Human Rights Day was celebrated on Dec. 10 this year, and the Shalom Club at Helias Catholic High School took advantage of the opportunity to learn about a human rights problem that continues to occur in Africa. This is the problem of Ebola, a disease currently affecting the country of Sierra Leone. Sharing her firsthand experience on the issue, Sister Rosanne Rustemeyer, who spent time as a missionary for the School Sisters of Notre Dame in the country, came to talk to the club about the tragedy happening there.
Rustemeyer, who is from Loose Creek, MO, was sent to Sierra Leone to teach girls who otherwise may not have had the opportunity of getting an education. She now lives in St. Louis. She was sent home from Sierra Leone just days after a doctor with Ebola was sent to be treated in the United States.
During the talk, she began with some videos and a discussion about how the country was doing before the disease hit. The country has a diverse culture with a variety of peoples and foods. Sierra Leone was on the rise until the disease struck.
“The occurrence of this disease is really going to set them back,” Rustemeyer said. “Anything that can go wrong is going wrong.”
Because of its culture of sharing food with the entire family on one single platter and a burial ritual of touching the dead, the disease spread very quickly once it reached the country. It is more than 70% deadly in the country, with only one doctor for every 19,000 people. While more volunteers are willing to help out, the funds simply are not there.
Despite all of this, Rustemeyer still feels there is hope. She shared her thought that, “Change can bring prosperity for them.” The people of Sierra Leone have one simple request for the world.
“I just ask that you pray for these people. That’s what they need and want,” Rustemeyer said. “To work with them gives you the sense that there is hope.”
The Shalom Club feels that more should be done to educate people about human rights issues around the world. When asked about how the talk influenced her, Sophomore Maura Shimmens said that one statement really comforted her.
“What overwhelmed me most and gave me the most comfort was that the basic principles of what we believe must be the basis for decisions we make,” Shimmens explained. The Shalom Club encourages all people to take a moment to just pray for these people in their time of great need.