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After the Crisis

Sara B. May | Freetown, Sierra Leone

Organization: Sara B May Photography

November 2015. 12 year old Francis Yorpoi stands in front of his classroom at the We Yone school in the community of George Brook, in Freetown, Sierra Leone. After the death of his parents, Francis was forced to leave the private school he had attended for most of his life. His uncle informed him school was not an option due to expense, and there were no free public schools in their area. However, Francis found the non-profit We Yone school near his new home, and proceeded to show up daily for weeks begging to become a student. He was accepted and given a scholarship in late 2015.

With it's insidious onset in May of 2014, the Ebola epidemic proceeded to ravage Sierra Leone for nearly 2 years, leading to the deaths of nearly 4000 people. In December 2014, Francis Yorpoi lost both parents--his mother, a homemaker, and his father, a photographer--within 2 weeks of eachother. He was adopted by his paternal uncle, Matthew Gbakie, and his wife Eye. The Gbakie family already had 3 sons of their own, and were also supporting the family's grandmother, Nidia. Even before Francis' arrival, they lived hand to mouth and Matthew was struggling to find work in the depressed economy. With the arrival of Francis and another mouth to feed, things didn't get easier. These images, taken in November of 2015 and April of 2017, follow the Gbakie family's trajectory over the course of the 2 years immediately following the Ebola epidemic. Through the Gbakie family, we can experience firsthand the altered trajectories of individuals, families and communities after a crisis has abated and the world has moved on.

The story of Francis Yorpoi and the Gbakie family is just one illustration of trajectories permanently altered. Whether a crisis involves an epidemic, a natural disaster, or is man-made (ie. civil war, genocide) the tendency of global media and relief agencies has been to follow a cause until the immediate crisis is averted, but to quickly move on to the next crisis or news cycle as soon as possible. Yet while the world's media outlets and support networks are quick to respond to an emerging crisis, little is known about the degree to which individual lives, families, and communities are affected in the ensuing years, after the rest of the world has moved on. With these images I hope to take a small step towards shedding light on the trajectory of human lives in the aftermath of a catastrophe, in the hope that these stories will perhaps influence global awareness and the distibution of care to reach beyond the apex of a crisis to also include the more subtle yet equally vital path to recovery. 

Sara B. May Photography

http://www.sarabmay.com/

sbmay123@gmail.com

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