Something that has always amazed me about the members of our grantee organizations is their resilience and positive outlook despite unbelievable hardships—situations that people in places like the United States could only dream about. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a case in point. The devastating disease put survivors through the wringer—physically and mentally. While grieving the loss of family and friends, they’ve also had to deal with being unwelcome in their communities and struggling to regain their previous way of life.
AJWS Liberian grantee Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Program (THRP) has counseled survivors to process their feelings, liaised relationships with Liberians who were not infected with Ebola and aided a return to normalcy. Many survivors have reported not only feeling better, but taking action to help others and create change in their own communities—because Ebola was not Liberia’s first problem.
Bendu Musah, an Ebola survivor from Liberia, is an incredible example. The 43-year-old lost her husband, three of her four children, two siblings and several neighbors to the epidemic. She told me she almost died on the street and temporarily went blind at a treatment center. When she returned to her community—Banjor, a suburb of Monrovia—she felt ostracized.
She said: “People were not coming around or talking to me at all. When they saw me, they ran away from me and started crying.”
Bendu received weekly counseling in her home and attends THRP’s twice-monthly community meetings, where she shares stories with other survivors and interacts with other community members.
“They pull us together,” she said. “Now, we sit down and eat together. We’re united and can move forward.”
A loyal friend cared for Bendu’s 13-year-old son while she was hospitalized and is now housing them both. Bendu is trying to scrape together the money to restart her business of buying and selling charcoal for heating food and boiling water. In the meantime, she organized a women’s group in her community. They meet weekly to identify needs, counsel each other, collect dues and dole out donations to empower members to start their own businesses. She told me this young group happened “by the grace of God” and because of THRP’s encouragement.
She is grateful to THRP.
“It showed love to me,” she said. “Now, I feel happy. I can help other survivors. Change has come into my life.”
This Chanukah, we’re glad that AJWS is providing light in the darkness all over the world, and we’re proud that people like Bendu are spreading that light to the farthest reaches.
AJWS profiled Bendu Musah as part of our 30 at 30 collection. In celebration of AJWS’s 30th anniversary, we profiled 30 global leaders who have partnered with AJWS to build a better world. Read Bendu’s profile as part of the collection.
Angela Cave is the Editorial and Marketing Associate at AJWS.