PH missionaries eases Sierra Leone’s Ebola-related trauma

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Sr. Bernardita “Didith” Otibar and Fr. John Jay Magpusao, the only two Filipino missionaries in their area in Sierra Leone (Photo: Camillians)

MANILA, Oct. 15, 2015 – With the Ebola virus slowly getting under control, Pinoy missionaries help Sierra Leone families with members recovering from the Ebola virus deal with the trauma of death and discrimination.

Sr. Bernardita “Didith” Otibar and Fr. John Jay Magpusao, the only two Filipino missionaries in the area, have been using their psycho-spiritual training to assist almost 20 villages in the two big districts of Sierra Leone deal with the lingering psychological and emotional effects of the Ebola outbreak.

Camillian Task Force (CTF) has trained community-based psychosocial facilitators, most of them are teachers, retired teachers, and university students who are also active parish workers. there are priests also. They are the ones visiting the villages where the affected-families and survivors are, said Magpusao, a registered medical technologist by profession.

“The facilitators [we train] are able to journey with these families as they cope with their losses, loved ones and livelihood alike, due to [Ebola], towards healing. Their emotional burdens, by the way, were made heavier by the stigma and discrimination they also suffer from other members of their villages,” added the priest in an exclusive interview with CBCP News.

Stories of courage, strength

The facilitators gather more or less 400 families of 6 to 12 members every month in their respective parishes for some updating on the impact of the program on their lives and giving of recommendations on how the program can still be improved.

“Listening to their stories of courage, strength, and bravery in overcoming the challenges brought to them by the Ebola outbreak [was] so inspiring. Their faith in God, or Allah, since most of the families we are serving are actually Muslims, keeps them going and gives them hope,” the priest added.

According to Otibar, who arrived in the country last August, the work is “less demanding than what she had experienced [serving] in Samar” but the challenge remains the travel distance between villages.

At one of the Camillian Task Force (CTF)'S training sessions on disaster preparedness in Sierra Leona (Photo: Camillians)

Sr. Didith, as she is fondly called, had worked in the Philippines among survivors of super typhoon Haiyan in Basey, Samar and nearby towns.

Otibar who goes to the CTF office at the Loreto Clinic run by Sisters of Cluny, together with Magpusao, visits these 400 families enrolled in the congregation’s Post-Disaster Response program. They are accompanied by a local staff, Adama Michael, a nurse specializing in mental health.

“Not really far from home”

“Currently, the situation of infection is dwindling fast but there are still few isolated cases due to perhaps negligence to the protocols,” explained Aris Miranda, MI, a Filipino Camillian priest who coordinates CTF activities worldwide from Rome .

Otibar joined Sr. Benedetta Odundo Akech, a Kenyan, in Sierra Leona a couple of months ago.

Despite being the only two Filipinos in their area, Otbar and Magpusao are “not really far from home”, said Miranda, since there are also Augustinian and Xaverian Filipino missionaries in the country.

“The main problem of communication is the low internet signal,” he added. (CBCP News)

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