Ebola Outbreak Delays St. Cloud Couple's Adoption in Liberia

Updated: 08/15/2014 1:44 PM KSTP.com By: Tim Sherno

A St. Cloud couple is frustrated by restrictions on their travel to Liberia caused by the Ebola outbreak. Jason and Jessica Neal work for a non-profit organization called Teamwork Africa and have made several trips to the west African nation in the past few years. Among other tasks, they help coordinate financial sponsorships for orphans, providing food and other essentials.

Another major effort of Teamwork Africa is to supply simple wash buckets to the areas hardest hit by the deadly virus. The buckets have a spigot on the front and are shipped with bleach and soap inside. When filled with water, the bleach and soap create a hand washing station, providing simple hygiene in remote areas with few facilities. In areas facing Ebola, Jessica Neal says the wash buckets are critical.

"It's life saving. It's life or death," she said.

While on a recent trip, Jessica Neal cared for an 8-year-old boy with cerebral palsy named Emmanuel. Jessica Neal says she quickly developed a strong attachment to the boy and sent a picture of the boy to her husband with a note saying, "Say hello to your new son."

The Neals have eight children, seven of them are adopted; in addition, they say they have been foster parents for a decade, caring for more than 80 children. The decision to bring Emmanuel into their home was simple, but actually getting him home has been a frustration. The Ebola outbreak has caused them to cancel travel plans. Jason Neal says the delay is difficult.

"I want to do something," he said. "I wish I could go there right now."

As the Neals wait, they're working to help fight the virus by raising money to buy simple wash buckets. Jessica Neal says the buckets are being delivered to new locations daily.

"One per household is saving lives," she said.

The buckets cost $15 each and can be provided through the organization's website, TeamworkAfrica.Org.