Peteh Jalloh has lived in Kansas City for many years, but he still has relatives in his home country of Sierra Leone, so he was very worried when the Ebola outbreak became an epidemic earlier this year in West Africa.
“We had sleepless nights,” Jalloh told a gathering of African immigrants Saturday night at the Don Bosco Senior Center, as he spoke of his fears for his family and his desire to do something to help.
Jalloh, head of the Sierra Leone United Descendants Association in Kansas City, reached out to similar organizations for Kansas City immigrants from Liberia and Guinea, also ravaged by Ebola. Eventually, they joined with other immigrant service organizations, including Jewish Vocational Service, to form the Committee Against the Spread of Ebola (CASE). On Saturday night, those groups kicked off a fundraiser to benefit Doctors Without Borders, which is fighting the disease in all three countries, as well as Kansas City-based Heart to Heart International’s Liberia clinic.
“There is strength in unity,” Jalloh told the crowd of more than 70 people who gathered for music, food and fellowship. “We decided we are going to unite our forces.”
Martin Okpareke, a Nigerian native who is the Jewish Vocational Service community outreach and volunteer manager, said CASE highlights the urgency of addressing Ebola and provides an outlet for Kansas Citians to join in the cause.
Part of the money will go to Heart to Heart International, which is having an Ebola treatment unit built by the Department of Defense in Tappita district in Liberia. Dan Weinbaum, communications director for Heart to Heart, said the unit should be completed in about a week. Money from the fundraiser should help provide supplies, including gloves, preventive suits, testing equipment, food and medicine.
Rex Archer, Kansas City Health Department director, acknowledged that Ebola is a frightening and deadly disease, but said people need to realize Ebola is not as contagious as the measles or the flu, and it can be addressed.
“We can stop this outbreak,” he said. “We’re already making some progress.”
CASE hopes to raise $20,000 by the end of the month, although its efforts will be ongoing. Donations can be made at www.casekc.org.
To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.