The Ebola crisis in West Africa may have already orphaned an estimated 10,000 children, leaving many mission and humanitarian organizations feeling almost helpless in its wake. But last fall, Dr. Lyn Westman and Mercy Ships joined in collaboration with David C Cook to create lessons for Helping Young People Deal With the Ebola Crisis. The curriculum guides orphaned children toward emotional recovery from the trauma and suffering of losing a loved one.
The Emotional Toll of Ebola
Though everyone reacts to loss and tragedy in different ways, there’s a natural pull into community during periods of grief. Hugging, kissing, holding hands—people often look for relief and comfort through intimate connection with others.
But Ebola spreads so rapidly and easily that the quickest way to prevent more infection is to eliminate physical touch. Relationally speaking, Ebola infects family and community dynamics even among the living who have survived the disease or never contracted the virus. “We are made for relationship, but the fear of Ebola separates people. Those who are nowhere near Ebola are afraid of it, and it is paralyzing some people with fear. For many it is becoming all-consuming,” says Dr. Westman.
Tools for Spiritual Comfort
These crippling factors—isolation and fear—motivated efforts to deliver recovery resources as quickly as possible. Writers from David C Cook drew from existing children’s curriculum and modified it to create “Helping Communities Heal: After a Natural Disaster.” Dr. Westman advised the process, and secured funding though Tributaries International for the French translation.
The six lessons holistically meet orphans’ spiritual and physical needs, with chapters such as “God Listens to My Fears About Ebola,” and “Christians Practice Good Hygiene.” Dr. Westman explains, “This curriculum not only helps people heal from the trauma and process through grief, but is also an educational tool to assist in prevention of Ebola spreading. Ebola affects the body, soul, spirit, and relationships of people. People tend to draw closer to God during crisis. These lessons help them to trust Him to walk through it with them, and hopefully some people also find Him in the process.”
Though there is much suffering in the wake of Ebola, there are also answers. Please pray for the restoration of communities affected by the virus and for the children grieving lost loved ones, that they would find comfort in God’s love.