Hasn’t it been said that to travel with someone is to know someone (Mark Twain said this in different words) Ask my husband. Evidently, traveling together was a test I had to pass if we were to spend a lifetime together. Evidently I passed. And traveling with 10 women, well this could have been a set up for a disaster. Women can be catty… or an extremely good time. Being in medicine, I would like to say that I have been immune to having to be around such cattiness. However, I have encountered some caddy women along the way. I think we all have. I can envision writing a very humorous post on this cattiness. I would prefer to focus on the women that are empowering, uplifting and just the support you need. I have been lucky enough to have many such women in my life; several dozen “girls” around the globe. You know the ones, you can ring them on the phone after a long absence and pick up right where you left off. I just did a quick count and I am at 34 women and am not done yet! You know who you are if you have ever received one my yearly “Girl’s Beauty Newsletters” or beauty gifts. I always walk away refreshed and uplifted after a night out with “the girls”. And this is how I walked away after our Ethiopian journey. All of us commented on how well we got along. Perhaps it was because we were all there for the same cause. I hope in the next few paragraphs that I can paint a picture of the truly amazing highlights of our trip.
If you read Catherine Hamlin’s “Hospital by the River” you will be inspired. But seeing it in person makes it all the more inspiring. The hospital grounds were serene, spa like. The hospital takes a holistic approach to each patient evaluating not only their physical health but there emotional health as well. They are rehabilitated physically, if necessary, before their surgery and emotional throughout their time at the hospital. They are also taught skills: basket weaving, sewing etc. Skills that will help them provide for themselves once they leave and help them to re-integrate back into their communities. And then there is Dester Mender, “Joy Village, where the women who cannot be cured go. Talk about self sufficient. It is just women helping women. And if you hadn’t read, one of the former patients, Mamitu Gashe, of the Fistula Hospital trained who was illiterate and lacked an elementary education is now repairing women who were just like she was. But the thing that struck me the most was how humbling Dr Hamlin’s work was. It made me feel as if I have not done enough in my life. For more information or to donate please visit: http://www.hamlinfistula.org/
The street orphans left with us how tough it was to be a kid on the street as well as how very sad it is. Being western we were approached multiple times by these children seeking food or money. It would have been easy to be turned off by them and not have given anything. However, the thing that tugged at my heart the most were all the orphan children we interacted with at the feeding program. Their faces full of hope. Although neat and tidy, they all could have used a good bath and an extra meal. It would have been easy to criticize Yezelalem Minch for not doing enough. But what they were doing, providing for 1200 children, was amazing. Their approach as we had seen at the Fistula Hospital was holistic. They are concerned with the physical and emotional well being of the children. They also have in place training programs via “self help groups” which were put into place to train the extended family to be self sufficient. These self help groups are micro-financed. The women preparing and serving the food at the feeding program were part of one such self help group. To learn more or to sponsor a child please visit http://www.yezelalemminch.org/
So what is one to do? Now that we are back into our lives and our luxuries. It is quite simple and affordable to sponsor one child ($30 USD/mos) this is a starting point. Reflecting on how thin the orphans were, I am hoping to recruit a pharmaceutical company to donate vitamins, calcium, vitamin D and some deworming tablets. Deworming children that are likely infected caused them to be more alert and studious as reported by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in their book “Half the Sky”. If logistics allow, I would like to return not only to see and spend time with our sponsored child but to donate my skills and time medically. As a second step, I would like to contribute to the micro-financing of women as it is the best way to empower women (according to the research in “Half the Sky”, a must read book). Once such organization which you can donate to and micro-finance women is www.kiva.org.
Have you worked in the 3rd world? Or worked with impoverished women and children in your own country? Love to hear your stories and how you have made a difference. Or your stories how other women have inspired, empowered or supported you.