Life was very normal with me before the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, as a student studying at Fourah Bay College – University of Sierra Leone. I was happy moving around freely without any restriction or state of health emergency. First and foremost, for the past year and a half now since the Ebola Virus reaches Sierra Leone it was very disheartening for me. But I feel responsible to help my country. With the quest of helping my country I decided to work with the 117 hotline. Initially the 117 hotline was for pregnant women and lactating mothers, but after the outbreak of the Ebola Virus it was expanded to everyone in the country in order to help contain the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease in the country. My primary responsibility was to receive calls from the public relating to Ebola with detailed information (i.e. the name of the person, address, phone contacts of family members, sex, age, location of the community and many others) about the person that is either sick or dead. Once I received this data I sent them directly to the dispatch unit where necessary measure would be taken to help the caller(s) by sending this information to the command center. I also gave precautionary measures to the callers – that is, not touch, wash or burial the dead or have any physical contact with the patient(s).
I learnt both negative and positive lessons; the positive lesson is that we need to have the willingness to help ourselves, particularly the vulnerable people in our communities. I was working on a very small salary, considering the distance I was covering and the time spent on the job. The negative lesson I learnt is that people were ignorant about our work as hotline operators. Some people were calling just to accuse, insult or abuse our parents based on the perception that we are “eating Ebola money’’; that was so frustrating and discouraging to me, as it built negative portrayals of our work.
The experience I had is when my boss, who has since left, was the head of the callback unit. She built a software which we used to trace all calls that came in during the day. She motivated me to work very hard, as she was given her best to make sure that this epidemic comes to an end in Sierra Leone. I learnt a lot from my bosses, and they impacted my knowledge base. That is something that would never be taken away from me and I’m grateful to all my bosses. My hope for the future as a young person is to see that this epidemic comes to an end, and I want to see that the post Ebola recovery programs would greatly consider those children (Ebola orphans) that are directly affected by this crisis. I know the absence of their parents is everlasting but if they are enrolled in schools and educated that it would help them to become responsible citizens. In terms of my personal value, I’m a very ambitious person I want to learn more and get a better job, but that would only be possible if Sierra Leone is declared Ebola free.