#ISurvivedEbola Creates an Advocate

May 29, 2015

The smooth voice of Marlon Johnson, a Liberian radio personality, is a staple of the country’s national airwaves. Today he is an Ebola survivor advocate, and host of PCI Media Impact’s radio call-in show Ebola Is Real — part of our #ISurvivedEbola campaign.

But Marlon was not always an outspoken defender of this stigmatized group.

“When the PCI Media Impact program started, I was contacted, and it came to be that I would be doing the show. But they didn’t tell me that I would be interacting with Ebola survivors,” Marlon said.

Like many West Africans, his fear of the deadly disease was understandable: Ebola has wrecked havoc on Liberia in the past year, stealing well over 4000 lives from the small country. Without knowing that Ebola survivors can no longer fall ill from the disease or pass it on, he was hard pressed to interact willingly with affected individuals.

“The day came when my boss told me that today I would be hosting an Ebola survivor,” Marlon explained.

“And I said ‘WHAT? An Ebola survivor?’ And he said yes. So I thought ‘no, not me. This disease is very contagious, so I cannot, I cannot do it.’

“When [the Ebola survivor] Korlia came, and I saw Korlia, I got afraid. So I said no, I’m sick, I can’t do the program today. But I was not really sick, you know — because of fear, I walked away.”

Later on, Marlon confessed that he had not been sick, but afraid of catching the deadly disease. His boss took the opportunity to explain why interacting with Ebola survivors would not make him sick; and after that day, Marlon came to himself and started hosting survivors on his show.

“It turned into action then,” Marlon said.

“The second survivor on the show was Foday. Foday, the guy who took the ambulance and saved the boy. After that day, I came to be confident that these people were so easy to interact with, and now we talk almost every day.”

Shedding stigma against Ebola survivors proved simple for Marlon, once he was given reason to hear the narratives of those who face it.

#ISurvivedEbola is an international campaign that uses storytelling and survivor testimonies to promote public health messages in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, while creating space on the international stage to ensure that survivor voices are heard. It is carried out by PCI Media Impact and funded by Paul G. Allen’s #TackleEbola initiative.

To watch and read more Ebola survivor stories, click here.