Lorraine Charinda got her first shot of the vaccine on October 23 and her second Wednesday. It was all thanks to an American church that raised money to get her from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Columbus, Ohio, the church said.
“Everyone else, we’re still waiting,” Charinda told CNN, referring to the millions of people around the world who have not been offered the chance to be vaccinated. “So it’s shocking to hear that vaccines can even expire and be thrown (away) just because people do not want to be vaccinated. If we had that opportunity, it would really help us a lot.”
For Charinda, who works in a poor rural area called Kamina, she said they could not find the vaccine anywhere in her province. She did not think she was set to get the vaccine until she was at the airport.
“We are always trying to look for the vaccine and we could not find it,” the 32-year-old said. “And because there were no centers in the province, one had to go somewhere to continue looking for it.”
The experience of the pandemic is even more real for Charinda because she saw her mother fight against Covid-19. She met her in Zambia when her mother became ill and she watched her struggle to breathe and fight fever in June 2021.
“I really did not know how serious the pandemic was until I saw my mother lying next to me with these symptoms and difficulty breathing, coughing, fever,” she said. “It’s like it’s real when you look at it – it’s like staring at you in the face.”
Her mother was ill for 7 to 10 days and sent Charinde back to the DRC so she would not get sick.
By a miracle, Charinda said, she did not get sick after meeting her mother.
“Every time I get a negative result, I think, is it real?” she said. “I just look up to heaven and ask God if this is real.”
Charinda’s vaccine moment came to fruition due to the West Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church. The conference has had a relationship with the DRC since 2002, and Charinda began working there as a missionary through the General Board of Global Ministries in 2018, a spokeswoman for the West Ohio Conference told CNN.
“She is a key leader, and her work provides food and economic sustainability to communities throughout the DRC,” wrote spokeswoman Kay Panovec.
The organization raised $ 4,000 within 24 hours to bring Charinda to the United States, she wrote. The money came from West Ohio congregations and individuals, and OhioHealth administered her shots, she added.
When Charinda came to the United States, Charinda said the Americans’ access to the vaccine is remarkable. She hopes her story can help others, she said.
“I encourage people to get vaccinated. It’s really not a joke and it’s not about politics or what, but it’s something real,” she said. “You will not realize it until your loved one becomes ill, and the fear is that you have that you do not know the person is going to live.”
CNN’s Daniel Wolfe contributed to this report.
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