Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa


Let’s get this post over with since it’s the first thing that anyone asks now when I say I’m going to Africa.  “What about Ebola?”  “Aren’t you scared?”  “What do your parents think?”

To be honest, I’m a teensy little bit scared.  I joke with people that I’m much more likely to get malaria or hit by a minibus than Ebola, but the unknown is always a bit frightening.  That being said, Sierra Leone and Liberia are the only two countries where Ebola is out of control.  Last time I checked, Nigeria had had 10 cases, all caused by one American who visited Liberia.  Although Ghana is also in “western Africa” with these other countries, western Africa is a big place.  It’s sort of like the suspected case of Ebola in Toronto: while scary for Canadians, it did not affect us significantly on the west coast.

Moreover, Engineers Without Borders is an extremely safe organization.  They’re not like Doctors Without Borders who send their volunteers to warring or diseased places.  I think that if any cases of Ebola popped up in Ghana, EWB would pull me out.  Although it is unlikely that I would get it under most circumstances, EWB still wouldn’t want me to get stranded.

I don’t want to sound flippant about it.  Ebola is a serious disease that had affected over 1000 people.  But the chances of me catching it – even if I spend three months in western Africa – are about the same as my plane crashing. 

I think family and friends will always be concerned about a loved one traveling to somewhere far away – especially if it’s full of the unknown.  We channel our love into worry.  If it wasn’t Ebola, though, than I’d be getting advice for other things.  Concerns like malaria or dengue fever or dangerous transportation or black people.  There will always be something.

That being said, I am taking Ebola concerns seriously.  I’ve been following the cases – both proven and suspected.  I know the maps and disease vectors better than most people sending me new stories.  I bought hand sanitizer, even though I hate the stuff.  Thank goodness I’m a vegetarian and won’t be eating any monkey or bat meat!  Nor was I planning swapping bodily fluids with people.

Now that this post is done, though, I hope not to write about Ebola again.


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