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Buffalo’s West African immigrant community calls for help in Ebola outbreak

Two weeks ago, when Mimie Sho-Sawyer’s uncle died of Ebola in Sierra Leone, she knew she had to do something.

Even if she was thousands of miles away in Buffalo.

So she gathered Buffalo’s West African immigrant community and came up with a goal: raise $2.5 million to send medical equipment and supplies to the poor African countries that have been affected by the fatal outbreak.

“We’re trying to reach out to entire population of Buffalo, and even if it could become national, that would be beneficial,” she said.

Sho-Sawyer and her fellow immigrants from Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria announced Thursday afternoon the beginning of the fundraising in Buffalo, asking the community to support their new organization, Save Africa/End Ebola.

“It’s just a real cry to the community, a cry to the state, a cry to the world to come together and unify,” said organization member Patricia A. Elliott. “It’s killing babies and children and our elderly. Something has to be done.”

So far, the outbreak of Ebola – an infectious and deadly disease that includes fever and severe internal bleeding – has killed 1,069 Africans across Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sho-Sawyer said by the end of this month, she wants to have three large containers worth of materials to send to Africa. She said she talks to her family in Sierra Leone regularly and knows hospitals are in need of gowns, gloves, hand sanitizer and chlorine.

Her late uncle was a medical worker. Sho-Sawyer, too, works in the medical field. She moved to Buffalo to attend Buffalo State College from 1999-2003 and returned to Buffalo in 2005. She is a patient care assistant at Kaleida Health.

“For me, being a health care worker, I sympathize more with the people back home, especially for the health care workers,” she said.

Sho-Sawyer set up the Save Africa/End Ebola fund with M&T Bank. She also set up a fundraising website,, where people can buy $20 T-shirts she created. They’re red and read, “END EBOLA.”

Sho-Sawyer plans on holding the organization’s first fundraiser on Aug. 23 – a community walk from City Hall to LaSalle Park. She hopes the walk will create awareness in the community and encourage everyone, especially African immigrants in Buffalo who have family back home, to get involved.