HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - A Henrico-based organization is on the ground in Africa aiding thousands of Ebola victims, many of them children.
ChildFund International staffers are setting up shelters for children orphaned because of the deadly illness, or who may be infected themselves.
The head of the operation said the need for help is tremendous. This is the first children's interim care center just built in Liberia.
As many as 20 children orphaned after losing their parents to Ebola can stay here at a time. But the number of children needing this kind of shelter is upwards of 7,000, according to the Liberia ChildFund director Billy Abimbilla.
"These are children whose parent or both who have died from the Ebola disease," Abimbilla said.
Volunteers make sure the children are fed, clothed and carefully watched for 21 days. the time it takes for the virus to surface. These children are in danger of contracting Ebola, since they were exposed to their sickened parents.
"We are closely monitoring day and night just to ensure that if signs come up, they are immediately isolated and referred to a treatment center," Abimbilla said.
Counselors also help the children cope with the heart-wrenching loss of their mothers and fathers and navigating a society now living in fear of the virus.
"We must understand that these children are also going through a lot of trauma and stigmatization," Abimbilla said. "And so, they have to be in an environment where they can relieve the stress, and feel happy."
Stigmas and misconceptions about Ebola are being dispelled by community outreach. Even here in Richmond, health experts explain to neighbors how the virus is passed and how to protect yourself.
Elhadi Niang, African Community Network member, said, "What we're doing right now is very important because this outbreak, there's a lot of misunderstanding."
ChildFund aims to overcome those misunderstandings with compassion.