Thursday, March 18, 2010


(written by the other half)

I read "The Blind Side" not long ago. I was disturbed by the portrait of life for kids growing up in inner city Memphis. I was worried about whether these kids truly had a chance with such poor schools and such poor living conditions. By chance the movie version was one of the in-flight movies on the way over. I felt the same things watching the movie.

It may sound cliche, but seeing the pure poverty in Ethiopia brought home the difference. It's not to say that there aren't people in need of help here in the United States, but it is of a different degree.

We've been home a week. Details are already beginning to fade. Work has begun again. Jess is busier than ever keeping an already happy and perfect home even happier. Will is settling in faster than either of us could have imagined.

I've been quick to jump back in and leave behind the things we saw and felt while we were in Ethiopia.

Some things however, will never fade.

The look on the faces of the 4-6 year old boys at the care center as they asked / begged / cajoled to be lifted in the air. They are fighting and pushing to be lifted up in the air for a split second, to be seen, to be held.

The children near the CHS school in Hosanna. Over 200 k4-4th grade children go to school there. They come from up to 3 miles away. Some were shy, some were bold. When I took their pictures, they were all so excited to see their own faces in the screen on the camera. Was it the first time they'd seen a picture of themselves?

The people on the street in Addis. The Markado, the largest outdoor marketplace in Africa.

I asked a lot of questions while we were there. Ethiopia is a country of 80,000,000 people. Much of it is rural, but Addis Ababa is a city of 4,500,000. The per capita income is $90/year. Using the World Bank's PPP formula (Purchasing Power Parity - Showing how far the money goes) it is $710 per year. For comparison purposes, Haiti's is $1,630/year and Guatamala is $4,060/year.

According to our host in country, an educated person (his example was a doctor or lawyer) might make 2,000-3,000 Birr/month. The current exchange rate is 13/1, which means that they would earn $200-$300 per month. According to Merlin there are only 1,963 doctors in Ethiopia, and the ratio of doctors to patients is 1:37,500. The ratio in the UK is 1:434.

In Ethiopia in the year 2010, the basic building blocks either aren't there or aren't available to a great portion of the population; Healthcare, clean water, education, electricity. . . . . .

I left with a sense of the enormity of the problem. We both kept talking about how easily we could make a significant difference in one person's life. A few hundred dollars would literally change the future for a family. However that's not sustainable change. The bigger question is: In the 21st century, in a country with 25% of the population of the US and with very little true infrastructure, how can you make systemic change?


Papa Bruce said...

sunday afternoon, finally a chance to check your blog and write a note. The people you saw in Ethiopia - the children with no care, the families walking miles for water. You bring up a good point in bringing up the Blind Side. How can anyone compare or measure out the pain and loss of one person vs another? I don't know. When is doing something worth something? Where is hope when we really need it?

Tammy said...

Just stumbled upon this post - so sorry for the late comment but I just have to say, I so agree with everything! My husband had almost the same exact thoughts when we were there. Our experience has left us trying to figure out what is the best thing to do next for Ethiopia. Anyway, very well written. Good comparisons and good questions!