Class raises Ebola awareness, donations

The first case of Ebola in the U.S. was reported in Texas on Tuesday and awareness is spreading quickly now that the crisis is at our doorstep.

But awareness started sooner for USF Honors College professor Samantha Gomes and her Acquisition of Knowledge class. 

“Now we all have to work together to solve the problem because we can’t hide behind the idea that it’s not here anymore,” she said. “We’re all definitely in the same boat.”

In early September, Gomes and her class of 75 students started Bulls Against Ebola, a crowd funding website to raise money for preventive measures in the countries affected before the virus can spread further. 

“Our real big goal was focusing on the idea while it is in the smaller stage,” Gomes said.

The outbreak began in West Africa in March. This incident rose to as many as 6,000 documented cases, with a fatality rate of around 50 percent, according to the World Health Organization.

“People tend to look over and say that West Africa is so different from us,” Gomes said. “That’s why it’s happening there and it’s not happening here.”

The campaign aims to provide containment suits for the doctors treating patients who could spread the virus through direct contact.

The idea came about when Gomes listened to the news one day on her way to work. She said as soon as she left her car, she didn’t hear anyone else openly mention the pandemic. So she brought it up to her class. 

“About halfway through the class, one of my students said, ‘Why don’t we create the ice bucket challenge, but for Ebola?”” she said. 

While this wasn’t the direction the campaign ultimately took, Gomes said she liked the idea of her class taking action, rather than “just talking” about it. 

Gomes also said the idea fit well with her Acquisition of Knowledge class, which is based on philosophical discussion about the world and the spread of knowledge. 

“It really does give a way to interact with the world that we speculate on so much,” said Anandpall Rehsi, one of Gomes’ students and a freshman majoring in music studies. 

In addition to starting the Bulls Against Ebola funding site and Facebook page, Gomes and her students are organizing events for USF students this fall. 

“We like the concept of spreading awareness in an engaging way,” said Jackson Cardarelli, a freshman majoring in information technology. “If the very human element of our movement and our cause resonates with anybody, USF student or not, we want you on our team.” 

Cardarelli and the other students aim to organize concerts, carnivals and academic panels to raise funds while engaging the student body. 

Other students plan to create T-shirts for donations, and Cardarelli is involved in making a Facebook banner that he said he hopes will become viral. 

The campaign is giving money to a charity called Direct Relief, which provides humanitarian and medical aid to those in need. 

On the campaign’s website, the minimum donation is $10, which is enough to purchase a contamination suit to protect doctors from Ebola. To them, this makes the effort much more personal. 

Gomes and her students aim to raise $7,500, though only $100 has been raised, as of Wednesday. 

“That’s really our message: that the people being affected by (this) are no different than us, even though they may be that far away,” Gomes said. 

Though too early to tell, Gomes and her students hope the campaign will have an “ALS effect” on campus. 

“We want to spread awareness beyond just a core group of students,” Gomes said. “The minimum donation buys an isolation gown. Even (that) really makes a difference.” 

More information about the service project can be found at