CHARLESTOWN >> A former University of Valley Forge student was recently named as one of Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” honorees for her work in Africa with Ebola victims.
Katie Meyler was featured in Time’s Dec. 22 issue highlighting Ebola fighters in Liberia.
In total, five categories of Ebola fighters were recognized by Time, including doctors, nurses, caregivers, directors and scientists. Meyler was recognized as a caregiver and has volunteered her time and resources to help fight the epidemic.
Originally from Bernardsville, N.J., the 32-year-old first traveled to Liberia after college to assist with an adult literacy program. Meyler was then inspired to create the More Than Me nonprofit organization to help improve educational opportunities for girls in West Point, an impoverished section of Monrovia, Liberia.
When the Ebola outbreak reached West Point in August, the focus of More Than Me shifted “to keep the girls of West Point protected from the Ebola virus. Meyler began to work directly on the front lines with Ebola victims and orphaned children left in the wake of the epidemic,” a press release from the university stated.
Most recently, Meyler was in Liberia from August to December helping Ebola victims. Meyler said she will be returning again in March to work in Monrovia.
“It was not part of our mission when I returned, but we realized that if we didn’t protect our students, their family and their community from Ebola, then we may not have a school to go back to,” said Meyler. “As long as there is Ebola in Liberia, our girls are at risk. More Than Me is fighting with everything we are made of to end this epidemic that terrorizes our children and the communities in which they live.
“We are doing this by understanding the pulse of the local people, remaining flexible to respond rapidly to urgent needs, and supporting efforts that have the highest return.”
Meyler said she took necessary precautions to protect herself from the disease as best she could while working in such a high-risk situation.
“Any time I’d feel even a tiny bit sick, it was impossible not to think that it might be Ebola,” she remarked. “I thought I had it once, but thankfully I didn’t. I would always wear long sleeves and boots and wash my hands with chlorine. Washing hands often is the best thing you can do to protect yourself from Ebola, besides not touching sick people.”
Meyler said she felt honored by the recognition by Time and being named as a Person of the Year. She also noted that helping education in Liberia is the key to battling the Ebola epidemic.
Said Meyler, “The past few months have been filled with some of the most intense moments of my life, but they’ve also been some of the proudest. I’m honored to be listed next to these truly inspiring people and want to take this time to recognize everyone, on this list or not, who has helped fight Ebola on the front lines.”
She continued, “Liberia’s Ebola outbreak was so devastating because there was no infrastructure set up prior to Ebola. They are lacking working healthcare and education systems, and the human capacity needed to deal with an outbreak. We believe that the only way to make sure something like this never happens again is to rebuild the education system in Liberia. So that’s what we’re going to do.”
University of Valley Forge executive vice president Dr. Daniel Mortensen also noted Meyler’s recent achievement.
“Our alumni are involved in humanitarian and religious work around the United States and the world. Many, like Katie, are involved in places of deep need where only persons of great courage, strength and commitment are willing to serve,” he said. “Truly, Katie represents the best of what a UVF student aspires to become and we are so very proud of her. Her recognition by Time magazine is appropriate and will inspire not only our students, but other persons around the world who desire to make a positive impact in the world.”
More information and to help Katie’s efforts are available at MorethanMe.org.