TIME Person of the Year: The Ebola Fighters

Ebola Response

“Overnight, [More Than Me] converted the school into an ad hoc disaster-response center, holding meetings, organizing food distribution and even setting up an ambulance service for West Point with funds from a wealthy donor.

While [Meyler] established a temporary orphanage and quarantine program for children whose families were in treatment or wiped out, Martor organized…teams of locals who could canvass as much of West Point as they could, house by house. Wearing boots and rain gear provided by the school, the “case finders” slogged through the muddy, viral streets. Martor’s team followed Meyler’s in their wake, keeping an eye out for developing Ebola cases but tending to other health issues in the community too. It was dangerous work because no one knew which houses were contaminated.”

– Aryn Baker, TIME Person of the Year: The Ebola Fighters

The Story

When the Ebola outbreak hit our community of West Point, we knew we’d have to act. It became clear that to ensure opportunity for our students in the future, and to keep them safe, our immediate mission and goals would have to evolve.

We knew that as long as there was Ebola in Liberia, our girls were at risk. So we shifted our mission to fight with everything we were made of to end the epidemic that terrorized our children and the communities in which they live. We did this by understanding the pulse of the local people, remaining flexible to respond rapidly to urgent needs, and supporting efforts that had the highest return.

More Than Me’s Comprehensive Response

Ouur knowledge of the communities in which we work and our network built through years of experience shaped our actions and shift in mission during the Ebola crisis. After meeting with residents and leaders in West Point during its quarantine and assessing urgent needs that were not being met by existing services, More Than Me formed the Community Based Ebola-Free Coalition to fill these gaps.

With our partners, the coalition provided an immediate response to life-saving community needs. The coalition worked aggressively and relentlessly to educate and provide information to the community about Ebola, identify and treat the sick, cremate the dead and help reintegrate survivors — while also supporting children and families of those affected.

We turned our school into the coalition’s home base. Our library turned into a warehouse for supplies, the side yard where girls used to play at recess served as a parking lot for our ambulances.

Our Programming Focused on:

  • Filling gaps with regard to vulnerable children (they are our heart).
  • Enabling local leaders who were identifying probable Ebola cases and assisting them in transferring those cases to Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs).
  • Coordinating ambulance services with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ebola Crises Dispatch to make sure people with probable Ebola could access a ride to an ETU as soon as they needed one.
  • Managing Home Healthcare Teams with MOH to provide care for people who were sick with ailments other than Ebola, which took some pressure off of an overwhelmed healthcare system.
  • Supporting heroic doctors and providing critical short-term needs for the front line – When an important life saving or dignity-giving need was brought to us, we moved as fast as possible to try and meet it. We committed to providing timely, urgent support through financial assistance and rapid supply disbursement for immediate needs that ETUs and medical workers could not fill through regular channels. MTM also committed to advocating for these needs in its interactions with the Ministry of Health and other partners to seek long-term solutions to those gaps.
  • Reintegrating survivors back into their communities – tracked survivors who ‘graduated’ from ETUs and provided them with  survivor kits to get them back on their feet physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially.

It worked. The government asked us to expand our model to five other communities in Monrovia. Our ambulance reduced pick-up time from 3-4 days to 30 minutes. We supported Ebola orphans, many of whom are now attending school at the More Than Me Academy.

Results

Where We Are Now

Our Ebola programs officially ended on April 30th, 2015. On May 9th, 2015, the World Health Organization declared Liberia free of Ebola transmission; but since then, a few cases continue to pop up. Liberia’s healthcare system is prepared to deal with these cases.

We returned to our education mission and reopened the MTM Academy on March 2nd, 2015. We’ve implemented permanent health and safety measures like hand-washing stations to ensure the continued wellbeing of our students and staff.

In the News

Learn more about our work that made headlines.

For a full list of press, click here.