Tackle Ebola Heroes

Visiting With an Ebola Orphan

Brennan Banks, deputy director of programs for Paul G. Allen's Ebola effort, visits with an Ebola orphan during his trip to Liberia.

I am visiting Liberia for the first time since last year when the height of the Ebola outbreak was disrupting families, communities and the entire country. During that last visit, I traveled to and visited communities such as Barkedu, one of the original epicenters for the outbreak in Liberia. It was apparent the many ways communities were affected by Ebola and the plight of children that had lost one, if not both, of their parents. That was something that impacted me deeply as a father of two children.

Many of these children would be taken in and cared for in traditional African culture, while others would be forgotten, neglected or fall into a path of a troubled lifestyle. For months I have always thought of these children and wondered about the their stories. This week, I learned the story of Ruben Goba.

Bendu Cooper with Ruben

Bendu Cooper with Ruben in her right arm (left side of photo). Other child is her youngest biological child. They are in front of her home in Gobah Town.

Ruben was a week old in July 2014, when his mother died after contracting Ebola. His father succumbed shortly after. The chances for Ruben to survive without his mother and the ability to nurse were not in his favor. His grandparents were unable to provide for him and no one was able, or willing, to take Ruben in until a friend of his mother, Bendu Cooper, stepped in. Bendu, a mother of four children, including a newborn of her own, took Ruben into her home and began to breastfeed him. Slowly Ruben’s situation began to improve and he put on weight. He is now 9 months old but resembles an infant half his age.

I was able to meet Bendu and Ruben this week and visit their home with Save the Children. The organization has identified 74 “Ebola orphans” in Montserrado county alone spread across 20 host families. With the support of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Save the Children is providing assistance to these families and visiting them weekly to monitor the progress and needs of the children. Ruben’s chance of survival and success have greatly increased and he now represents the future of Liberia and resilience of Africa.

March 19, 2015
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