Help Fight Ebola with Mother Patern’s College of Health Sciences

Photo credit

The social work department and campus ministries are pairing up with a school in Liberia to help equip social workers to deal with the aftereffects of the Ebola epidemic. The fundraising campaign was launched at LOFT on Sunday, Nov. 30.

The money raised will go directly to helping Mother Patern’s College of Health Sciences train and hire graduates of their social work program as they go into their communities in Liberia.

The social work department has been working with Mother Patern since 2007. They have provided curriculum support and other foundational help. This is the first time they have provided money for programming.

Professor Joseph Kuilema of the social work department is very optimistic about this fundraiser and the good it will enable the social workers to do.

“These people are the best folks to do this work … and they will be there for a while,” Kuilema said.

According to Kuilema, the college has received donations of equipment “but [has not] been able to get money to hire people to do the work.”

There is a great need for social workers in Liberia, especially with the aftereffects of Ebola. Kuilema said there is much work to be done to reduce the stigma regarding Ebola. In some cases, that task even includes helping people understand that Ebola is real.

“Newspapers back in October denied that Ebola even existed in Liberia,” Kuilema said.

Chaplain Mary Hulst believes social workers will be vital in helping “rebuild the society and to teach people to trust again.”

There is a lot of cultural significance in death and dying in Liberia, and Ebola has disrupted that because community members have not been allowed to bury their dead according to their traditional customs. People are grieving and are not able to say goodbye, according to Hulst.

This effort also seeks to help Liberia as they move past Ebola into other challenges.

“The school will be there long-term even as the Ebola disease wanes. The program will address the long-term ripple effects,” Hulst said.

“This is a great opportunity for Calvin students to do something connected to Calvin,” Kuilema said.

As a former colony of the United States, Liberia still maintains strong ties with the U.S. Calvin, more specifically, also has connection in Liberia. In addition to the seven years that the social work department has been involved with Mother Patern’s College of Health Sciences, three groups of Calvin students have gone to Liberia.

Kuilema said that many Calvin students maintain personal relationships with students in Liberia and may even be Facebook friends with Liberians.

“These are people Calvin students know,” Kuilema said. “It gets devastating.”

Hulst also addressed international students and the pain they must be feeling with the destruction happening at home. She notes that there are a lot of people suffering, and she believes we should care about them as our “brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Hulst believes this is a great opportunity to “partner prayers with action.”

“We’ve been praying for people suffering from Ebola all semester, and this is an opportunity to do something,” she said.

Supporting Mother Patern’s College of Health Sciences fits well with the Advent season, according to Hulst.

“Advent is about longing for Christ’s return … and giving generously is a part of anticipating the kingdom of God,” Hulst said.

Offerings will be taken after the Friday carol sing and the next LOFT. There is also a link on the campus ministries page to donate online at

Both Hulst and Kuilema encourage students to give what they can.

“Every five dollars makes a difference. If everyone who reads this article gives five dollars, it adds up,” Hulst said.

Kuilema adds that this is a great cause to support:

“It’s great bang for your buck. This money is going right out to help the community [in Liberia].”