In March 2014, the World Health Organization declared there was an outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. Fear spread around the world as quickly as the virus ravaged entire communities. The virus first appeared in Guinea, in the town of Guéckédou. Then it moved to Liberia and Sierra Leone, with cases reported from Nigeria to Senegal, and from Spain to the United States.
By October 2015, the death toll was 11,312. The World Health Organization notes that given the challenges of collecting data in areas of outbreak, as well as the stigma surrounding the disease, the actual number is likely much higher. The 2014 Ebola epidemic stands as the largest of its kind in its history.
The Ebola virus destroyed many lives, and had a profound impact on survivors, especially those children who lost their parents, caregivers, families and friends. According to the British charity, Street Child, an estimated 12,000 children in Sierra Leone alone are orphans because of Ebola; many are starving to death and have turned to sex work to pay for food.
Seeing the pain of her fellow Sierra Leoneans, Josephine Kamara, who founded Women of Wonder Sierra Leone (WOW-SL) in 2013, knew that something had to be done, especially for the children.
WOW-SL was established to promote the involvement of young women and girls in community and nation-building and advocate to end child marriage, teenage pregnancy, rape and sexual harassment in Sierra Leone. Since the start of the Ebola epidemic, Kamara and members have rallied to support children impacted by the epidemic. Her organization leads numerous Ebola response efforts including feeding hungry children and providing necessities, such as toothpaste, soap, and sanitary pads to the St. George Foundation orphanage in Grafton, a village in Sierra Leone. When visiting the homes of child survivors not living in orphanages, WOW-SL uses play and theatre as a therapeutic technique to help children heal.
Though the spread of Ebola has been stopped for the moment, Kamara’s work continues to heal.
photo courtesy of Josephine Kamara