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UOF team

The UOF team in Liberia

 

I’m rather confident that I’m the first person to make a donation UOF’s “Stop Ebola Now” campaign. In fact I’m 100% confident, because the campaign is still about 12 hours away from being launched.

Right now I’m in Canada longer than I expected due to the Ebola crisis in Liberia. As I watch my savings rapidly dwindle in this wonderful yet pricey country, I’m ready to continue parting with my hard earned cash because I’m seriously worried for my friends and coworkers as well as the communities I work in. It’s truly a desperate time.

And truth be known, I’m also a bit embarrassed, so I am making the donation to our campaign as an act of faith in myself and the people I work with. Let me explain.

When the second Ebola outbreak started I put my faith in others and trusted that organizations with medical backgrounds would be able to manage the crisis. I should have realized the magnitude of the situation when one of the first replies I got to a “who is working where” email came back with an attachment containing instructions for setting up a containment unit and the question, “Can you do this?”

Every organization has its strengths and we certainly have ours, but at that moment I didn’t feel that setting up a unit to contain a deadly virus was in the scope of our expertise.

My concern was eased when I heard that health care volunteers were being trained for Ebola awareness in the county where the school we work with is located. With the community taken care of, I decided to focus on UOF’s plan to help the Liberia recover after the crisis passes. It’s going to take a lot of resources to get things back on track and I wanted to start getting programs in place. I was still hopeful this would all end soon.

But over time, when these health care volunteers didn’t materialize, we turned to our staff. We asked them if they wanted to participate in the fight against Ebola, what the current needs are, if they feel safe taking action, and if they need us on the ground to help. They decided that they wanted to move on this and they felt confident doing it without us there.

Before I digress too far, let’s get back to my embarrassment. UOF has done some amazing things over the past seven years in Liberia – things I never thought were possible – so my feelings of regret/embarrassment/frustration stem from the fact that I looked to others to solve this problem and I didn’t look within sooner.

But, I also remind myself that it’s okay. It’s okay because everyone’s backbone is stronger right now and our ability to act with confidence is greater. We know what to do, we know that no one else is going to do it (in the communities we work in) and we know how best to go about it.

It’s important to start strategizing for life after Ebola, but if this virus doesn’t get controlled soon its going to be a long time before we’ll be able to start putting the pieces back together. Kent and I weigh up the reality and effectiveness of our return to Liberia everyday. As soon as we feel things are turning around we’ll be back, but in the meantime we’re focused on helping the families and communities we know get the resources they need to keep themselves safe during this terrible time.

There is a sense of hope within me and the people I work with as we start working to turn this situation around. And at a time like this, a sense of hope is a powerful thing.