The disease had left her with almost nothing, but when she heard that the Americans were hiring, Josephine Dolley pulled out her best blue jeans.
She let her long braided hair down. She put on a freshly ironed maroon blouse instead of the stained cotton shirt she wore in the slum. And the hope of New Kru Town — a 31-year-old woman who was just two semesters from a college degree — set out through this vast shantytown in search of that rarest of prizes in today’s Liberia.
A year after the World Health Organization declared an Ebola outbreak in West Africa, it is fading. But the disease has cut a deep gash through neighborhoods such as this one in Monrovia. More than 4,200 Liberians are dead. The economy is barely sputtering back to life following months in which panicked investors fled and residents deserted fields and factories, fearing the insidious disease.
Nine months ago, Dolley was making $720 a month as a music instructor and secretary, well above the median income. It was enough to pay her tuition and to buy an acre of land near the beach to build a house.
She had a path laid out for herself, and she had given that path a name: the Score of Life.
Before Ebola struck, Dolley was scoring well. She had two children and a kind, broad-shouldered husband named Joshua. She was an icon in New Kru Town, a member of the country’s striving postwar generation, so successful and self-possessed that the whole neighborhood started calling her “Mommy” when she was in her 20s.