Starting an Orphanage
The Ebola Legacy in John Thorpe Community Rokel
In October 2014 a lady in the remote John Thorpe Community in Rokel Sierra Leone walked the mile or so to the local clinic because she felt unwell. The clinic was closed. It could not open in the evenings because of lack of funding. So she got someone to call a traditional healer from a neighbouring district.
The healer came and attended her. He was found dead two days later, less than a couple of miles away. He had managed to walk from her home to an area close to the clinic. The horror and panic of the people who lived nearby could perhaps be measured by the number of phone calls made to the authorities about this man. His body was removed later that day. Subsequently people in the John Thorpe Community died one by one. It is a measure of the success of education about Ebola in the area that the people in the rest of Rokel area reacted in the way they had been advised. They kept away. None of them contracted the deadly virus. However 50 people from the John Thorpe Community died of Ebola within the next month. All who died could be traced back to the original healer.
40 Ebola Orphans
Ebola is often contracted at funerals when the dead body is touched by all. Children do not attend funerals unless they are babes in arms.
Suddenly 40 children from the community found themselves without parents and often grandparents and Aunts and Uncles as well. The little Quaker Community in Rokel undertook to house the children of anyone who had worked on their projects. Initially they took in 8 orphans. Gradually this number was extended to 20. They have continued to provide food for all 40 orphans and four extra orphans attend the orphanage school for free schooling each day.
The children were very traumatised when they were first admitted. On photographs they continue to look unhappy but although they have good reason to be unhappy we should remember that photographs are a new concept to them. Most people do not own cameras or mobile phones. The orphanage depends on some very dedicated workers. Lucy, who looked after them when they first arrived had a difficult time coping with bedwetting and questions about where their parents had gone and why they were not allowed to go with them.
Funding for an unplanned orphanage was difficult. But we are determined that all these children will get education and health care as they grow up.