CLEAR LAKE, Iowa – One of the world’s most deadly diseases is spreading through West Africa, and it isn’t just Ebola cases that are on the rise, there’s also a rising panic. But the fear, may not be warranted. KIMT News 3 sat down with a Clear Lake man who has first-hand experience in West Africa.
“I didn’t get to say the goodbyes I wanted to, didn’t get to tie up loose ends.”
Geoff Delperdang says, leaving the country he called home the past two years was difficult, especially under the circumstances.
“Unfortunately, this last month two peace corps volunteers had contact with someone in one of the counties who later passed away of Ebola,” he explains.
As an extra precaution, the organization pulled volunteers out of the entire region, including Guinea, where Delperdang was an education volunteer at a rural high school.
“It just continued to spread. It hit a couple different pockets, and it eventually even ended up in my community.”
At that point, Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross showed up to help people who contracted the virus.
Delperdang says, besides medical help, the people needed education about the illness they knew nothing about. That’s where he stepped in, along with Red Cross volunteers and his students. Together they were able to educate more than 2,000 people.
“Telling them how it’s spread, what the symptoms are and what to do when you start presenting such symptoms. I really believe it was because of our enormous efforts that we were able to eradicate Ebola from our community.”
Delperdang’s view of what is panicking people around the world may be a little different than most. He sees the outbreak as an opportunity for America to help these third world countries.
“They’re no different than us. They deserve no less than what we deserve. It’s just an unfortunate circumstance that they have less. In my opinion, we should do everything we can to give them what we have,” he adds.
Delperdang wants Americans to understand Ebola is not easily spread, and if symptoms are recognized, and caught early, it can be treated successfully.
He hopes to one day, return to the community he holds close to his heart. In the meantime he will hold on to the memories of the people he had to leave too soon.
“They’re a very welcoming, sweet people.”
While in Guinea, Delperdang helped build his community’s first library. Unfortunately, he’ll miss the official opening that’s scheduled for next week.
He also tells us the two Peace Corps volunteers who may have had contact with Ebola, are currently under observation for 21 days. So far, they’re showing no signs of the disease.