Seven months after Thomas Eric Duncan became the first person to die of Ebola in the U.S. last year, the hospital where he was treated reached a settlement with his family. Texas Health Resources agreed to create the Thomas Eric Duncan Memorial Fund in his honor. The $125,000 in seed money will go towards training nurses and doctors in Liberia.
Josephus Weeks remembers playing soccer on a dirt field with Thomas Eric Duncan outside of Monrovia, Liberia’s capital.
“We were teenagers, like 13 to 17 years old,” Weeks says.
Duncan played forward, while Weeks focused on defense.
“Don’t come across me on a soccer field; I’m very vicious," he jokes. "Don’t let the smile fool you."
Weeks, dressed in an electric blue African top, smiles across the table at the very people who now manage a reincarnation of that soccer field – members of the Christian aid group SIM.
He’s working with the organization, decades after he left Liberia, to manage the Thomas Eric Duncan endowed scholarship.
“This is a divine intervention," Weeks says, calling SIM his family. "We’re going to work together and make sure we succeed. Failure is not an option.”
The SIM team that will manage the $125,000 donation includes Ebola survivor Nancy Writebol and her husband, David. Both are missionaries.
“Ebola is finishing, but that doesn’t mean the effects of Ebola have stopped,” David Writebol says.
This month, it’s possible Liberia will be declared Ebola-free – marking 42 days of no new cases of the Ebola virus.
“The next challenge is to improve the situation there by training doctors and nurses and bringing ex-patriot doctors and nurses while the Liberian nurses are being trained,” Writebol says.
The Writebols will return to Liberia with SIM in June. Nancy says one of the biggest challenges there is medical education.
“There are so few doctors that are graduating from medical school in Liberia at this time," she says. "I believe last year it might have been five doctors that graduated in Liberia.”
Weeks says the best possible thing to do with the money from Texas Health Resources is to train doctors and nurses.
“Because you can build a hospital," he says. "But if you don’t have adequate people to staff it, it’s just going to be there looking pretty and eventually run down. So we decided to train people and have them carry on the legacy of Mr. Thomas Eric Duncan, to make sure he’s never be forgotten and what’s happened here at Texas Health Resources.”
Josephus Weeks and Thomas Eric Duncan’s sister, Tupee Garsinii, will help raise funds for the scholarship.
“We appreciate this," Garsinii says. "We are excited. This is the beginning but we want to say thank you.”