Justine Boyle helps Ebola patients move on with their lives

Maija Tammi
Maija Tammi
Maija Tammi

Justine Boyle wanted to be a doctor, but social work pulled her in. And then came Ebola.

When the hemorrhagic virus started spreading in Sierra Leone in the summer, Justine Boyle, living in Freetown, registered as a volunteer in the new Red Cross treatment centre in Kenema, a six-hour drive away from the capital.

– Of course I fear the disease. But people need me. My brother was holding back tears. Nobody wanted me to leave. Kenema had an awful reputation because it was the worst epidemic area then, says Boyle, 40.

In the treatment centre, Boyle gets to do the work she loves: helping those traumatised by the difficult disease to move on with their lives. Sometimes, all you need is a suggestion to drink and eat.

– Humour helps. As well as prayer, Boyle says.

One recovery for every victim

Every morning, Boyle leads the prayers for the treatment centre’s local personnel next to the fence of the patient area. The event is anything but solemn: the nurses and technicians sing and dance to the tune of gospel music.

– Sometimes, the ones bleeding join in, as well, Boyle says.

The darkest days are those when children die. But for every victim, there is one who recovers and walks out of the treatment centre through the “lucky shower” of chlorine and water.

– That is when I’m happy. We have succeeded, Boyle says.

The Red Cross provides those who have recovered with a package for a new life, in addition to clean clothes: food supplies, bedclothes, kitchen supplies, condoms, and “start-up money” worth 150,000 leones, equalling approximately 27 euros.

Justine Boyle still dreams of a career as a doctor. But first, Ebola needs to be defeated.

– Maybe after that.

Text: Jari Lindholm