I’m not sure if we’ve already established this in previous posts, but it is the rainy season here in Ethiopia. This means that sometimes even the most well-laid plans get washed away with sudden showers, as was the case this morning when heavy rains kept us from going out early as planned. The change in plans was actually a blessing, though, because it gave us an opportunity to talk as a group about the things we’ve been seeing here – and with such a tight schedule packed with so much new information and experiences, processing things together is critical.
Highlights from the conversation included the need to distinguish between cultural norms that may be different from our own and injustice, as well as the things we each hope to take home and share with others. I personally feel compelled to share that in the midst of such widespread extreme poverty, I have received great hope from seeing the good work that Selam Water Is Life is doing here.
David and Merrie Harding also shared their hope that by providing access to safe, clean water, these communities will see improvements in health, nutrition, sanitation, and education – and that they will eventually see advances in entrepreneurship through a micro-credit program they are developing.
So by late morning the rains had let up and we visited the local health clinic and . Apparently, it was a small crowd compared to other days, but to me, it seemed like the place was packed. The staff was mainly treating and checking up on malnourished children to see if their health was improving after their mothers were given a vitamin-packed powder mixture to take home. The main crop and source of food in this region is corn, which does not provide adequate nutrients needed for growing children, and as a result, we have seen many malnourished children here. The staff person at the clinic said the majority of children do improve once they are given the appropriate nutrients found in this powder, which is provided for free by the Ethiopian government. Another front for fighting malnutrition is Hope House, a center next to the clinic where young orphans and other babies in the community who are malnourished are nursed back to good health. I held a tiny, 3-week-old child in my arms and was thankful that there was hope for this little one to recover.
Then after visiting a couple of wells, a local church and lunch, our group split up and some went to meet up with the Sports Friends ministry and the camp they are running here for youth or went back to Hope House to hold babies. I joined the group that went out to this week’s well drilling site, and I can definitely testify that digging a well like this is not for the faint-hearted! Getting on that line made me realize that it is very hard work. It also made me appreciate working alongside the drilling team here and other local men from the community. Ethiopians helping Ethiopians is just a good thing.
As the afternoon went on we developed this idea to get only girls on the drilling line, so Nina, Amy, Rosie, Fran, my friend Kristen and I got on the line – 6 women doing work normally done by at least 8 men (in skirts, might I add). It was awesome! We actually did an ok job, and Rosie pointed out that there were lots of people from the community around watching, including many girls and women. Hopefully seeing this was in some way empowering for them and a good thing for the men to see (MDG #3, anyone?!).
After drilling was done for the day we hopped in the back of the pickup truck for an epic drive across fields of cattle and we sang the theme song from Jurassic Park as we drove into the huge, lush forest to visit a couple of villages that have had wells drilled in their communities. This water source coupled with information shared by Water Is Life has galvanized people in these communities to also plant vegetable gardens, which adds diversity and nutrients to their diets (mostly hot peppers, which I would not recommend for the tender-tongued American!).
My final thought for the day comes from dinner time. We have been staying at an eco-lodge in Lake Langano, and it’s a pretty nice set-up. The food is very good, and the surroundings are really quite comfortable. A couple of us in the group have expressed some discomfort, though, about enjoying such luxuries as a full, nice meal with pasta and meat when there are many people we have seen and talked with for the past few days who are literally on our door steps with little more than maize to eat. This tension is difficult to deal with, and I have definitely felt it, but it is interesting to me to think that this is reality for us and for them every single day. The food and living situation fo rus here are no better than what I and probably all of us have known our entire life, but suddenly when we are brought face-to-face with this discrepancy it feels wrong and we become angry.
I don’t know if we should be angry about what we have, necessarily, but perhaps about how there is enough nutritious food in our world to feed everyone, if only it were distributed differently.
A bit of hope I have taken from this day is that changing this reality of extreme poverty is a process, and the first step for these people may be the clean water they will receive from these wells. While access to safe, clean water is an explicit part of Goal #7, it affects every MDG in some way. Our group has been encouraged to see the work that the Hardings, the drilling team, and everyone with Selam Water Is Life are doing here, and we ask for your prayers as we continue on this challenging journey and seek God’s guidance in each location.