Transcript: Ebola: The Gift that Came Wrapped as a Plague

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Nyamah Dunbar: My name is Nyamah Dunbar. And I worked for about six years with the United Methodist Committee on Relief with the Imagine No Malaria program.

Narrator: She’s been a driving force of The United Methodist Church’s campaign to eradicate malaria in Africa. But last year, at the end of a major net distribution in Sierra Leone, Nyamah resigned her post with UMCOR and moved to her native Liberia.

She put the church behind her, because she was going to be a farmer.

Nyamah Dunbar: What I want to do is to grow, at a large scale, rice which is the primary staple crop for Liberians. They could eat it 3 times a day.

Narrator: Nyamah’s inheritance included fertile land and the shell of a home started, but never finished, by her grandfather a century past. She collaborated with villagers, some who worked with her now deceased father over 40 years ago.

She had a solid business plan and that coveted youthful determination.

But, like the mosquitoes she battled for so many years, her timing – well, frankly, it sucked.

And so, everything came to a grinding halt.

Two weeks after landing in Liberia, Ebola hit the nation full force. Nyamah had to shelve everything, put her potential investors on hold, and wait out the epidemic.

Nyamah Dunbar: There was a moment when I had that ‘Why did you let me come now’ conversation with God. But you explicitly said, ‘Go now.’

Narrator: As she witnessed extraordinary heroism in the midst of Ebola, God’s answer was simple:
"I wanted you to come and watch and see and know that I am God."

She emerged with fortified faith and strong resolve.

She says if she had run from Ebola, it would have signaled to others that her native country was simply too flawed to warrant investment. And she realizes now that the church and her business are enduringly linked.

Nyamah Dunbar: The extension of me, whether I’m in the fields on my farm or at my office, I am the church. And so that should never be a distinction between myself and the church.

It’s changed me a lot. I’ve gone through such a growth phase. I’ve felt spiritually more than anything/in some ways, this was my road to Damascus journey.

Narrator: The name and symbol of her company reflects this epiphany.

Sankofa is a West African Akon symbol and it’s the image most commonly of a bird. And the bird is featured looking backward with an egg in its mouth and in a nutshell, what it means in the Akon cultural understanding, what it means is that you must always remember the lessons of the past as you plan for the future.

The future looks bright.

With Liberia nearly Ebola free, Nyamah is once again courting investors for large-scale, local food production.

Nyamah Dunbar: I think it’s a great example for economic growth and development to also show Liberians from start to finish you can put something down.  And, it’s grown in Liberia, manufactured in Liberia, packaged here and sold here. 

Narrator: She believes Liberia is on the cusp of great things…led by young West Africans like herself.

This is her form of evangelism.

Nyamah Dunbar: Ebola, for me, has been the gift that came wrapped as a plague.

Narrator: Nyamah Dunbar now stands even stronger- ready to pick up the plow and start sowing the seeds of success.

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