One of the most memorable trips I have taken past was to Ethiopia. There have been few trips that have left such a mark on my inner most being. Aside from the level of poverty I witnessed, it was the simple joy that the children displayed in the face of such hardships.
My partner and I decided to join a Humanitarian group that was bringing aide to the Great Rift Valley village of Sheshamene. We brought medical aide, new baby packages, hygiene kits and items needed for fresh water filters. There were twenty of us in the group including doctors and nurses, engineers and workers.
The drive through the Rift Valley was beautiful and aside from a small village of round mud huts and the procession of women walking along the side of the road with jugs of water on their heads, the abject poverty was not apparent. The road soon turned off and we were on our way to the village. The closer we got the more people we encountered… the children appeared out of the bush and ran along side the bus for the last mile smiling and yelling hello.
The next week we would be living in a makeshift tent village surrounded by armed guards and bramble bushes to keep out the hyenas and other nocturnal beasts that roamed the plains. We assisted the hundreds of villagers… some walking days to get medical aide from our doctors. We went into the village and built raised stoves with proper ventilation, helped them with drip irrigation, and showed them how to build clean water filters.
This trip changed my life forever. It always amazes me that people can live in such conditions and still find something to smile about… something to live for. The children and adults alike loved to swarm around us to get their pictures taken with our digital cameras and then would want to see their pictures in the small screen. The youngest children would walk with us and hold our hands and smile up at us with their big toothy grins. I saw things and experienced things that no person should ever see… things beyond our “fixing”. It made me grateful for what we have… made me sad for the seriousness of these peoples short tortured lives.