By Michael Hill
Bernardsville’s Katie Meyler is following the advice of her friend, the president of Liberia. This week, because of the Ebola virus, Meyler shut down all the programs, including summer school for her all-girls “More Than Me Academy” in the West African nation.
“She’s suggesting that all schools actually shut down and that people don’t meet in large groups,” Meyler said.
Earlier in the week, the More Than Me Academy got some health training from UNICEF, the international Red Cross and other organizations and then evacuated staff from Liberia.
“So right now our programs as of today are actually on hold until we get further notice,” Meyler said.
The CDC says the Ebola virus is spread by “direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person.”
The More Than Me Academy gave the girls care packages and sent them home to their families.
“Students and local staff received care package that included medicine for fever and bacterial illness, oral hygiene, chlorine, soap and rice. All students and staff received an ebola awareness poster and packets. Also we gave them some homework and stuff to keep them working while they’re home,” Meyler said.
The State Department is evacuating two Americans with the Ebola virus from West Africa. At least one is going to a hospital in Atlanta. They’ll be the first ones on American soil known to have the virus.
The State Department also has warned against travel to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone as health workers scramble to treat those infected and work to protect themselves.
Meyler’s More Than Me foundation is based in Bernardsville. It recently got a huge boost — a $1 million grant from Chase — money she’ll use to expand the school to keep more girls from the Liberian slums away from the sex trade.
For now, the Ebola virus is a bigger concern.
“I’m not super scared. I’m happy that our international staff are leaving. I’m happy that, I believe our girls are safe, everybody has been safe at this point,” Meyler said.
She describes Liberia as a poor nation and she fears the potential ravage the Ebola virus could cause here.
“Liberia is such a vulnerable place as it is. This is just an additional attack against the country,” she said.
While the More Than Me Academy remains closed, Meyler and staff will use the time to huddle and visit other schools outside West Africa and take what they learn back to the academy when the outbreak permits.
“We guess that the best case scenario would probably be in October. Worse case scenario we’re guessing, we would start school back after Christmas. As soon as we see a decrease in the Ebola virus we’re able to reconvene in large groups and we’ll get back to work,” she said.
“Safety has got to be the focus of what we do. Obviously the girls could get all the education in the world in and all these other programs but if they come to school and then there’s the Ebola virus. We gotta make sure they’re safe first,” she said.
Aid workers estimate it’ll take six months or so to curb the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa.