I am Mohamed Sarafu Bah, a student of Fourah Bay College and I am presently working for the 117 Ebola Response Centre as a call Back Operator.
I believe every sierra Leonean one way or the other has been personally affected by the Ebola epidemic in the three regions Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Our daily lives have been one way or the other hampered because we have to make adjustments here and there. For instance more and more Sierra Leoneans are now conscious of the way they travel, certain places have been restricted from frequent movement from time to time. Goods and services have been affected especially agricultural product, sometimes this lid to scarcity. So you see on that note, I believe every Sierra Leonean has been affected like the president rightly said ‘’this is the case of state health emergency’’.
Being a sierra Leonean and realising that our country presently is under this crisis. I feel the need to join in the fight against Ebola, so when the opportunity came without even thinking I jumped in and that was how I landed my current job.
So for me sitting behind the computer with a headset on was both new to me as a person because I have not been used to it and spending 7 hours a shift is very challenging. We are all humans but it is an emergency situation. People don’t call you because they feel relaxed and most times when they do call they are distress, someone calls who might be frustrated and i as a young person with all that responsibility on my head have to handle the caller alone. First of all I have to get information from the person, I will have to placate them before getting information and sometimes we do get reluctant callers. You can’t go on and blame them because they are in a very difficult position so that is why I said it has been very challenging for me but on the whole I wouldn’t give myself a 100%. On the whole it has been fulfilling because most of the time i am able to placate the callers. I worked as a call operator for sometimes before being promoted as a call back operator which is a bit different from picking up calls as an operator. As a call back operator you have to call to make follow ups on people who have called earlier to make their case.
Well I see evidence of that every day. I will not give myself all the praises but it is obvious we are playing our part in bringing down this epidemics.
I think my work here an operator is very important. I am not going to say that 100% we have done all the work but certainly we have done our work and even the calls we receive is important. For the mere fact that we are in a strategic situation where in we collect all the information and then pass it out to the command centre for them to take effective responses signifies our importance. It is not an over statement our work here is challenging but at the end of the day we are happy with ourselves. I want to cast your mind back to the time when we had high number of cases in December but as the months passed we now have fewer cases. We here at Afcom who have been receiving calls have been paying attention to our work. So, I believe our role is very pivotal.
One thing that’s common with this job is hard moment because you as a human even without saying a word when someone calls you and the first thing you hear is wailing or crying you know that something is wrong even without getting the full detail. It is not that ordinary call that you get from family or family to check on you, so hard moment is all part of the work. I must say at the beginning I did find it quite hard because it is not something you get used to. Sitting behind your desk for 7 hours you get calls and it is often sad news that someone is sick or dying. You know the kind of mental picture you get even though you are not at the scene but it is almost like its spontaneous we are humans and we all have emotions. Sometimes even without thinking your emotion creeps up in you and the next thing you find yourself expressing your sympathy to the person because you know it’s sad.
Ebola is what all Sierra Leoneans are hoping to kick out including our fellow neighbour Guinea and Liberia. We are all fighting to kick out Ebola.
To me I see it as it’s on all of us and we need to get our resources together to get back to our normal ways where children will be able to go to school, business people will be able to plough the rough of the various provinces to the capital bringing goods which will lead to a booming economy.
Everyday has been a new experience for me because I don’t wake up in the morning expecting to answer the same calls. Every call I make is different from the other.
It has taken my empathy to a whole different level. I see myself now as a humanitarian more and more, every story I hear touches me personally and also it has opened the world to me in a way that things I wouldn’t have thought of myself doing some how I feel comfortable now. You come here knowing that you are not directly involved with the sick people or the corpses but in a way you are somehow responsible because you have to make that case. If they are going to attend to a case you have your own part to play which in a way you are involved. For me, I see that as my greatest responsibility. Now I am doing certain things that I would have backed off from and think that am too young. It is right there in front of me and i have to face it as a person and there is no escaping once you put yourself in my shoes and think of it. You come here, running down to work early in the morning or late at night knowing full well that the stores you are going to hear for the most part are not pleasant and they are going to do with something we are all very afraid off. The images of being sick and losing your life even when you get off work either consciously or subconsciously plays in your mind.
This brings me to the fact that we are very grateful to IsraAid who has taken this initiative to offer 2 hour session where we get to pour out our grief and also they have provided us with various diverse ways to deal with stress since the work is very stressful. We are very grateful for such wonderful opportunities.
My life has changed as a person and now I look at life in a different perspective. When someone calls you to report an emergency case in which a person has collapsed and they are waiting for an ambulance but due to certain delay of the ambulance the person ends up dead. This makes you feel guilty even though you should not be because it is not your fault and you can’t do anything about it.
It is not a happy ending and you never stop thinking that a doctor who has been responsible for thousands of people are now dead is a big loss to the nation.
For me the picture I am creating in my mind as i come here to execute my day to day activity is that I want to see children going back to school, hospitals re-opening, workers going about their normal duties and businesses flourishing like they used to. In short I want to see the end of the state of emergency. I see it as a personal goal.