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Like many in Sierra Leone, Erison Turay plays soccer. What's unique is the reason why.

Last year, Erison was infected with Ebola. During the summer months of 2014, he lost 38 family members to the Ebola outbreak. He was infected while trying to shuttle sick relatives to safety. He and his mother survived, but their lives were forever changed.

Pulitzer Prize-winning video journalist Ben Solomon traveled to Sierra Leone to document Erison's survival story.

This powerful New York Times documentary is a visually stunning look inside the lives of a group of Ebola survivors led by Erison and how they battle stigma by forming a soccer team.


Life as an Ebola survivor is lonely and filled with stigma.

Having witnessed so much sickness and death, residents of Ebola-stricken communities find themselves wary of getting too close to anyone who has been infected. Many refuse to accept or employ Ebola survivors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, trace amounts of the virus may linger in someone's body for some time after recovery. But because Ebola spreads only through direct contact, there's no reason to avoid normal interaction with those who've recovered.

GIFs via New York Times.

To combat stigma, Erison helped form the Kenema Ebola Survivors Football Club, where he and others could be accepted without shame.

The team is made up entirely of survivors, split into men's and women's teams. The club gave them a place to bond with one another, to escape the stigma that surrounds them, and to have some fun.

In Solomon's words, Erison's soccer club is "one of the most powerful ways to bring people together to try and understand where the country goes from here."

The men's and women's teams played against teams made up of medical personnel tasked with treating and fighting the virus. Survivors and fighters came together in competition. And in the process, they helped fight the stigma of survival.

During the Ebola outbreak of 2014, more than 27,000 people were infected with the deadly virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 11,000 people, primarily in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, lost their lives. 10,000 children were orphaned.

While somewhere around 16,000 people infected with the virus survived, it's clear from Erison's story that all isn't well in their world.

We may not be far from ending Ebola once and for all. For now, however, it's still a very real threat.

We have the opportunity to eradicate Ebola. In July, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced that the U.S. government plans to spend upward of an additional $266 million to help West African relief efforts. This comes on top of the more than $2 billion it devoted to the cause last year.

"Now is an important time to help support these countries in the battle against Ebola. While an Ebola epidemic causes a lot of fear, it could cause much more damage if left to become endemic."
— Ben Solomon

WHO hopes that by the end of this year, a viable large-scale Ebola vaccine will be identified and put into production. Currently, there are two vaccines in late-stage clinical trials in Guinea and Sierra Leone. In the meantime, more than a dozen other vaccines have been proposed, but those are all fairly early in development and testing stages.


Solomon says long-term solutions still need attention.

"The virus isn't gone yet. Small pockets of these affected countries still deal with aftermath. The economies have faltered, the governments have lost the trust of the people and the medical systems have all been pushed to places they never thought they'd go. Now is an important time to help support these countries in the battle against Ebola. While an Ebola epidemic causes a lot of fear, it could cause much more damage if left to become endemic."
— Ben Solomon

But in the meantime, we must remember that for survivors like Erison, the fight goes on long after recovery.

And if it takes forming a soccer club to do that, then that's what they'll do.

Because they are, in so many ways, survivors.


All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

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We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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