One week after being released from quarantine, Ryan Boyko GRD ’18 received a welcoming hug from Associate Dean of the School of Art Samuel Messer — signaling the community’s embrace of Boyko’s Ebola relief efforts.
Boyko, who was quarantined for three weeks after helping model the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, served as a guest speaker at last night’s Dance for Life — Ebola Relief Night. Organized by the Yale School of Art, the Yale African Students’ Association and the Yale School of Medicine, the event was a dance benefit and art show that raised over $2,600 for Ebola relief efforts. Although the dance was free, people who donated at least $25 donation could receive door prizes contributed by students, alumni and faculty of the Yale School of Art. Event organizer Messer said to the attendees that he orchestrated the event primarily because he was embarrassed by the United States’ response to the crisis. The nation’s response, he said, stigmatizes the virus.
“I made the event free because I think it’s about raising the awareness” Messer said. “If we are one interconnected community in the world, then we need to understand that these people and people everywhere are the same as us. We need to look outward. It’s about one community and taking care of each other.”
Messer said he was inspired by a New York Times article that described America’s lack of aid and donations to the effected areas. He added that he was excited to have Boyko as a speaker because he has firsthand knowledge of the state of West Africa and can teach students the most important lessons of providing aid.
During his presentation, Boyko showed pictures of on-the-ground efforts he witnessed during his recent trip to Liberia. He said the public needs to be aware of the two problems the Ebola crisis presents: lack of aid and stigmatization of the disease.
In Liberia, Boyko built an android app to help local leaders better understand the spread of the virus. But Boyko said he wanted the public to be aware that there are many local heroes in Liberia, including “block captains” who surveyed citizens in order to locate hotspots of the virus. These leaders entered homes not knowing whether they were exposing themselves to the virus. He added that the efforts to aid Liberia do not end when the disease is extinguished.
“After this epidemic ends, the underlying problems [in some of the African infrastructure] will still be there,” Boyko said. “Give what you can to stop the systemic problems at the base of this.”
Initially, Messer wanted Boyko to Skype in to the benefit from his quarantine. But when Messer heard Boyko’s quarantine would be over, Messer urged him to deliver his speech live. Boyko said after the event that he received no backlash from the public and everyone was generally accepting of his message, though he thought the event was under-publicized.
All donations from the benefit went directly to Doctors Without Borders and Partners in Health, non-profit organizations committed to helping relieve the virus in marginalized areas. Messer said he was very conscious about how much money actually goes to the relief efforts when deciding on which aid organizations to choose. Partners in Health gives 92 percent of funds directly to the areas in need, and Doctors without Borders gives 89 percent, he added.
“We feel helpless because none of us can give the medical help that is needed most because we are not doctors, but events like this give us avenues to help in little ways that we are sure in the end will help in some capacity,” YASA political chair Victor Gitau ’17 said.
Andrew Cheruiyot ’15, also a member of YASA and the DJ at the event, said he thinks there were not many attendees at the start of the event because it started too early for undergraduates, who usually go out around 10 p.m. However, he said the “chill” environment is a better place for people to talk about Ebola awareness and relief efforts than a seminar or talk that reaches a less diverse audience.
The event ran from 8 p.m. to midnight at 1156 Chapel St.