ETX organization plans trip to west Africa despite Ebola scare

ETX organization plans trip to west Africa despite Ebola scare

TYLER (KYTX) -  Togo is a small country sandwiched between the countries with reported cases of Ebola. The east Texas Christian based non-profit --Believe and See-- often travels to Togo to provide cataract surgery for people in need.

CBS 19's Katiera Winfrey spoke to the organization's founder and explains what steps the organization will take if Ebola spreads to Togo.

 Togo isn't historically known to be an Ebola problem area, however after an American citizen who is believed to have caught the virus in Liberia, stopped in Togo to switch planes, concern is growing. That man, Patrick Sawyer, later died in Nigeria.

 Believe and See representatives said, until a direct warning is issued telling travelers to avoid, Togo, they'll be heading there at the middle of the month.

Just a few countries away on either side of Togo, Africa nearly 2,000 are dead from the Ebola virus. 

"Togo has never been affected by Ebola."

In the two years Lewis Swann and his non-profit "Believe and See" have been traveling to the small west African country. Their biggest concern centers around providing the gift of sight, and spreading the gospel.

"Most have accepted the idea that they won't ever be able to see, and then we come out of the blue bringing the gospel," Swann said.

While the volunteers don't work with Ebola patients -- they understand with the countries so close, there could be some risk. 

"We're three countries over... If Togo is affected, I've spoke to my director in Togo and we're stopping operations, bring everyone off the field."

Despite the potential threat of disease, believe and see is the only mobile cataract service in Togo... So the work they do, is necessary.

"We've never questioned whether or not we should do what we do, because no one else is doing what we do."

Swann's wife Naomi said the mission of seeing people gain their independence and spreading the gospel is rewarding. 

"It was so neat to see the people who we had to lead up the stairs were completely independent going up and down the stairs."

And those with believe and see will keep making it happen as long as they can..

So far, Believe and See has no plans of slowing down. Last week ETMC donated an ambulance to the group, which will allow it to take medical services to even more rural parts of Togo. The group is expected to get started with that some time next year.

Swann said the organization is monitoring the news, but also the Togo US embassy. If a bigger threat pops up, the embassy will be one of the first places to make the announcement. If that  times comes, the organization will pack up and head back home. 


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