“I’m proud that I became part of the YMCA family, because it allowed me to help prevent the spread of Ebola and work with people affected by it.” Jenneh, 20, Liberia YMCA
Survivors of Ebola worked with Liberia YMCA and their peers to ensure others in their community understood the risks of Ebola, and to reduce stigma and discrimination against survivors. Exactly a year after the first cases of Ebola were confirmed in Liberia, Jenneh tells us how she went from being in intensive care to overcome stigma and become a peer educator to help fight the outbreak.
I live in Monrovia, in the Township of West Point. I was sent to Monrovia to live with my aunt, because my parents could not afford to send me to school. At the beginning of the Ebola outbreak in March 2014, we did not believe that Ebola was real; we all thought it was a political trick of the government to get money.
I come from a large family like most Liberians, but because of a lack of awareness they did not believe that the virus existed. From June to August 2014, the Ebola virus was at its peak in Monrovia. During this time, my aunt got sick and traveled to the outskirts of Monrovia to seek help from a herbalist, my grandmother later followed to visit my aunt. A few weeks later, my aunt died and was buried. After the burial, my grandmother came home feeling sick; she tested positive for Ebola and later died. Eventually, many persons in our family got sick and died. All my family members that took part in the burial and some other family members that lived in our house died including my aunt, sons and my uncle. From July to August, nine of my family members died.
I also became sick with symptoms of Ebola; there were four of us that did, but we survived after intensive care at the Ebola treatment centre. When we came home each of us was placed under 21 days quarantine including our immediate neighbours. Then, access to food was very difficult. We were stigmatized by some of our neighbours and community members. For some time, NGOs provided counselling and also gave us some food and clothing. Since then, there has been increased access to regular food and medical supplies, including money to buy other necessary items.
After a group of YMCA peer educators visited my house and encouraged me to become a part of their team. I told them I was sharing my story with other survivors to make them strong. They told me it was good, but they could train me to do it even better and I can also work with other young people in my community. I received training support as a peer educator for the YMCA and I became a peer educator in my community to increase awareness of Ebola. I’m proud that I became part of the YMCA family, because it allowed me to help prevent the spread of Ebola and work with people affected by it.