As some of you may remember, I addressed the Ebola epidemic in this space on 2 occasions: August 2014 and March 2015. As of the last time we talked about the epidemic in West Africa, there were more than 23 000 reported cases and more than 9000 deaths. These were not the final numbers, but the World Health Organization declared the epidemic “under control.” Despite what you may have heard, there are still sporadic cases in that part of Africa. To add to the misery, the Ebola epidemic just relocated to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in East Africa, where more than 3000 confirmed cases and nearly 2000 deaths have been reported. Despite pain and suffering associated with this epidemic, there has been at least one shining story of a man who has overcome the virus.1
A young man from DRC was very interested in education and had been encouraged to pursue as much as he possibly could. The young man loved to study and had proved to his teachers that he was capable of being successful in advanced studies in his chosen field of political science. The young man’s mother was insistent that he try to qualify for college. To be able to attend college in DRC, a student must pass the secondary school baccalaureate test. He had applied to take the test, but before he could take it, the Ebola epidemic struck him and members of his family. They were placed in isolation for treatment, and although his family received good care, his mother and 4 other family members died of the disease. The young man was the only family member who might survive. As he seemed to be slowly recovering, his main concern was that the time to take the exam was approaching and he was still very sick.
Everyone in the Ebola treatment center knew of his plight. The health care workers felt he would be well enough to take the test by the test date, but he would still be in isolation and unable to go to any testing center. At the request of the officials at the Ebola treatment center, the testing group and center worked to find a solution for him to take the test. First, they needed a volunteer school official who would be willing to visit the treatment center to administer the test — one was found! The patient was placed in a room with a window in the isolation ward where the monitor sat on one side of the window and the young man on the other to take the test. The test papers and a pencil were given to him without any physical contact. After he finished the test no one wanted to touch the test papers, so he held them up to the window one page at a time. Each page was photographed with a smart phone, and the photos were emailed to the test officials to be graded. After they were sure the copies of his test had been received, the original test papers and pencil were burned in the incinerator. Much to everyone’s amazement and joy, when the test had been graded, the young man had passed! This young man was still recovering from a potentially fatal disease yet was able to pass a qualifying exam to enter college. He is now out of isolation and recovered from the Ebola virus and is hoping to attend university. This is another hurdle for him since his family has all died and he has little support; but if there is ever a young man who deserves support to achieve his education, it is him.
With all the bad things taking place in the world it is great to see, that despite seemingly overwhelming odds, good can still happen. Think of the men and women who helped make this young man’s dream a reality: the health care workers who worked tirelessly to save his life from the Ebola virus, the people who convinced the testing organization to allow him to take the test in isolation, and the volunteer teacher who cared enough to risk catching Ebola to come to the center and monitor the test for him. Would any of us be willing to do any of these things just to help a young man achieve a dream?