29 Apr 2011

The Most Special Place in Addis Ababa

For me this has to be the institution, which is run by the Sisters of the Charity (Order of Teresa of Calcutta) in Addis Ababa, a place I know well, although I’m sure there are other places just as wonderful as this.

It’s special for many reasons...

For the care they give to sick, disabled and terminally ill people.  For the love and care they provide for those who are virtually rejected and abandoned by others.

The rooms are clean and well ventilated. It’s a model organisation. Peace and order for those who have lived chaotic lives amidst the chaos of Addis Ababa, where life has very little value, but who begin to feel like normal people when they are taken in.

Volunteers are devoted to their unselfish work for the welfare of others.

A group of tiny nuns – from India, Kenya etc – with huge hearts and plenty of courage, who always have a smile on their face as they look after more than 1200 people plus those who attend the outpatient’s service.

I remember one day they asked me to examine a small mentally handicapped boy with a cough. The nun, who was Polish and the only tall one there, brought the child to me asking me to check what was the matter with the little angel whom she was so worried about.   All the people they take in are considered angels, whether they are disabled children, terminally ill with cancer or AIDS, psychiatric patients, elderly, incapacitated...

If you are going to Addis Ababa or any other place where the Sisters of the Charity work then I urge you to go along to visit and help them. They are funded by donations and obviously the more they receive, the more they can achieve.

For the last 5 years Mediterránea has been supporting them with money, medication and diverse resources, for they are the true angels. There is a special aura about them, a halo surrounding them which reaches out and touches those around them.

And this is written by a non-believer….

26 Apr 2011

There are None as Blind as Those Who Will Not See.

As you know we started to think about a classroom or classrooms for the blind in Abugida months ago. These classes for the blind were required by the department of education of the Kebele and specifically by the head of education. He told us that he had a big problem with infant blindness in the area and we had no reason not to believe him. Ninety percent of blind people live in the poorest countries of the world and Ethiopia always occupies a place amongst the poorest, with one of the lowest indices for human development. There are 10 000 blind people for every million inhabitants in Ethiopia. The level of literacy amongst the blind in Ethiopia is extremely low. There are only 4 schools for the blind in the whole country: in Mekele (Tigray) and in Sebeta, Sashemene and Bako (Oromia).

  There are no classrooms for the blind in Akaki Kaliti or for many kilometres in any direction. With teachers who know Braille, the blind and students with very poor vision would be able to develop their abilities and learn. In Akaki Kaliti there are 200 000 inhabitants, from whom, based on the national statistics you would think there would be enough blind students to justify the opening of two classrooms, one for smaller children and the other for older children. So, as you know we got to work on this project, above all because the head of education of the Kebele, who is blind himself, told us that it was very much needed.

At the moment we expected to receive the definitive list of blind children, after working for months on the project, accumulating material, contacting with the best teachers specialised in teaching the blind, including Virginia Perez in Argentina, creator of the Braillin Doll who was on the list of people committed to travel to Abugida to start up the classrooms, they told us that they had no blind young children in all of Akaki Kaliti, not one. The head of education of the Kebele went back on everything he told us.

Amazed and with a group of volunteers making and copying educative material for the future blind children of Akaki, we decided to increase the age limit to 16. Yes to 16. They told us that yes they had blind children up to this age in fact they had had blind children in Akaki Mengist School and that 20 had to return to their homes due to lack of space. When they passed us the list, the result was that this also was another fantasy.  According to them and without knowing all the reasons for these absurd lies they told us that there existed neither one blind child nor one with poor eyesight under the age of 16 in the whole of Akaki Kaliti. Of course we don’t believe them, but without the support of the Kebele it’s impossible to get a project started.

However, as Newtonians and loyal followers of his law of conservation of energy, that states that energy is not destroyed but simply changes state we are changing our energy.

During this trip to Ethiopia we visited two of the four schools for blind in the country. The first was Mekele, where blind children attend up until grade eight. We gave them part of the material that we had bought and had been made by our volunteers for the ‘non existent’ blind children of Akaki. We also gave them a donation on behalf of Mediterranea.
The second was Sebeta School for the Blind situated on the Jimma road 20 km west of Addis Ababa. The school has 143 blind students that come from all over Oromia. There are 13 classrooms, 32 teachers and they teach up to grade 8. They are in need of practically everything… the children have no walking sticks for the blind. The director of the school was very friendly and made us aware of their need for educational material, for volunteer teachers to teach Braille to their teachers, many of who don’t know it, also to teach the use of walking sticks. They need everything.

Thus, in Sebeta, we found the appropriate destination for Virginia and Debora, who is also a specialist teacher for the blind, from Argentina and teaching in the same school as Virginia. The school will provide them with free food and lodging, which will help a lot with our collaboration. Mediterranea will arrange for an Ethiocuban to act as translator so that they can work as effectively as possible. Virginia and Debora will spend approximately two months in Sebeta. They will also spend some time in Abugida getting to know the school.

Sebeta forms part of a campus where there is also a technical college and so there is a very young and happy atmosphere. The school touched our hearts. So we have decided it would be good to support it. Support that has started already,
with the donation of teaching and play materials and that will continue with the arrival of the specialist teachers in May who will be loaded with more teaching materials.

We want to reassure all of our volunteers who have helped in making the materials and who have given support, that it has not been in vain, and that everything will be used to good effect and will be much appreciated.

The classroom that was allocated for the blind in Abugida will be converted into another class for the kindergarten, which will allow us to take an additional 14 children, 14 difficult lives that will now be a little easier.

Many things and attitudes are incomprehensible in Ethiopia and this after 5 years of regularly travelling to the country; but we don’t have Duracell batteries in the Bunny anymore we have rechargeable ones; and for this reason we continue fighting because the beneficiaries of our projects deserve it.

25 Apr 2011

Choosing the New Intake for Abugida

Yesterday we arrived from Ethiopia after an intense and full trip.  We spent a day in Wukro getting to know the projects of Father Olaran.  Then immediately we started the process of meeting the mothers and children who wanted to start at Abugida kindergarten in July.  From all the children we saw we chose those based on their weight and family history.  Since there were so many we decided to squeeze where we could and managed to increase the planned in take from 30 to 42.

Five will start today, as they are urgent cases.  There are two lots of twins that are very undernourished.  In the case of one of the pairs their mother died while giving birth and they have been barely kept going by their father and very old grandmother.  It’s a miracle that they have survived.  Another pair of twins who had been accepted, very sadly died last week.

The other child starting today is a boy of 3 years who is quadriplegic (paralysis in his four limbs).  We were not certain but his problem could have arisen from intrauterine infection.  He’d never seen a doctor before.  His problem is irreversible.  The most that we can do for him and his mother is to look after him at Abugida kindergarten.  We shall put him in the care of the Abugida nurse who will be able to help him somewhat using the little physiotherapy that she knows.  We have told the mother that while her son is at school she must rest, work and do whatever she pleases.  She deserves it.  You should have seen her face when she knew that her son had been accepted and this despite telling her that her son was incurable, which was very difficult to do, especially as she had the false hope that he could be cured abroad.

There were also a number of children whose mothers were handicapped from polio or leprosy.

To be continued…