Stopping the Stigma of Ebola
The days progress slowly. The anxious thoughts of what could be, what these 21 days could mean for you, what they would mean to your family, your community permeate your thoughts. You long for a loving embrace; really a touch of any kind that would reassure you that everything would be all right because you have been cut off from your community. The future has never seemed so uncertain. Clarence Labor knows just how intense being quarantined can be. He is among thousands of people in West Africa who were placed under quarantine because of suspected exposure to the Ebola virus and then released after 21 days. Many of those who are released find themselves as outcasts in a place where they once felt like part of the community. Even though a person in quarantine is declared Ebola-free after 21 days without showing symptoms, community members often respond out of fear.
Today, Clarence has helped champion a new campaign, known as “21 and Free,” which is fighting the stigma placed on survivors. Through seminars and community outreach events, “21 and Free” helps fight the stigma and restore dignity. During several gatherings, Clarence shared his journey through the quarantine process explaining both the high and low times of his experience.
Pastor James Fullah, who lost his wife to the virus, has also been encouraging community members to join together to educate their communities about the stigma. Clarence and Pastor James are not the only champions of this fight; youth from the area are participating as well. Twelve students were recruited from local schools near the Karnplay Church of the Nazarene in Liberia to help publicize this campaign. During their two weeks of training, these students recorded programs to be broadcasted across Radio Karn, known as the “voice of peace in Nimba County, North-East Liberia.” The radio programs raise awareness about the Ebola virus and also provide helpful tools to end the stigma against Ebola survivors and their families.
In Sierra Leone, youth connected to the local Nazarene Youth International (NYI) group decided to take 21 and Free into their community. The youth quickly began to print shirts, make bracelets, and participate in three days of prayer and fasting before going out to engage their community.
One of the leaders of the NYI group reported, “People appreciated us so much, Mr. John a man in one of the quarantine homes said, the message and prayers we shared with them, was a revival of new hope in them and that hope will take them through the 21 days of quarantine.”
Another community member and local trader, Isata said, “This is a church with a difference, a sanctuary of hope.”