Volunteering in Liberia: Understanding the Risks Associated

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By The Gypsy Nurse

April 14, 2014



Volunteering in Liberia: Understanding the Risks

The Gypsy Nurse is heading to Liberia with Cross Cultural Care

As you probably already read, The Gypsy Nurse is going to be volunteering in Liberia.  I plan to bring you along with me; virtually and give you a ‘feet on the ground’ accounting of the entire process.
“Cross Cultural Care (C3) is an international non-government organization (NGO) that pairs western health care providers with medical staff in areas of the developing world to assist with medical training and health capacity building.

Cross Cultural Care (C3) was founded by Dr. Robert Montana, an American Emergency Medicine physician who decided to create such a program while volunteering in North India.”  – http://www.cross-culturalcare.org/about/

The Gypsy Nurse will be spending the entire month of May 2014 in Liberia. I’ll be volunteering with C3 in Robertsport, Liberia.

In the previous article, we discussed the ‘To-Do List.’  I’m still working through all of the paperwork. My renewed passport came back and is now on it’s way to the Liberian Consulate in D.C. for my visa.  I’ve filled out all of the appropriate forms for my Liberian Nursing Permit. I’ve faxed, emailed, and made copies of everything I can think of. I think I’m done with the paperwork!  Now it’s just a waiting game to see if my Visa and Nursing permit come back without any issues.

Understanding the Risks

I knew that heading into Liberia would expose me to many diseases that I’m unaccustomed to. From Malaria, Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, Typhoid, etc., there are certain risks one takes when traveling to a developing country.  This is not totally new to me as I’ve previously been vaccinated for many of these due to my personal travels in Vietnam and South and Central America. It is best to understand the risks beforehand to educate yourself about these diseases.

What I didn’t know was that an outbreak of the Ebola Virus would be spreading in the wake of my arrival.

I have to be honest…hearing about the outbreak of this highly contagious hemorrhagic fever gave me a moment of pause. I had to seriously weigh the options on whether or not to follow through with my commitment to C3 to volunteer. Dr. Robert Montana, the founder of C3, personally emailed me to update me on the situation and informed me that “You should be aware that there is NO CRITICAL CARE in Liberia even in the capital and air evac may be impossible if you are suspected with the disease.” and allowed me to back out of the trip if I so chose.

I’ve spent the past week researching the disease and considering my options. As of April 4th, there were two confirmed and several un-confirmed Ebola cases in Monrovia (the capital in which I’ll be arriving). There were no current reported or suspected cases in Robertsport, where I’ll be volunteering. Guinea’s bordering country is where the outbreak is currently the worst, with a few cases in both Liberia and the border country of Sierra Leone. Many agencies are currently assisting the Liberian Ministry of Health in efforts to confine the spread. UNICEF, MSW/Doctors without Borders, WHO, and multiple NGO’s are involved in the containment efforts.

Based on the current information available…

I’ve decided to follow through with my commitment to C3, baring any drastic changes in the current situation. I knew when I volunteered that there was a possibility of contracting a deadly disease; the fact that there is a current outbreak will make me more vigilant in my personal protection and care of others. Understanding the risk has made me more aware of the situation and cautious.

In light of the information I’ve received, my packing list has changed slightly to include: masks, gloves, goggles, and a supply of hand sanitizer.


Along with volunteering, The Gypsy Nurse plans to bring the reader an inside peek at this volunteer opportunity.  With an emphasis on the people served, the cultural differences, and the impact that Cross Cultural Care is providing to Grand Cape Mount’s communities. Liberia.  I am excited to have this opportunity to utilize my nursing skills to assist Dr. Montana in his vision to provide training, mentoring, and growth of skills as a strategy towards lasting change and improved healthcare access for the communities served by St Timothy Hospital. If you would like to contribute to the ongoing efforts of C3, you can donate HERE.

There will be much more information to come as I share the entire process with you to give you a “Feet on the Ground” perspective.

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