Now Their Hope Is to Stay Alive
‘More Than Me’ Steps Up to the Ebola Crisis
by Scott Wible
She called from New York City on her cell phone, stuck in traffic, late for a doctor appointment. “Is this a good time to talk?” she asked.
“Absolutely,” I answered. When Katie Meyler is on the line—and network news correspondents, United Nations officials, presidents of countries, and Bill Gates crowd the queue behind you—you don’t say no.
North Central University alumna Katie Meyler is among a select group of courageous Ebola Fighters who collectively were named TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2014.
Graduating from North Central in 2005 with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, Katie went on in 2009 to create the award-winning foundation More Than Me. From the beginning, the organization endeavored to expand educational opportunities for the most vulnerable girls from the West Point slum in Monrovia, capital city of Liberia, in West Africa. But the Ebola crisis refocused the organization’s energies to mobilize an ad hoc disaster-response center, organize food distribution, launch an ambulance service, and establish a temporary orphanage for children whose families have been devastated by the dreaded disease. Staff and volunteers even converted the guesthouse to a quarantine unit, and the library to a warehouse for medical supplies.
I asked Katie about the organization’s shift in focus.
“Our work is in response to the girls and their hopes, dreams, and challenges,” she explained. “The school came first. No girl should be out on the street when her biggest dream is to go to school. But now their hope is to stay alive.”
When West Point’s first case of Ebola was confirmed in August 2014, Katie recounted, More Than Me sought partnerships with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and others to eradicate the disease not just in West Point, but from Liberia altogether.
“And it’s working!” Katie exclaimed. In fact, MOH has asked the organization to expand its efforts to five other Ebola hot zones. “Now we are focusing on survivor support and reintegration.”
And much to the joy of both staff and students, the More Than Me Academy reopened in March to 150 girls, about 30 of whom were orphaned or abandoned because of Ebola. The staff has taken every precaution to ensure their safety, from constructing a hand-washing station to enforcing new health and safety rules in the classroom.
Providing education to the girls will always be a priority, Katie said, but after decades of civil war, Liberia lacks an educated professional population to lead its schools. Illiteracy is a problem across generations. “We want to circumvent the lack of literacy by focusing more on technology,” she said. The hope is that over the next couple of decades, students will graduate to become the leaders and teachers Liberia needs to develop and recover. Indeed, Katie envisions a day when the programs of More Than Me are no longer necessary. “We want to be part of rebuilding education in Liberia,” she said.
On my phone I could hear sirens in the background. “Don’t worry,” Katie laughed, “they’re not after me!” She’d finally made it to the doctor’s office.
“Real quick, any advice for the students of North Central University?” I asked.
“Wherever you are, show love and compassion,” she offered. “I believe strongly that following Jesus, listening to the Holy Spirit, is equivalent to ending suffering in the world—whether you’re in the slums of West Point or on the streets of New York.”