By Naoko Ishibashi, IFRC

An inconspicuous hand painted wooden sign reading “Doris Kamara Fast Food Enterprise” hangs outside the entrance to a small restaurant and bar on a lively street in the centre of Kailahun town, an area in eastern Sierra Leone that was first ravaged by the Ebola outbreak.

The namesake of the signboard, 48-year-old Doris Kamara, is a woman who is full of positive energy and enthusiasm about her future.

“I have had this store for about eight years. At first, I didn’t have any staff working for me, and I only had one freezer and a very small generator. But now, there are five staff, and I have four freezers and a power generator. So, my business has been good,” she says proudly.

Her customers are workers from non-governmental organizations, the government, and people who live in town. She mostly cooks and sells African food, but will prepare European food for foreigners if requested.

Her enthusiasm hides the challenges of running a business during the outbreak; a business that was on the verge of collapse.

“During Ebola time, everything was dropped. We had to close at seven at night. I cooked for six months but losses continued every day because people didn’t come out and eat,” says Doris. “So I stopped and switched to just selling drinks. I could only earn 15,000 Sierra Leone Leone (SLL) ($4 USD) per day at that time.

Hope beyond Ebola

“But right now, I’m seeing hope for my business because life is existing again and people are coming back. I can now earn around 80,000 SLL ($19 USD) every day. I’m confident it is gradually getting back to normal.”

As she checks in on her kitchen staff, and then moves to serve a cold drink to a customer, Doris maintains a firm belief and hope for a better future.

“I have a very big vision for my future. But the only thing I need to make this come true is support. Our businesses cannot run without generators and freezers. The real constraint I have is the generator. I only have one, and it’s not enough to keep the cooling system functioning so I can sell cold drinks and offer air conditioning.”