At the beginning of the fall semester, co-directors and second year masters students Laura Robinson and Sloan Parker, along with their fellow graduate students, put their passion for philanthropy into action by initiating Wheaton Fights Ebola, a project that seeks to support Samaritan’s Purse in its work to stop Ebola in Africa.
Robinson was disturbed by an NPR report that examined the slow donation pattern for Ebola as compared to that of the 2006 tsunami and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The New York Times confirmed this concern, stating that “compared to the rush to donate after major disasters of the last decade or so, charitable giving to address the Ebola tragedy is almost nonexistent.”
According to the mission statement of the graduate Biblical and theological fellowship, a group of 20 graduate students that meets for discussion every Thursday morning, its goal is “to channel Western anxiety about Ebola towards a more productive end than fear and paranoia.” This goal is mirrored in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Tom Frieden’s statement that “… what happens in West Africa has a direct bearing on our own ability to go about our lives. We can stop worry(ing) … here when it’s controlled there.”
While concerns are always heightened when danger lurks closer to home, Robinson stressed that the localized panic felt in the United States over two Ebola-related fatalities is far less acute than the tragedy overseas in West Africa, where around 5,000 Ebola cases are reported per week. The CDC named the Ebola outbreak as the largest in history and said it has infected entire countries including Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Ebola has an average fatality rate of 50 percent, though it has been observed to range from 25 to 90 percent in certain areas.
Wheaton Fights Ebola recognizes this problem, and the students involved have dedicated themselves to raising money for this cause.
A donor has offered to match all earnings up to $5,000, and the philanthropic group is nearly halfway to its goal already. As the Dec. 8 match deadline approaches, Robinson and her fellow grad students are striving to rally support for Wheaton Fights Ebola by contacting family, friends and churches around the area.
Robinson emphasized that Ebola is a “major national tragedy” for the people of West Africa and that it requires external aid for amelioration. Currently, only two NGOs are working to fight Ebola: Doctors without Borders and Samaritan’s Purse.
Wheaton Fights Ebola chose to partner with Samaritan’s Purse because of its Christian founding and effective prevention and treatment methods. The donations received by Wheaton Fights Ebola go directly to Samaritan’s Purse, which, according to its website, is now “aggressively responding (to the Ebola outbreak) in Liberia … by establishing and maintaining community care centers in areas hit hard by the disease.”
At the local hospitals, there is no free medicine, so citizens rely on these outposts for care. Samaritan’s Purse also sends out groups of people into West African villages not yet affected by Ebola to give out fliers, bleach and buckets in order to promote proper hygiene and sanitation practices. It also offers training to teach the people how to keep themselves from contracting Ebola, which is spread by contact with bodily fluid of the infected.
Everyday hygiene items help to fight and prevent the virus in West Africa. The Huffington Post revealed that 90 grams of soap could be purchased for less than one dollar, rubber gloves and bleach could be purchased for under $3, and $44 could safeguard a home in an affected area.
Robinson said that the “situation (in West Africa) is dire,” but shared her philosophy that “prevention is the best medicine.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shares her urgency. He said, “Every day we delay, the cost and the suffering will grow exponentially.”
Ebola has already taken over 6,000 lives to date, and the need increases significantly each day. Whether the group’s $5,000 goal is met or not, Wheaton Fights Ebola will continue to gather donations at crowdrise.com/wheatonfightsebola through Dec. 31.