Guest Post: Val Easton, From Ethiopia

A guest post from Val Easton, a dedicated Mothers with a Heart for Ethiopia volunteer and a member of the team that travelled to Ethiopia for two weeks in February 2017. Enjoy her on-the-ground reflections from the first portion of the trip:

I could write and write and write. 

I came knowing that it would be very sad and frustrating to see this life, but I was not prepared for the love, the hope and the sense of belonging that I feel. It is a privilege to experience Ethiopia first hand. 

The boys at the group home are great kids, and their lives with Mulu are a joy to witness. I saw the beginning of a prolapsed uterus surgery and Dr. Mark included me during his consultations with women at a rural health clinic. I felt deeply for those women. This could be me but for an accident of birth. Their suffering is terrible. Their joy in the hope of surgery is uplifting. 

Every day is inspirational, and I mean that in a sincere and profound way. The people who lead the projects we support are the salt of the earth and I feel blessed to have met them. Allison and Inge and Meseret have created the WRAPS (washable, reusable, affordable pads) program. The WRAPS program takes six women from struggles we can only imagine and gives them a nurturing, safe place where they will learn a skill, have education at whatever level is appropriate, and bring home an income.

Every project we visit is far reaching in its impact and I am in awe of that! WRAPS is just one part of the Wolaitta Village Project. The flour made at the centre has the goodness of five+ grains and is sold to the community for a small price. An orphanage is being built in the compound which will house children in homes with a 'Mother' to resemble the life they have lost in their own homes. The setting is beautiful with large gardens and two ponds. Peaceful. Really, a piece of heaven compared to the streets of Soddo. 

In similar fashion, the Girls Gotta Run Foundation trains the girls as athletes but also teaches them health and hygiene, provides nutritious snacks, life skills and even financial programs for the parents. Kayla, the executive director of Girls Gotta Run, is amazing. I loved talking to her and watching her with the girls. It was fun to spend time with these fine girls. Heartwarming to sing and dance with them and a joy to laugh with them. 

And then there is Busajo. It is another special place of love and learning. The vision is wonderful: to get the children off the streets, love them, feed them, teach them, then reunite them with their families. Another haven, another group of selfless humanitarians. I was overwhelmed with emotions when I led the singing there. Some of the boys were 16 or 17, yet they sang and drew with us like much younger boys. And when they all accepted a knitted bear, I had to try hard not to break down. How can it be that boys that age would gladly accept a small teddy bear? I will never forget that moment. 

There have been images which slap you with their brutality: one of the tiny wood carrier women bent over double under the weight of a massive bundle of wood which stuck out about three feet on either side of her, a person in Addis sleeping on the side of the road on a roundabout - a grey and brown mass barely distinguishable from the tarmac of the road - and another body on the sidewalk, the crowd parting around it, a thin, deformed leg hanging out. 

However, these are not the images that will stay with me. The smiles of the two women we drove to the hospital for their surgery, the laughter of the boys at Busajo as they danced for us, and the singing of the girls in the Girls Gotta Run program will be carried home with me when I leave Ethiopia.