Ebola – very few diseases inspire such a strong range of emotions and responses. My heart goes out to the people of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the three countries hit the hardest by this terrifying and fast-moving, merciless disease. So far, over 13,000 people have been stricken; mortality rates vary between 40 and 70 percent of those infected with the virus. Senegal and Nigeria have successfully eliminated Ebola through strict quarantine protocols. A handful of infected Western health professionals were able to beat the virus, with the help of excellent health care intervention.
But, let’s say you live in the crowded slums of Monrovia (capital of Liberia). These are the conditions you face on a routine basis: Drinking water and electricity supplies are sporadic, the roads are full of potholes and mud (during the rainy season), you do not have access to a telephone to call an ambulance (if there is a functional ambulance vehicle somewhere). What do you do if you get sick, so sick that you cannot walk to a clinic, so sick that no one wants to get near you, no taxi willing to transport you, no one even to take you in a wheelbarrow?
If you can make it to the Star of the Sea Health Center in West Point, you are in good hands. The staff under the guidance of Dr. Diabe Dore will make an assessment. If they diagnose you with Ebola, they will make sure that you are transferred to the nearest Ebola treatment clinic. If you have any other illness, like tuberculosis, typhoid, dysentery, malaria, or any number of tropical diseases, they take care of you at the Center. If you are a pregnant woman, this is your 24-hour clinic for pre-natal care, delivery and postnatal care including emergency surgery. The health center provides a Well Baby Clinic, Vaccination Program, Health Education, and Sanitation Project, among other services.
The Star of the Sea Health Center is located in West Point, a slum area where over 70,000 people are crowded together on a 21-acre sand bar, near Monrovia’s harbor. In this part of Monrovia alone, 28 people died of Ebola in October 2014.
The Center was built as a joint project between the people of West Point, the Liberian government, and the Catholic Mission. An outside donor provided the majority of the funds. Theresa Hicks, a Canadian nurse and an S.M.A. lay missionary, was assigned to West Point with SMA, (Societe des Missions Africaines or Society of African Missions) and served as the coordinator of the Primary Health Care Project in l985.
She was there when the Star of the Sea Health Center was opened in 1987 and stayed through l991. That year, in the confusion of the civil war, Dr. Dore offered his medical services to the Health Center and has been there ever since. He is now the Medical Director. At a time when most professionals left the country to escape the brutal civil war, Dr. Dore chose to remain in Liberia and provide desperately needed medical services.
Theresa and the S.M.A. Community in Takoma Park, Maryland, continue to be in contact with Dr. Dore and provide financial assistance for the clinic’s basic operations (medical supplies, medicine, food, etc.).
If you would like to support Dr. Dore and his staff at the Star of the Sea Health Center in West Point, Liberia, you can send a monetary donation to
S.M.A. Lay Missionaries
256 Manor Circle
Takoma Park, MD 20912
Make check payable to S.M.A. and indicate “Ebola Relief/West Point” in subject line.
Please be assured that 100% of donations will be transferred to the clinic; no administrative costs will be retained.
I have been loosely associated with SMA Lay Missionaries in Takoma Park as an instructor. Over the past twenty years or so, I have taught most new cohorts of bright-eyed lay missionaries how to use journaling as a self-therapy and survival tool. Most of them end up working with very difficult and often traumatized populations that few others want to work with (orphaned, HIV positive children; teenage prostitutes, ex-boy soldiers, etc.).
I have never met Dr. Dore but am impressed with his commitment and track record of over 20 years of providing essential medical and educational services to an impoverished population.