Ebola fight gets boost from Sierra Leone community in Edmonton

Edmonton's Sierre Leone community is raising money to send cellphones and protective gear to help with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Edmonton group raising funds to outfit volunteers with cellphones, protective gear

Volunteers, mostly young people, gather information and educate people in rural Sierra Leone. They speak with people, but do not make physical contact. (Supplied)

Edmonton's Sierre Leone community is raising money to send cellphones and protective gear to help with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The goal is to send enough gear to equip at least 50 volunteers recruited to monitor the disease in Sierra Leone and help report outbreaks in remote areas to authorities.

Kemoh Mansaray, a leader in the Sierra Leone community in Edmonton, is raising money to help fight Ebola in West Africa. (Andrea Huncar CBC News)

“It’s like a 911 call informing health authorities to respond to a situation the (volunteers) may have identified,” said Kemoh Mansaray, a community leader, who is also a registered nurse.

They're also sending money to buy thermometers, soap, food and to support children left as orphans by Ebola. The group has been buying radio ads on Sierra Leonian stations to educate about prevention. 

"We can't save the lives that we have already lost, all we can do now is take care of those that are living and try to prevent further loss of life,” said Mansaray. 

The cellphones are also being used to keep Edmontonians up to date on how their loved ones in Sierra Leone are doing, through the phone messaging application WhatsApp. 

That app allows Mansaray to help organize efforts and offer medical advice to people on the ground. 

Helping support five children

Martha Sellu, who moved to Edmonton from Sierra Leone in 2003, had two close relatives die from Ebola and is sending money to help support five children, paying for food, medical expenses and schooling. 

The situation in West Africa is "depressing and devastating," she said. "The living conditions out there right now are really not too good for them.

"Because of the Ebola, the country goes on quarantine and most of them don't have finances to look after themselves. 

"So we have to provide. I always have to send money back home." 

More than 5,000 people have died in the Ebola outbreak that is ravaging parts of West Africa, the World Health Organization reported this week. 

It is the largest Ebola outbreak ever recorded—the vast majority in the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. 

Sierra Leone is still recovering from a brutal 11-year civil war, but Mansaray says this is even more horrifying. 

“During the war we could escape because we heard the gunshots,” he said. "But with Ebola we can’t see it coming and we don’t know who has it, so it poses more threat to people." 

Sellu and Mansaray are with the Sierra Leone Canada Friendship Association, which is sponsoring a fundraiser with a dance and talent show at Londonderry Community Hall Saturday