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ND campaign raises funds to fight Ebola

| Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The ND Unite to Fight Ebola campaign is raising funds to send medical supplies to West Africa, according to Dr. Katherine Taylor, director of operations of the Eck Institute for Global Health.

ebolaPhoto courtesy of Yassah Lavelah
“First of all, our role is compassion,” Taylor said. “When we see this happening somewhere, and the devastating impact on the communities in West Africa, we feel compelled to do something. I think we were all here looking at each other, saying ‘What can we do? How can we help?’ This is the transformation of that concern into action.”

The University-wide campaign, which continues on campus through Oct. 17, focuses on two main goals, Taylor said. After that date, the campaign will still accept donations online from the broader Notre Dame community.

“The first goal is education and awareness, and the second one is to raise funds to purchase and ship supplies directly to West Africa,” she said. “… We decided that we wanted to do a short burst of activity because of the urgency, just because we’d like to get the supplies there as quickly as possible. We are intending to extend the campaign, particularly to alumni, following the close of the campaign here on campus.”

The donations from the ND Unite to Fight Ebola campaign will support medical aid workers in Liberia and Sierra Leone, Taylor said.

“There are several personal contacts that the University of Notre Dame has with organizations in both Liberia and Sierra Leone,” Taylor said. “In Liberia there is a young woman, Yassah Lavelah, a Liberian national, who participated in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders at the University of Notre Dame in 2014.

“She and her mother run a clinic in Monrovia, Liberia. It’s the Ma V. Maternity Clinic, and she made a direct appeal to some of us here, who have kept in touch with her, to see if we can provide supplies. They haven’t received any supplies so far. We’ve gotten pictures from her, of them attending to patients essentially wearing rain jackets as their personal protective equipment. So obviously this is a very a dangerous situation for her and her mother.”

The donations from the campaign will also support a hospital in Sierra Leone, Taylor said.

“The second site is very well known by one of the Notre Dame professors, Catherine Bolten, at the Kroc Institute [for International Peace Studies],” Taylor said. “She’s worked in Sierra Leone for the better part of the last 12 years and has been connected with a hospital there. They’re also in desperate need of assistance.”

Taylor said the campaign has teamed up with the Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach, a Springfield, Illinois-based “medical surplus recovery organization focused on meeting the healthcare needs of individuals in developing nations,” according to the agency’s website.

Taylor said the Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach will coordinate the shipment of supplies to Liberia and Sierra Leone. The Eck Institute, Kellogg Institute for International Studies and the Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development have also supported the campaign, she said.

“These are the two places we’re targeting, and we intend to work with one of our partners, Hospital Mission Sisters Outreach,” she said. “They get medical supplies to remote areas,” she said. “Through them we will make a donation, and they are already working with people at these two sites to see what should go in the containers and how we’re going to get them to them.”

Taylor said the campaign has sponsored a number of events on campus for the past two weeks, including two talks — one of which featured Mark Ferdig, a Mercy Corps senior team leader and brother of biology professor Michael Ferdig, and biology professor Rob Stahelin, who researches Ebola.

“We’ve had professors giving lectures; we’ve established a Facebook page and a blog page,” Taylor said. “Two gentlemen from the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center and the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research gave a talk … all about Ebola and the response.”

The campaign has partnered with undergraduate student groups including ND Fighting NTDs, ND8 and Timmy Global Health, Taylor said.

“Students have played a role in the awareness campaign as well as the fundraising,” she said.

Taylor said contributions can be brought to the Eck Institute in 120 Brownson Hall or made online at blogs.nd.edu/unite. Thursday, the campaign will host a prayer service at the Grotto at 8:30 p.m.

“This week is going to be our final push, and we hope that anyone that hasn’t contributed will find ways to contribute,” she said. “We hope to be able to get these funds converted into supplies and get them headed to West Africa as soon as possible. I think everyone understands how urgent the situation is. We just want to act as quickly as we can.”

Taylor said the success of the campaign will not only provide aid to Ebola patients in West Africa but will also have global implications and reflect Notre Dame’s commitment to being a force for good in the world.

“I think we all do understand now that the epidemic needs to be stopped in West Africa, or it’s going to continue to be a concern for the rest of the world,” she said. “As the Global Health Institute, we understand the global nature of the problem, and that it’s going to require the whole world to come together to solve this problem.”

“It will be good for Notre Dame to stand up and be counted as an institution, a Catholic institution, that works together to make a difference, so that we can be proud of what we’ve done,” Taylor said. “I’d like to challenge everyone to get involved.”

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About Catherine Owers

Senior News Writer Catherine Owers is a senior from New Orleans, Louisiana. She is studying English and Theology.

Contact Catherine