Journal

Written by Jenny Eriksen and Kylie Etheredge

Property of Niksen Rahma

August 3, 2014

Today marks 2 months since I quit my job as a taxi driver. Being a burial worker is the hardest job I have had in my entire life. We are about 20 boys working together, most of us working for patriotic reasons. This is a great sacrifice for our country. If we don’t do it, then who will? It’s hard for us to find a place to sleep, but I was able to rent a storeroom of a shop. People are afraid of us because we might be contagious. People I used to know, my neighbors, avoid me in the streets yelling, “Keep away!” All of my family has disowned me after I became a part of the burial team. They think I will get the virus as well. I hope that when all of this is over- if it ever ends- I will be able to go back to my family and into society.

August 16, 2014

When we are collecting bodies, we always have to assume it is a case of Ebola. This is to make sure we are preventing the spread of the disease as much as we can. It is impossible that all of them are Ebola-related deaths, but we can’t take any chances. We have been trained by Doctors Without Borders and now know how to do this job and handle different situations. We often have family members of the dead that claim that they died of something else because, if that were true, they would be able to take the body and have a proper funeral. Just yesterday, we went to pick up the body of an old woman who had just died of Ebola and a large group of people were there trying to stop us. They don’t realize that we are doing this job for their own safety. A lot of the people in these villages are uneducated and know very little about Ebola, making our job a lot harder than it already is. Some of them even believe that the virus isn’t real. This job is extremely frustrating.

August 22, 2014

The outbreak is just getting worse. Our protection suits are really being worn out and mine has sustained many holes. There is no way for us to get new ones. Not for a long time anyways. Even though I always to my very best to protect myself from getting infected, it honestly surprises me that I still haven’t gotten any symptoms. We are one of the groups with the highest risk of getting Ebola, yet we manage to stay clear of it every day. This only shows that if the government was able to properly educate the people of Sierra Leone about Ebola. We could prevent so many more deaths. The knowledge of this disease is clearly not good enough in my country. I haven’t heard anything from my family ever since I had to leave them, but, hopefully, they have managed to stay away from the virus.

August 31, 2014

I had a nightmare last night. All the bodies of those that I have buried rose up and chased me until I gave up and became one of them. I’m not sure how long I can do this job anymore. Last week, I had to bury the body of a child, a little girl. It doesn’t help that the boys and I are terrified that we might get Ebola due to the worsening conditions of our safety gear. At this point, the good pay is the only thing keeping many from quitting and even that has become an issue. We haven’t been paid in two weeks and burial teams around the country are going on strikes, a few even from my team. But I’ve made my decision. I will continue to bury the dead in order to protect the living. Even if that means I may find myself buried here.

September 3, 2014

One of the boys fell sick yesterday. I knew that this job would be dangerous but I don’t think that I completely understood until now. I think that, besides the holes in our suits and gloves, the most dangerous part of our jobs is getting out of our infected suits. It’s like a mine field. We have to wriggle out of the suit, praying that we do not touch the outside and get the disease. Will this ever end?

September 7, 2014

I am going to the hospital today. I woke up this morning with a fever, nausea, and exhaustion. We were taught to consider each of these symptoms of Ebola. This may be the last time I write here.