2009 – Brigitte Benaissa

Feb 2009

It was owing to the encouragements of Ms. Jo Elizabeth Butler that I really started creating necklaces.

Having bought various beads in Accra, Ghana, during a mission in April 2008 and the fact that Ms. Butler had some Ethiopian silver crosses left from her earlier Bazaar for the Ethiopian Food Appeal, I decided to make necklaces to sell in order to help raise money for the Ethiopian Food Appeal.

The fact that Ms. Butler buys and delivers flour, schoolbooks, pens, clothes and shoes every year around the Ethiopian Christmas for the Melka Olba school in the Oromo region and the HIV /AIDS orphans in Addis Ababa, I decided to join and help Ms. Butler this time.

Despite the roughness of the road to the Oromo region about 300 km away from Addis Ababa, I was captivated by the beauty of the landscape. Four hours later we arrived at the Melka Olba school, in the middle of nowhere, were around 250 children were awaiting us. We got such a warm welcome, dances and songs, that my eyes were filled with tears.

I saw the 5 houses (classrooms) made from mud and thatch roofs, with no windows, nor shadows and very primitive tables and school-banks.
There were no toilets, no water but children with smiles and curiosity on their dust-coloured faces.

We distributed the goods Ms. Butler bought from the money we collected from the Bazaar in Geneva and we were listening to the teachers in order to note their needs and hopes. I must say that I was impressed by the devotion of these teachers, because they come from far away, they do not earn a lot of money and they do, with so little, give education to these children. We then distributed 25 kg flour to the parents of these kids in order to help feed them.

This was also very touching because they had to get their donkeys to carry the flour back to their homes which are spread out in the countryside. Some of the kids were just sitting on their sacks of flour and waiting for some relatives who could help them to carry the burden.

The next step was then driving to Sodorre school about 30 minutes away from Melka Olba, were we also distributed the goods. The teachers requested that we build a new classroom since one of the classrooms has been destroyed in a storm last August.

{mosimage}Of course, I was thinking that the houses should be build out of brick and solid roofs, instead of mud houses and thatch roofs, but who would give them the money to do so. Spontaneously I told myself that more money must be raised to help build that new classroom and bring electricity and water to the region. These people also deserve living decently.

The way back to Addis, tukul’s (houses like yurts in Mongolia but made with mud) in the country side and farmers guiding donkeys all around dry wheat to separate the grass from the grain just as our great-grandfathers did centuries’ ago. No agriculture machinery around to make life easier for the farmers. Boys and girls watching their herd of cows, sheep’s and goats. Kids have to help their parents in the afternoon and attend their school classes in the morning.

The next day we went off to pay a visit and deliver our goods to the HIV/AIDS orphans in Addis Ababa. Even though everyone is aware of the suffering of people infected by HIV/AIDS, there are no words to explain the love and energy emanating from this orphanage-home.

It should be shown as an example of how devoted human beings are able to give hope, education and self respect to children from the ages of 6 to 16 infected by this sickness and above all being orphans. I was just overwhelmed by my feelings and grateful that I was given the opportunity to see what can be done.

In fact, these kids know exactly about their illness, they are able to explain the medication they need to take and when. They are educated in the sense of protection and first aid in case another child gets hurt by playing football or anything else, they know exactly what to do, instead of panicking. These children seemed to me like any other child in the world. I could feel that someone was taking care and loved them.

We were surprised by songs, dances and even witnessed a spectacular play by them of their own lives before they were brought to the home, when they were sick and street children. The children were so proud to show us all this and I personally was so touched by all these efforts.

{mosimage}It should be noted that daily absorption of multivitamins is of paramount importance to these kids, since it helps fortify their immune-system.

It should also be mentioned that multivitamins are very expensive in Ethiopia even thought the orphanage/home has only 16 kids.

I know that there is so much misery in this world and even more now, since the financial crises, even in our richest countries.

The difference is that our forefathers, in our world, fought for healthcare, social security and human rights for all, whereas in underdeveloped countries people have to fight for survival and they do have other priorities e.g. getting water, working hard in their fields to cultivate grains to feed the family.

There is still a long way to go but I am convinced that with the little each individual can do, the day will come when more equal distribution of food, medication and care will be available for all human beings.

I would like to thank Ms. Jo Elizabeth Butler and her family in Ethiopia for having given me the opportunity to visit this beautiful country, full of history but also for showing me all the help they still need.

Brigitte Benaissa