I used to do well with BRAC. I took the loan I am currently repaying, I think two months after the Ebola crisis became intense. I used to work in town on 21 Malama Thomas Street and my business was doing fine.
My husband had two brothers living in Kenema and Makeni whom I used to supply most of the clothes I made to sell. When the crisis became intense, the brothers came to Freetown, where they attended a funeral. They did not know that the man who died had Ebola and they participated in washing the dead body. Both of them ended up getting sick and died.
At that point, I was faced with huge challenges all at once. We had to pay our rent, we lost money during the crisis, my husband’s brothers died suddenly, and we did not even have the privilege of communing in one place, as a family, to process and talk about their deaths. At that time in Sierra Leone, it was impossible to congregate with people or casually visit people’s homes.
That situation really affected me and my family. It caused my family and I to relocate to the Western side of Freetown (residential not business) side of Freetown, where we now live. I was very afraid. We were so afraid.
For someone like me who has to take my clients’ measurement for clothes, it became impossible because we had been warned not to touch other people.
This disrupted us seriously so we had to move. At first, we were downstairs, but my husband was very afraid of the Ebola disease. When he realized clients were still coming to the shop for clothes, he said to me that if I got the disease from my interactions at work, I should not bring it home. I had to close my shop.
So I faced a lot of challenges. For tailoring, you can’t just look at the client and sew, you have to touch them. In my work, I have to touch people. So the Ebola really affected my business but I thank God that we are still here. No one got sick in the compound where we live and none of my employees got sick either. We give thanks to God for that.
At first, I was not aware that BRAC was one of the organizations helping to fight the Ebola crisis. But once I went to the office and overheard how BRAC was helping, then I started seeing the banners and billboards. It is a good thing for a country to have such support when it’s in need. BRAC and other organizations were a great help to the country. Maybe, if they were not around many more of us would have died. So they did a great job and we hope that we can continue the relationship till the end of time.
Mary Paul is a microfinance borrower in Monrovia, Liberia. Her business was destroyed during the Ebola outbreak and she had a difficult time restarting after the movement bans were lifted in the country.
Miatta, living in Kakata, Liberia, lost seven family members to the Ebola outbreak. Tragically, her grandson died in her arms. Miatta also caught Ebola, but remarkably survived.
Miatta resolved to persevere and kept her business going. She managed to repay her loan with money from a small shop that she runs out of her home. Miatta's daughter is the group leader of their village organization and together they host client meetings in their yard.
Miatta is still fighting stigmatization in her community. She is responsible for raising six of her grandchildren who lost their parents. Her story illustrates the resolve present in so many West Africans to get back on their feet, but she's still facing huge challenges ahead.
During the Ebola outbreak, BRAC also enlisted a cadre of community health workers to provide education and sanitation materials to their neighbors. When Ebola started, they went around the community telling people about the precautions they should take and what to do in the event that someone shows symptoms.
Fudie (right) explained that when the outbreak first started, she didn't think it was real. When she say one of her neighbors close by start to exhibit symptoms, she started to realize that it wasn't a hoax. Her own experience motivated her to convince others that it was real and educated them about what to do to prevent the disease.
They have since been celebrated by their community leaders for saving so many lives and preventing the spread from devastating the more families in Sierra Leone.
Ruth Monger is the group leader of her village organization in Jocobtown, Liberia, one of the areas that was hardest hit by Ebola. Many of the borrowers in her group lost their businesses after the crisis hit and were unable to pay back their loans. Ruth kept encouraging her group members (right) to repay their loans when they could. When they couldn't make a payment, she took it upon herself to cover for them until they could pay her back.
She is deeply admired by her group members for her tenacity and thoughtfulness.
I have been borrowing with BRAC for four years. I appreciate what the organization did during the Ebola outbreak. Other organizations were still collecting the loans during a difficult time. But during the Ebola outbreak, BRAC came and told us that they were not going to collect money from any of the group members. I think it was for seven months that they stopped collecting. Business was really difficult during that time, we were struggling and trying to save. Because we knew that if and when BRAC was going to come back, they would tell us. So many of us kept saving so that we could pay the loans when they started recollecting again.
I have a small business selling provisions like food and small things. On an average day, I could make between $500 - $2000 Liberian dollars (5 USD - 25 USD). Every day when I sell goods, I save a little bit of money so that I can put about $75 Liberian dollars away each day (1 USD). This savings it what has helped me repay my loans.