Ebola outbreak – interview with Doris Kamara, Restaurant and bar owner, Kailahun town, Sierra Leone
Two years following the declaration of an Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa, communities and governments in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are moving into the recovery phase, determined to make their countries stronger before Ebola decimated families, economies and health care systems.
Through its five pillared response, the IFRC, in support of the three affected National Societies, played a key role in helping to bring the outbreak to an end. Thousands of volunteers were involved in contact tracing, case management, beneficiary communications and social mobilization, psychosocial support, and safe and dignified burials (SDB).
During the outbreak, public gatherings were banned. Instead of going to restaurants to eat, people stayed home, greatly affecting the livelihoods of thousands of business owners.
Doris Kamara, 48, has owned a restaurant and bar in Kailahun district, the epicentre of the outbreak in Sierra Leone, for eight years. She talks of the challenges of keeping a business going when the customers weren’t coming, and her hopes beyond Ebola.
DORIS KAMARA, RESTAURANT AND BAR OWNER, KAILAHUN TOWN, SIERRA LEONE
00:00 – 00:35 Before, I was having a very small shop. Normally, we call it here, kokuyo shop. So, I had it for a year, then I decided to change it to a bar and restaurant. So, I started this small, small and small, up til now, I think it is now a bigger one.
Over the years she has been able to slowly expand her business.
00:35 – 00:42 You know, the bigger you want to do the business, the bigger problem you will face every day.
00:42 – 01:04 Well, before when I was running the kokuyo shop, I didn’t have any staff. But now, I’ve hired about five staff. They are the ones who are sitting over there. And normally, NGOs give me workshops. I run workshops. I’m registered with council.
01:04 – 01:53 It has been good although before, during the Ebola, everything was dropped. The Ebola, everything was dropped. But thank God, when we have some freedom now. NGOs are now coming. Even now, presently now, I’m doing some workshops, so from there I get money. But before, the one year experience in Ebola, everything was dropped. We don’t sell during the day. At night, 7, we close everything, during the Ebola time. But now, they’ve allowed us. We do our sales in the night til the time I want to close.
During Ebola how did you get enough money to feed your family?
01:53 – 02:22 The money I was having, if I sell 20,000 (SLL = $5 USD) for the day, that was what we eat. I can say sometimes this year, October (2015), I was having some workshops that gradually bring me up to standard again.
What do you think about the future now that Ebola is over?
02:22 – 03:13 Well, I’m still hope because people are coming. Life is existing now. People are coming. I only trust in God that God will bring people that will come and help us. As for me, I have the bar and the restaurant. But wholly and solely, what can give me money fast is when I run workshops. Then, if I have money, I buy drinks to sell. I have somebody in the bar, the restaurant who can cook rice and sell. So if everything is over, then we trust God, people come and help us, sales are coming.
03:13 – 03:44 I’m really thinking now that God will help me to change this place to a block, to a mould house than a stick. Because this stick bar has been with me for the past eight years. So I’m trusting God that I will have money to buy cement, mould blocks and turn into a mould house.
She would like to continue to expand to be able to provide further training to women who have just completed catering studies.
03:44 – 03:54 We have some training centres here. Whenever they finish their catering processes, some will call, like that other lady over there.
03:54 – 04:29 After she finished, she came to me that she wants to get more (training). So I’m trusting God that one day I will get somebody to help me open a very big place. The restaurant will be there. After you get your education, your tertiary education, you come here and get more. In the tertiary education, you don’t get your perfect service, but here, you do public serving.
04:29 – 04:37 NGOs are my customers. Government workers. And the populace in the town.
04:37 – 05:04 Mostly I sell African food, European food and contracts. When you come, you say, I need European food, I prepare it for you. The reason why, not everybody in town here need European food. Only like you, when you come, say ‘I need some European food’, I say ‘oh, give me some minutes, I will prepare it’.
05:04 – 05:19 I have freezers. So that I bought cucumber, lettuce, I put it in the freezer, chicken. When you come, you say ‘Oh I need some European food.’ I say ‘give me some time. I prepare it.’
05:19 – 05:27 I have a very big vision for the future, but the only thing is the support.
05:27 – 06:00 The businesses here cannot run without generators. It can’t run without ??? assets. It can’t run without freezers. And now my real constraint is the generator. I even bought, you can look over there, I bought an A/C, for me to have a very cool system. But sometimes I am only having one generator. So it gives me a lot of problem.
06:00 – 06:21 Oh, when Ebola is now finished, I can proud now for a day, that when everything is there, the bar and the restaurant, 800, nearly a million, if sales are okay. (Translation= Now that Ebola is over, if everything is in place and sales are okay, I can make 800,000 ($193 USD) or nearly a million SLL ($240 USD) a day)
06:21 – 06:53 During Ebola, I was just managing, sometimes 50 (50,000 SLL ($12 USD) per day). You know, people during the Ebola time, people don’t come and eat. They were afraid. So like, for me, I cooked, during six months. Every day is losses. No profits. So I stopped. I was just selling the drinks. From the drinks, for cook for my children and eat.
06:53 – 07:17 So I ate all the money, with that 50 (50,000 ($12 USD) that I earned) we sometimes used 20,000 ($5 USD) for us to just make very small food for me and my family to live. Then, the other, I would keep like one week. I bought a crate of drink, only not to lose customers.