The SAVE Post-Ebola Initiative
In the Spring of 2014, the first case of Ebola Virus Disease (“Ebola”) was identified in the country of Guinea, soon followed by the first case of Ebola in Sierra Leone by May of 2014. By the time the area was declared Ebola-free over 28,000 cases were identified in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with over 11,000 deaths – of which almost 4,000 occurred in Sierra Leone. And this on top of the destruction of public infrastructure, as well as families, during the Civil war from 1991 to 2002.
While the death tolls mounted they were surpassed by the destruction of economic activity, with construction, basic services, education, and even churches screeching to a halt. Farmers were prevented from visiting their farms due to quarantine activities, and some were lost to illness resulting in reduced crop production, food scarcity and increased prices; non-farming families lost working relatives and jobs to the epidemic, and had reduced ability to afford food that was now more expensive. This cascade created a threat to food security for the most vulnerable in society. The impacts were devastating. Life in Sierra Leone had changed drastically.
We at SAVE seemed helpless in the shadow of such enormous needs. Most all our activities had to be curtailed, but we were not about to idly sit by and watch the country suffer without attempting to reach into the impoverished communities as best we could with food and the love of Jesus. Accordingly, SAVE began planning our Post-Ebola Initiative well before the epidemic was declared over and the country Ebola free on November 7, 2015.
In fact, nine months earlier, SAVE had already begun planning our activities to assist the neediest of the Ebola-affected — families of those who lost members to the deadly virus. We worked with our Christian partner ministries to develop the plan to bring food and the Good News of Jesus to the grieving, district by district. It was estimated that we could reach up to 700 families with basic foodstuffs at a cost of approximately $113 per household, and the plan was born!
We worked through churches and their members in the US by the grace of God and the generosity of His people to raise over $50,000 by the end of 2015 – more money raised in less time than any SAVE undertaking to date. These amounts were used to fund the first three (of four) planned phases.
Phase I – Freetown and the Western Area including 175 households
Working first through government sources and eventually through nine Planning Committee Members, local Church leaders and dozens of volunteers, we identified ten communities with 175 Ebola-affected households. Food and food for the soul were delivered beginning in late April 2015. In addition, SAVE supported a school for the blind, and two new orphanages established to minister to children who lost their parents in the epidemic. We also collected items in the US and shipped over-the-counter medicines, sanitation items, vitamins and the like to further support the neediest of the needy. Because of the hard work of our volunteers and leaders, the final costs per household for this phase were actually under $80, and this phase was completed by late May 2015.
Phase II – Port Loko and Kambia Districts estimated at 207 households
Learning from Phase I, our Planning Committee Members went directly into the Church leadership councils in this district to identify and deliver the nutrition and sanitary goods, with the hope and the love of Jesus Christ. This phase spanned August to December 2015. We were blessed to meet many new Christian leaders, who are now friends in this area, as these communities extended well beyond the normal reach of our ministry partners in Freetown. In Kambia 40 households in eleven communities were identified and served. In Port Loko we reached 167 households in 30 communities which were more widely scattered with poor or non-existent roads that slowed the distribution in this district. Our hearts were melted daily as we saw need far surpassing our humble resources, but the community and Church leaders were so helpful to identify the most needy. Our costs in these areas rose to almost $90 per household due to higher transportation and distribution costs. The orphanages identified in Phase I were visited again at the end of this phase to continue ministering to and providing for them. For one of the sites, we were able to provide funds to a separate building to split the young boys and girls into two buildings, and they were ecstatic!
Phase III – 42,000 pounds of rice for the Eastern Area!
Through the diligent efforts of one of our Board Members, we were able to present the dire needs of the Ebola-affected of Sierra Leone to an American charity – Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) – who agreed to provide us with a complete container of fortified rice to ship to Sierra Leone. That container was the center of our Phase III to the Eastern Region of Sierra Leone. Despite washed-out roads and bridges during the 2016 rainy season, our project leaders (Matthew Brima and Andrew Bangura) directed the provision of this rice and related foodstuffs to 361 households in villages totaling over 4,000 people, plus five orphanages. During this distribution, our team was invited to come to one particular village and start a new church. So the Gospel has been declared in His power to His glory bringing villagers to salvation.
Phase IV – Southern District including 205 households and more
In 2017 we were again blessed with a grant of a container-load of fortified rice from FMSC for Sierra Leone. Our project leader, Matthew Brima, had moved to the US for seminary training, and so his replacement, Andrew Bangura took the reins capably. Andrew exhibited mature Christian leadership, effective use of resources, personnel and SAVE Partners, frugal and accountable financial management, and the wisdom of God as he overcame many obstacles to execute this Phase with true excellence!
Phase IV continued to strongly incorporate local pastors and was directed to the Southern Province, primarily the Bo and Moyamba districts. These included 205 households (over 3,100 people) from 17 villages, plus four orphanages, as well as fire disaster support in one village, and a school for the blind. And this was accomplished with only 21 volunteers, and that, in the middle of the rainy season!
Project Overview – start to finish
Our original plan estimated support for 700 Ebola-affected households at a total cost of $87,000. The total households served were 948, plus several Ebola orphanages, and support for a fire-ravaged village, all at a total cost of $73,000 – or $77 per household. We visited every district in the country, meeting needs in dozens and dozens of communities. This was clearly the largest and most-impacting project ever undertaken by SAVE to the glory of the name of Jesus! Original plans included access to government records to identify Ebola-affected households. But we found out early in the process that local pastors had a much better grasp of the Ebola-affected in each area and village. We also identified and used a new project leader who did a fantastic job on Phase III and IV, who himself was a product of our ministry partner (Fellowship of Evangelical Students).
In addition, we developed new relationships with village pastors, and in fact, planted two new churches, just on the basis of our support of the needy regardless of religion or tribe. We found a generous partner in Feed My Starving Children, and were blessed by the gifts from so many churches and individuals previously unfamiliar with the work of SAVE. To all who supported this vision, THANK YOU!
When we planned this project, we identified the following expected outcomes:
That the suffering of some of the most vulnerable people affected by Ebola, would have been alleviated by the kindness of our generous supporters
- That each recipient of a SAVE donation would see it as a provision of God and be drawn into a closer relation with his/her Creator and Provider.
- That SAVE donations will raise the profile of local Christians as they engage in Christian charity and witness.
- That as many as possible of the recipients of the donations may experience the love of Christ behind the gifts.
- That SAVE and partners would have contributed to the fight against Ebola, earning the right to speak into other areas of Sierra Leonean community life.
- That SAVE and partners render themselves as an instruments of God’s redemption to all of his creation – especially the most vulnerable.
- That Sierra Leone would experience total positive transformation by the action of Christians.
- That by this act of Christian kindness and love, more Sierra Leoneans will submit under and enjoy the sovereign reign of God through the personal knowledge of Jesus Christ.
By the grace of God, we believe our goals were achieved! We are thankful to the Lord Jesus for His leading and His provision throughout this project, and give Him all the praise and glory for what He has done!