Home > Audio > A Living Word – Heydi Foster – Can I hug you?

Misean Cara CEO Heydi Foster delivered RTÉ Radio 1’s A Living Word programme from 18th March to 22nd March 2019. Heydi highlighted the work of Misean Cara members in Ghana, Haiti, Sierra Leone, and the Lebanon.

In this episode, Heydi speaks about meeting Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone who have been living isolated since the end of the epidemic in West Africa, supported by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny.


A Living Word – Heydi Foster – Can I hug you?

This episode was aired on RTÉ Radio 1 on Thursday 21st March 2019.

“Can I hug you?” A simple enough question, I thought. But it provoked an unexpected reaction. I was meeting a group of women in Sierra Leone, survivors of the 2014 Ebola outbreak. The outbreak is over and the TV cameras have moved on, but thousands of people are still living with the legacy of Ebola. Having suffered the trauma of losing friends and family members during the outbreak, these women are now outcasts in their own villages, carrying the stigma of having had the disease. People are afraid to be near them in case they become infected. Sr. Mary Sweeney from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny, one of Misean Cara’s members, had brought me to meet the women and see how they are being supported by the work that the Sisters are doing.

Coming from Central America, I like to embrace people when we meet. But I know that there are different norms in different cultures. When I asked “Can I hug you?” I was simply asking permission to do just that. But the message received was “Is it safe for me to hug you? Will I get sick if I hug you?” The trauma of surviving Ebola runs deep. With Sr. Mary’s help, I managed to clear up the misunderstanding, and we hugged.

The Sisters were there before the outbreak, they stayed there through it all and they are still there. They are working with Ebola survivors to improve their lives, dealing with the emotional and physical aftermath of the crisis. This is more than the work of hope. It is faith in action.

You can listen to the other A Living Word episodes on the Audio Page of our website. 

Featured Image: Misean Cara CEO Heydi Foster talks to a group of women who have survived Ebola in the slums of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Photo: Sam Whelan Curtin.