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New Haven Sending Help For An Ebola-Stricken Sister City

Davis Dunavin

The city of New Haven, Connecticut shares a special connection with Freetown, Sierra Leone. The two are sister cities, and they have a shared history dating back to slave ship Amistad. It docked in New Haven in 1839 and marked a turning point in the African American fight against slavery. Now Sierra Leone’s largest city is at the center of the current Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

At St. Luke’s, an African-American Episcopal church in New Haven, Caribbean culture is strong. But Reverend Richard Meadows, Jr., says some of his parishioners are from West Africa.

“There’s a great community makeup here from all over what we call the African diaspora," he says. "So we’re affected in one way or another, and we have our own troubles here, of course you know all the things that are going on, so there’s a lot that we pray about and ask God to intervene for us.”

New Haven mayor Toni Harp is the special guest today. She’s here to promote a fundraising drive to fight Ebola in New Haven’s sister city in Sierra Leone. They’re trying to raise money to buy medical supplies, including an ambulance, in Freetown. And she’s directly asking this congregation for contributions. The Citizens to Drive Out Ebolafund is organized through the United Way.

“You know, I think you learn in church, through Christianity, that we are really one human race," she said. "And that the human race, and the world if you think about it, is much smaller than it’s ever been.”

The World Health Organization estimates more than 2,000 cases of Ebola have been reported in Freetown as of Dec. 1. In November, Sierra Leone is estimated to have added 1,800 cases of the deadly disease.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.