Traveling to Sierra Leone to Fight Ebola

11/03/14

Kelly Melton is a Children of the Nations sponsor who’s traveled to Sierra Leone several times with us and other organizations. Earlier this year, she was planning her eighth visit to the country—this time with COTN—when the Ebola outbreak forced us to cancel all Venture Trips to Sierra Leone. Still, Kelly felt compelled to go and use her medical training to help the people there. 

 
Two weeks ago, after attending training with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Kelly headed back to Sierra Leone to help set up Ebola treatment clinics. She’ll be in-country for about a month, and then spend three weeks in quarantine upon her return to the US. I asked Kelly a few questions about the trip, and here’s what she had to say.
 
Why did you decide to go on this trip?
I couldn't imagine not at least applying to come back. I knew that I could come back and help in some sort of capacity and have a positive impact. 
 
Kelly on a COTN Venture Trip to Sierra Leone earlier this year.
                                          Kelly on a COTN Venture Trip to Sierra Leone earlier this year. 
 
Who is organizing the trip?
Essentially, I organized the trip. I listed my COTN Venture Trip with Eastlake Community Church several months ago. Through that, a guy responded that his friend Gabriel was working in Sierra Leone with West African Medical Missions, and thought we could possibly work together. Gabriel and I communicated about this months back, but hadn't been in touch for a while since COTN canceled the trip. About a month ago, I received an email from Gabriel that had such a sound of desperation to it. He explained the conditions in Sierra Leone and how they desperately needed help. 
 
It was that email that inspired me to do something. Besides my work with COTN, I have also led medical teams with EMPACT Northwest, to provide free medical care to the local communities in the Freetown area. I had planned on bringing a team this October as well (immediately after my COTN team) but had to postpone it due to the Ebola situation. I have a vision of improving the healthcare system in Sierra Leone, and it just didn't seem right to bail when they were having a healthcare crisis. I started talking with Gabriel again to see if he could use me, and he was stoked to bring me on board. 
 
What will your role be?
I attended training put on by the CDC at the FEMA site in Anniston, Alabama, to learn how to work in Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs). At this point it looks like I'll be utilizing that training and my experience in disaster response to help get more ETUs set up. 
 
Do you have specific goals for your part on the team?
My personal goal is to help in any way that I can. I know that I can't directly help my kids in Banta, but if I can help in the effort to stop the spread of Ebola, I'd be happy and feel that it was a successful trip.
 
Volunteering in Sierra Leone and doing relief work is something I feel incredibl
"Volunteering in Sierra Leone and doing relief work is something I feel incredibly passionate about. I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt I was put here on Earth to do it."
 
What do your friends and family think about you going into a potentially dangerous situation like this? 
My mom was the first person I told about the trip. Her initial reaction was scared, but having been to Sierra Leone with me twice before, she understood why I was going. I had several friends try to 'scare' me out of going by sending me articles about various Ebola rumors. I've received countless emails, texts, calls, and Facebook messages urging me not to go. I know they are all coming from a place of caring, but it was hard to 'keep my head in the game' trying to prepare for the trip with all that negativity. It was heartbreaking to know there was such a huge lack of understanding.
 
What do you tell people who are opposed to you going?
I typically say that I'll be as safe as I can. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was put on this Earth to help people, and Sierra Leone has always held a very special place in my heart.
 
This was something I posted on my Facebook when I was getting tired of all the negative feedback I was receiving:
I understand the risk I am taking by traveling to Sierra Leone. I also understand the risk I face every time I go to work as a firefighter. I don't get to pick and choose the calls I respond to. When the tones go off, I show up. I don't get to say a call is too dangerous or scary. I trust my training and do my best to keep myself and crew safe. I would lay my life down for any one of my brothers and sisters. 
 
Volunteering in Sierra Leone and doing relief work is something I feel incredibly passionate about. I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt I was put here on Earth to do it. I chose my profession as a firefighter because I was made to help people. I am incredibly fortunate to have found my calling so early in life. I ask you to put yourself in my shoes. If you knew 100 percent you were specifically created to do something, but there were people asking you not to, would you still do it?
 
We have a strategy in the fire service when there is an imminent rescue: You can either take the people away from the fire, or the fire away from the people. In this situation, we need to fight this at its source! The people of Sierra Leone are not capable of handling this on their own; they need help.
 
What are some ways people can be praying for you and the whole Ebola situation?
Pray for safety of the healthcare workers. Pray that more ETUs get set up to help isolate and treat Ebola patients. Pray that the people of Sierra Leone understand the clear message of Ebola and the seriousness of it. 
 
Help fight the spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone!