Josephine training Ebola Treatment Unit workers
It has been several months since Josephine Karwah, a young Liberian, made headlines as the first pregnant woman to survive Ebola.
These headlines of hope have faded from the world’s attention, but Josephine is still left with the effects that many Ebola survivors must now face: a decimated family, a changed relationship with her community that was hesitant to re-embrace her, and all of the medical and financial implications of her near-fatal illness.
Josephine is one of many survivors who have shared their stories of resilience and strength with the #ISurvivedEbola campaign. Our team knows her story well: we captured, produced and disseminated videos about her life-saving decision to seek early treatment, her hard-won recovery and her struggles with resistance to depression in the aftermath of trauma. We posted it on Facebook and in web segments. We shared, and continue to share, Josephine’s story along with the stories of 29 other individuals who have survived Ebola.
When PCI Media Impact first set out on our ambitious emergency mission last November, we understood that the stories of survivors would be a compelling way to share lifesaving messages and, at the same time, reduce stigma. But there were so many unknowns: would survivors like Josephine want to work with us? Would radio and television broadcasters think that our content was valuable? In countries flooded with messaging and frantic Ebola response efforts, would this campaign make a meaningful difference?
Josephine is one of the many proud and resilient survivors who are turning their painful experiences into tools to educate and to heal. Josephine helps by working to strengthen her neighbors through compassionate training with Ebola Treatment Unit workers.
Last month, I met Josephine at the PCI Media Impact office in Monrovia.
“You know, when they first asked me to be part of the campaign, I didn’t want to tell my story,” Josephine confided to me.
“But finally, I did; and as I told my story, I felt myself getting stronger. I kept telling it then, more and more. And now, every time I tell it I feel stronger still.”
Since hearing how the #ISurvivedEbola campaign affected Josephine, I have not stopped sharing her words with our team members and supporters. She embodies what our project is all about: finding the human resources within communities themselves to instigate change; creating space for those strong, positive role models to share potentially lifesaving messages; and watching their unique behaviors — their “positive deviance” — spread like wildfire, changing the lives of those that seem the most resistant to change.
The first-hand survivor stories and the fictional radio drama that make up the #ISurvivedEbola campaign have already reached millions of people through radio, television and community screenings in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Audiences are connecting deeply with both the real life individuals and the fictional characters that make up the campaign. This connection has resulted in changing knowledge, attitudes, and practices in West Africa. As one radio host said, “When I first learned I would be having Ebola survivors on my radio [drama] call-in show, I called in sick because I was afraid of them. Now survivors are my friends, and I encourage everyone to have friends that are survivors”.
PCI Media Impact’s #ISurvivedEbola campaign is sharing hope and saving lives one story (and one survivor) at a time!
Watch Josephine's video on our website: http://isurvivedebola.org/story/josephine-karwah
Josephine with musician/survivor advocate Takun J
Program Director Meesha Brown in Liberia