Thirdeyemom

New Vision’s Lights for Liberia Is Helping Fight Ebola

This is a guest post written by Pamela O’Brien, Director of Business Development and Communications at New Vision, a Christian Community Development Organization working to develop innovative, sustainable and renewable energy solutions in developing communities all over the world.

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Did you know that 90% of Liberia does not have access to electricity?

After 14 years of war that left behind many widows and orphans, Liberians were just getting back on their feet once again when disaster struck: Ebola. Can you imagine the implications Ebola has had on an already fragile health care system and infrastructure? Can you imagine trying to help and treat patients let alone go to school, give birth and run a business if you do not have access to electricity? It is unimaginable.

With 90% of Liberians living without electricity, small clinics must shut down at dark or try to administer IVs and medications to fight the fevers as they spike at night, using just the light of candles or kerosene lanterns that emit toxic fumes. It is not a good situation at all.

Children waiting in line to get food and supplies. Photo credit: New Vision

Children in Liberia waiting in line to get food and supplies. Photo credit: New Vision

When we launched our “Ray of Life Solar Light” Kickstarter Campaign to raise lights for Africa, we didn’t plan on Ebola. No one can plan on a global health crisis like Ebola.

We created our Ray of Life Solar Light campaign to help us produce our new product mold. The need to acquire this funding was, and still is, great.  And one way or another we will still find a way to fund Ray of Life and continue to bring light to the most under resourced communities in the world.

But our goal has taken on new meaning.

The stories and images of these larger than life Ebola workers dressed in their white and yellow Hazmat suits will be forever etched in the minds of the children — both in Liberia and here in the States — and they don’t look like a character out of Rescue Heroes.

In July 2014 in Sierra Leone, a health worker, wearing head-to-toe protective gear, offers water to a woman with Ebola virus disease (EVD), at a treatment centre for infected persons in Kenema Government Hospital, in the city of Kenema, Eastern Province. A young boy stands nearby. Workers in the treatment centre are stretched to capacity. UNICEF is supporting the hospital by providing treatment supplies like intravenous fluids and equipment such as protective gear and body bags. Photo credit: New Vision

Since the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, workers in treatment centers are stretched to capacity. UNICEF is supporting the hospital by providing treatment supplies like intravenous fluids and equipment such as protective gear and body bags. Thousands of people have died and it has been even harder to treat patients given the lack of electricity within communities. Photo credit: New Vision

Is There Light at the End of the Tunnel? 

As a Mom, I have always been careful to shield my children from images of disaster, natural or man-made, as they were flashed on the nightly news time and time again.  From 9/11 to the D.C. Beltway Sniper to the mass shootings happening on school campuses around the country, these images bring nightmares and fear without the facts.

In the past few weeks, due to our desire to help our in-country partner in Liberia get much needed light, I have learned a lot about the resiliency of the small country of Liberia and its people.  And it is my hope that they won’t be remembered for the images we see now.

They are a community of survivors who have been through war and famine.  They are led by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated economist who had worked at the World Bank, and became Africa’s first female president in 2006 and won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” So even with 90% of the nation living without electricity, Liberia has still taken large steps towards positive change.

In her letter to the world on Sunday, Johnson-Sirleaf noted, “There is no coincidence Ebola has taken hold in three fragile states — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — all battling to overcome the effects of interconnected wars,” adding that Liberia once had 3,000 medical doctors but by the end of its civil war, which ended 11 years ago, the country had just 36.

“This fight requires a commitment from every nation that has the capacity to help, whether that is with emergency funds, medical supplies or clinical expertise… It is the duty of all of us, as global citizens, to send a message that we will not leave millions of West Africans to fend for themselves against an enemy that they do not know, and against whom they have little defense,” Sirleaf stated.

“Across West Africa, a generation of young people risk being lost to an economic catastrophe as harvests are missed, markets are shut and borders are closed,” the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said. “The virus has been able to spread so rapidly because of the insufficient strength of the emergency, medical and military services that remain under-resourced.”

The total death toll has risen to more than 4,500 people from the 9,000 infected, according to the World Health Organization. Although Senegal and Nigeria have been declared free of Ebola, the epidemic remains out of control in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. WHO warns that by December there could be as many as 10,000 new infections per week.

The Solution to a Global Crisis 

So there are the facts. And today, I found hope in an article on Devex.  I read with interest how Ebola responders are tapping into past survivors and youth in a community-based strategy. This mimicked with accuracy how our approach stabilizes communities in times of great need.

New Vision was founded on community development principles where in-country partners work within their own communities to solve problems, empowering people by bringing awareness to issues. And now the community development leaders in Liberia are on the front lines of this war on Ebola, doing just this.

We have a responsibility here to teach our children and communities that together we all can DO MORE.  We can teach our youth that they can act as a global citizen and help spread the word that together we can be a part of the solution to a global crisis. We can help without being fearful.

Please help show our youth that every effort, no matter how small, is one to be counted. By bringing together many and donating only $5 we can all help Liberia through this crisis.

To learn more about the Light and Life Campaign for Liberia, click here

About New Vision   

New Vision is a Christian Community Development Organization working to ReEnergize Communities. It evolved from a rich 50 year history of ministry and development in rural communities in Appalachia and around the country.

New Vision was birthed in 2009 out of a friendship between an independent-minded, renewable energy innovator and a Christian Community Development leader who was looking for new ways to help people help themselves. As a result of this relationship, renewable energy became the vehicle for this truly unique outreach model.

As a non-profit organization, we work locally and globally with faith-based and community organizations to get renewable products into the hands of our members and partners at a rate that is affordable. We also provide the training they need to produce their own renewable energy systems.

 

69bebcf9166ccc5e5f6e7447bb669fefAbout Pamela O’Brien

With over 25 years’ experience in strategic business development and corporate marketing communications, Pamela is a relatively new (7+ years) to the world of social good. But after a major life change made her refocus on her life’s purpose, Pamela found herself working with a grassroots nonprofit trying to change the world.

 

10 comments

    • Yes it is. I feel like here in the US so much news is focused on fear mongering and getting people who don’t understand Ebola to freak out and think they will get it here. I get so mad often at our US centric news. I hope more can be done too.

  1. maamej

    Community development really is the key, but often gets overlooked. I read that infections seem to be stabilising in Liberia, and it’s at least partly because of communities taking steps to look after themselves. Thanks for a great post.

    • Yes so true. Community Development is critical. At the summit I was at in DC, they said that since Liberia’s health care infrastructure is so torn apart after years of war that there are not enough beds and they are encouraging people to care for and tend their own sick at their homes. Given the proper equipment to protect themselves it is working. Community commitment and involvement is key.

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