YMCA Ebola Campaign efforts come to fruition

Animated videos bring Ebola education to West Africa

Campus and community efforts come to fruition under the Sierra Leone YMCA Relief From Ebola Campaign

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — In the spring of 2014, just before Ebola surged in West Africa, leaders of the YMCA of the University of Illinois’ Global Health Initiative visited with leaders at the Sierra Leone YMCA and faculty and students at Njala University in Sierra Leone to explore an in-country partnership. A few months later, in response to the growing Ebola crisis, the University YMCA launched the Sierra Leone YMCA
Relief From Ebola Campaign, aimed at raising $10,000 to support the humanitarian relief work being undertaken by the Sierra Leone YMCA and an additional $10,000 to fund the development of an education and prevention tool to help stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

With financial support from the U. of I. YMCA for the Ebola project, the University of Illinois’ Scientific Animations Without Borders team collaborated with the Sierra Leone YMCA, Njala University students and faculty, students from the U. of I.’s Global Health Initiative, the Center for African Studies and world health authorities with expertise in Ebola education. Today, the Ebola animations are in the hands of teams at Njala University and the Sierra Leone YMCA for distribution within their country. The videos are available in several West African languages, and can be distributed on the web, shared between cell phones, downloaded on tablets and laptop computers, and pushed out to cell phones and computers through data hubs placed in strategic locations [Watch the video]. Experts in this Ebola education project agree that the biggest challenge is getting information into as many hands as possible as fast as possible. Other challenges face those trying to bring Ebola education to people in remote areas.

“With branches in 23 communities, the Sierra Leone YMCA is on the front lines in combating the impact of this disease,” explained U. of I. YMCA Program Coordinator Enrique Rebolledo. “Their deep and impactful reach into communities makes them poised to distribute the Ebola animations as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Because of the urgent need for humanitarian relief, the U. of I. YMCA forwarded the money to the Sierra Leone YMCA and SAWBO for the development and distribution of the Ebola animation and for other humanitarian relief efforts even before the fundraising plans began.
“The need is so urgent that we didn’t want to wait until we had the money in hand,” explained U. of I. YMCA Executive Director Mike Doyle “It is a risky proposition, but we believe that the community will step forward and help us reach this goal.”

Currently to date, the University YMCA has raised about $5,000 out of the total $20,000 that was forwarded directly to Relief from Ebola efforts in Sierra Leone in September 2014. If you would like to support the Sierra Leone YMCA Relief from Ebola campaign, call the University YMCA at 217-337-1500 or you can make your gift online by using the following link, http://www.universityymca.org/support_us/, and dedicating your gift to the “Ebola Relief Fund.”