In the face of the deteriorating Ebola crisis, Liberian immigrant Priscilla Debleye, 56, of West Philadelphia, at first felt devastated.
“When Ebola struck, I was feeling so helpless,” she said. “I had just returned from Liberia in March.”
But as the reality set in, Debleye was inspired to help, any way she could.
“I was like, ‘I can collect sanitizer,'” she said. “And now, my house is filled with Clorox.”
For weeks, Debleye has been collecting Clorox bleach, cleaning wipes and Purell hand sanitizer, donated by friends and coworkers.
“This is very little to us, here, but to them, this is like a godsend,” said Debleye, a lab assistant.
“If I’m in this great county and I’m working and I have the opportunity to help one person, I should. I feel like if I’m blessed, I should help somebody else,” she said.
She plans to use her savings to send the supplies to Nimba County, the area where her hometown, Gipo, is located, far from most medical facilities.
While the Ebola infection rate in Liberia is reportedly stabilizing, the country is dealing with new crises related to the Ebola crisis.
Many Liberians say that a shortage of medical professionals and supplies and famine have caused almost as much death as Ebola.
“Food is one of the bigger needs,” said Solomon Muin, secretary general of the Philadelphia Coalition of West African Nations Affected by Ebola. “There’s a food shortage.”
Muin and many other Liberians in the area are working together on “Operation Crush Ebola,” an attempt to collect medical supplies, food, and other necessities of life to send to Liberia.
Rev. Moses Suah Dennis, head of the Liberian Ministers’ Association of the Delaware Valley, said that Ebola is still a huge concern in West Africa.
“It is stabilizing in Liberia. It’s not escalating like it was,” Dennis said. “But the bad news is in Guinea and Sierra Leone, it’s going in the opposite direction.”
While Operation Crush Ebola is collecting a truly massive amount of goods, Debleye chose to collect only as much as she can afford to ship herself.
“I want our Liberian community here in Pennsylvania to know that one person can make a difference,” Debleye said.
“If every one one of us that is here, if every Liberian could do this — it will come out good.”
Operation Crush Ebola’s goal is to collect 15 shipping containers worth of supplies to send to Liberia — such as food, clothes and medical equipment.
They have already collected about four containers’ worth from supporters around Philadelphia.
They are currently fundraising to cover shipping costs.
Visit Operation Crush Ebolato learn more. Donations can be made through the Liberian Ministers Association of the Delaware Valley.