Widow Of 1st American Ebola Victim Strives To End Ignorance

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Dallas Ebola case is leading to widespread concern in the 30,000-strong Twin Cities Liberian community — the largest outside of Africa.

The widow of the first American citizen to die of Ebola, who lives in Coon Rapids, picked up a donation of cleaning supplies for Liberia at St. Cloud State University Monday.

Decontee Sawyer’s husband, Patrick, died of Ebola in Liberia in July.

She says Liberians in the Twin Cities are being ostracized because of unfounded fears of the disease.

Sawyer can smile when she plays with her three daughters: 18-month-old Bella, 6-year-old Ava and 5-year-old Mia.

She says her children and her faith keep her strong.

“I have three little girls that depend on me,” Sawyer said. “I am the parent they have so I have to be strong.”

Sawyer founded the Kofa Foundation, which helps raise money and collect supplies for Ebola victims.

“The donations make me feel really good,” she said. “We’re all in this together. It’s not just a Liberian problem or my problem — it’s a global problem.”

And while the donations are encouraging, she says local Liberians are being ostracized. One of her friends had a doctor refuse to perform an examination on her.

“She then said to him, ‘I haven’t been to Liberia in 20 years, nor have I encountered anyone who came from Liberia, so I don’t have Ebola!’” Sawyer said.

Other friends have told her children they don’t want to play with them because they’re Liberian.

Educating both Liberians and non-Liberians about Ebola is another goal of her foundation.

“We have to educate ourselves,” she said.

It’s an effort Sawyer hopes will helps others as much as it is helping her.

“For me it’s therapeutic,” she said. “I want to reach out. It’s part of my healing, or else I will crumble.”

If you are interested in finding out more about Sawyer’s Kofa Foundation, click here.

More from Esme Murphy
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