrow is Christmas! It’s practically here!”
Then he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming,
“I MUST find some way to stop Christmas from coming!”
For Tomorrow, he knew, all the Who girls and boys,
Would wake bright and early. They’d rush for their toys!
And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise!
Noise! Noise! Noise!
That’s one thing he hated! The NOISE!
NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!
Then the Whos, young and old, would sit down to a feast.
And they’d feast! And they’d feast! And they’d FEAST!
FEAST! FEAST! FEAST!
They would feast on Who-pudding, and rare Who-roast beast.
Which was something the Grinch couldn’t stand in the least!
And THEN They’d do something He liked least of all!
Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,
Would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing.
They’d stand hand-in-hand. And the Whos would start singing!
They’d sing! And they’d…

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>$20,000 Awarded to 7 NGO’s Fighting Ebola

It’s been awhile since I’ve written. I’ll confess that I haven’t felt inspired. I’m working, spending time with family and friends, enjoying the comforts and freedom that America offers. I’m also really cold.

Like EXTREMELY cold.

But life continues as usual — albeit swaddled in wool sweaters and covered up with glittens. Time continues to march onward and upward, the days are getting shorter and the nights are growing longer and colder.

Ebola’s still out there. As surreal as that statement is for me to make, it’s true. 5,000+ lives have been claimed in West Africa. There’s an alarming decline in U.S. healthcare volunteers signing up to help — likely due to the forced 21-day quarantine that has been placed on some of the heroic people who have given up 6-8 weeks of their paycheck and life to help end an outbreak that is leaving destruction in it’s wake. Fear is a contagion, spiraling out of control across the globe. I lay in bed at night, stare up at my ceiling and quietly ask the universe “why?” and “what can we do to stop this?”

The fire is not out. The fight has not yet been won. We must press forward to end this outbreak at the source. We are all at stake. Outbreaks do not stop at borders.

As I’ve written before, I’m working with the National Peace Corps Association’s Ebola Relief Fund to get money to those fighting Ebola in their home country. Last week we awarded over $20,000 in funding to 7 different NGO’s in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. As they implement and complete their projects they will be sending back evaluation, testimonies, photos, and videos — all of which I will be sure to share with you. We will be awarding a second round of funding in December 2014.

Check out the seven organizations we’ve selected for our first round:

GUINEAN ASSOCIATION FOR THE INCORPORATION OF WOMEN IN THE ELECTORAL PROCESS & GOVERNANCE (AGUIFPEG) — KINDIA, GUINEA

AGUIFPEG is mounting a community awareness campaign in an area where an estimated 75 percent of the population is not literate. The project was awarded $3,000 to educate on Ebola prevention through a theatrical presentation in 4 indigenous languages. Participants will be encouraged to pass on the health information through conversations in their families, bar-cafes, restaurants, markets, fields, mosques, churches and other public places.

AMIS DU MONDE POUR LE DEVELOPPEMENT (AMD) — SAMOÉ, GUINEA

AMD was awarded $2,839 to create awareness of Ebola prevention practices. Team members will establish an information and intervention system using community leaders to encourage healthier personal hygiene and food preparation.

ASSOCIATION GUINEENNE D’EVEIL AU DEVELOPPEMENT DURABLE (AGEDD) — FORECARIAH, GUINEA

AGEDD was awarded $3,000 to conduct sensitizations for teachers in primary schools and the association of parents of Forecariah and Maferinyah in Guinea. Teachers and parent volunteers will be trained to educate their communities while distributing prevention materials (leaflets, soap, chlorine, buckets, kettles).

WOMEN’S CAMPAIGN INTERNATIONAL (WCI) LIBERIAN RURAL WOMEN’S PROGRAM — LIBERIA

The campaign draws on its existing network of local women leaders to form community action committees at the town and clan level in areas affected by Ebola. Communities have fed quarantined families, paid burial teams to remove bodies and distributed prevention information and materials in a dozen communities. NPCA’s award of $3,000 will allow WCI to expand activities to ten more rural communities.

FACE ACTION AFRICA — RIVERCESS COUNTY, LIBERIA

With the $3,000 grant from NPCA, FAA will provide administrative and logistical support to the Rivercess County Health Team, train contact tracers, facilitate the setting up and management of community care centers and the procurement of personal protective equipment for health workers.

ACTION SALONE ON HEALTH & EDUCATION (ASHE) — EASTERN SIERRA LEONE

ASHE was awarded $3,000 to support the work of Sister Josephine Karmara and a community of nuns in Kailahun in ongoing care of children whose parents died of Ebola. Goals are to provide physical and emotional security to the children, feed and care for them in a home-like environment.

SCHOOLS FOR SALONE — SIERRA LEONE

Schools for Salone was awarded $3,000 to help fill the education gap caused by  school closing due to the Ebola epidemic. The project will distribute radios to impoverished communities to allow them access to Ministry of Health daily broadcasts specifically targeting primary school students for three hours in the morning and secondary school students in the afternoon.

Thanks to all donors who have gotten involved. We are committed to sending 100% of your donations to reputable, community-based NGO’s in the affected countries who are working against directly related Ebola issues. As we continue to receive applications from NGO’s, we continue our fundraising efforts stateside. Consider getting involved today to help us fund even more organizations and end Ebola NOW!

Find more information about the NPCA Ebola Relief Fund here and make a donation here.