A new case of Ebola has been confirmed in Liberia after 20 days with no new cases, the BBC reports. A woman tested positive for the disease in the country’s capital, Monrovia, on March 20. This new case of Ebola comes 15 days after the last patient with a known case of Ebola was released in Liberia on March 5.
People around the world had their eyes on the West African country in 2014 when it and neighboring countries were hit hard by the disease. For More Than Me (MTM) Marketing & Development Manager Emily Bell, the school’s students are the at the core of everything the organization has done and continues to do to serve the people of Liberia.
MTM founder Katie Meyler was named TIME Magazine’s 2014 Person of the Year, among others, for her work as an “Ebola Fighter.” In the height of the outbreak trained MTM teams were able to transport suspected Ebola patients to the appropriate facilities, provide preventative healthcare education to residents, and provide treatment for common illnesses in the region such as typhoid and malaria.
If i may be so BOLD talked with Bell about MTM, Ebola and the future of education in Liberia.
[Questions sent to Bell via email on March 5, 2015.]
If I May Be So Bold: First three words that pop into your head when you think about More Than Me?
Emily Bell: For the girls [Meet the girls here]
According to GirlUp, more than 40% of Liberian girls ages 10-14 have never gone to school. Unfortunately, young girls fall victim to the most frequently reported crime in Liberia, rape. Before the war in 1989, Liberia had over 2,400 schools. After 2003, Liberia only had about 480 remaining.
-More Than Me
IIMBSB: Tell me about you. How did you get started with More Than Me and what does your role entail now?
EB: I heard about More Than Me (MTM) as an intern at GlobalGiving, a crowdfunding platform for grassroots nonprofits. Katie Meyler, MTM’s founder, spoke at one of our staff meetings and left a memorable impression. I started following MTM on social media, and celebrated when MTM won the million dollar prize from the Chase American Giving Awards. Shortly after that, I saw a job posting, applied and got the job!
IIMBSB: What was your first thought when you caught word of the Ebola outbreak?
EB: A little bit of fear of the unknown, but being based in the US, I wasn’t too scared. Our staff on the ground was though. Once we were educated on the disease and how hard it is to contract, things calmed down. We started talking about Ebola in March when it first arrived in Liberia. We closed our school a week before spring break to ensure the safety of our students and staff. Then Ebola seemed to disappear for 3 months. When it started making headlines again, we weren’t sure how bad it was or not. We still ran our summer program with new health and safety measures in place. Then President Sirleaf announced that all schools must shut down at the end of July. So we did. We just reopened March 2nd!
IIMBSB: Liberia released its last Ebola patient today [March 5, 2015], how do you feel about that. What does that news mean for More Than Me?
EB: We are excited about this news! But we are also staying vigilant because cases could pop up again. Our ebola response team is focused on supporting survivors who lost everything, our ambulance is still running because all the other ambulances have stopped and we are supporting clinics with supplies. We were deeply affected by Ebola and know that we must do more. We want to rebuild the education system in Liberia to make sure something like Ebola cannot devastate Liberia again.
IIMBSB: What inspires you most about the work that you do?
EB: Seeing a vision come to life. There are a lot of obstacles working in Liberia, but our team works hard and stays positive because we know these girls are depending on us. Our students are at the center of every decision we make. And that’s something I can get behind.
IIMBSB: Favorite place/person/thing about Liberia?
EB: Our Liberian staff and our students. They are so excited to be working for More Than Me/attending school at the Academy. It feels like a family in a lot of ways.
IIMBSB: In a 140 characters or less, why should people care about Liberia and educating girls?
EB: What happened during Ebola was unacceptable. It takes all of us to fight for a brighter future for Liberia.
IIMBSB: OK that’s tough to do in 140 characters! What’s the long answer to that question?
EB: Before Ebola, Liberia was already devastated from a brutal 14-year civil war. Crises like Ebola will continue to devastate Liberia and require the world’s resources until the country has the capacity to protect itself. Education is the key to rebuilding Liberia better after this crisis and it will take long term recovery efforts to see real change.
IIMBSB: What’s next for More Than Me?
EB: Today, we understand more deeply how critical it is that Liberia’s children receive a strong education NOW so that they grow up with the knowledge and capacity needed to handle their country’s challenges head on, and to protect their most vulnerable citizens. We are researching ways to leverage technology to rebuild the education system in Liberia. More to come!