After flying for 24 hours from Ethiopia via Washington DC, I’m back home to my typical Monday morning routine. My kids are eating breakfast and their lunch bags packed. It’s as if I’ve been here all along. My husband and kids picked me up from the airport yesterday and when we pulled up into our garage around 4 pm, I didn’t even take my luggage out of the car. Instead I announced to everyone I was going to take a little nap, but that I would join them for dinner. Instead, I woke up at this morning at 6 am hopeful that the long flight and needed extended sleep means I’ve adjusted to the time zone changes.
I’m still processing everything I experienced in Ethiopia. I will be sharing more in the near future but for now I want to take some time to share with you a powerful reoccurring theme I witnessed over and over again throughout this life changing trip.
When people think of Ethiopia, it is not surprising that thoughts of extreme poverty, malnutrition, and HIV/AIDS might come to mind. To be honest, these are the images I imagined I would see over and over again before visiting the country. And although much of the country does suffer from these things, I also experienced and witnessed hope, opportunity, and development that I wasn’t expecting.
As one local director of Mary Joy (community outreach center) said, “What we need is opportunity. With opportunity there is potential and possibility.” This begs the question: what can we do to provide opportunity to a nation with a population of 85 million? Some might argue that it’s easier to ignore the issues which plague 3rd world countries because it’s a drop in a huge bucket of overwhelming proportions. However, I would like to offer different perspectives: From Drs. Reg and Catherine Hamlin who founded the world’s only medical centers (Hamlin Fistula Hospital) dedicated exclusively to providing free obstetric fistula repair surgery, counseling, and hope to extremely poor women suffering from child-birth injuries. Their “drop in the bucket” has impacted thousands of women who would normally be shamed and outcast from their families and society. From Ian and Britney Bentley, who left their Santa Barbara home and moved their family to Addis Ababa to partner with the non-profit scarf company FashionableAble. Their “drop in the bucket” has helped women out of prostitution and has given them new occupations as a weaver while providing education, health services, and counseling for themselves and their children. For the textile company Muya, the first fair-trade textile company (and manufacturer of LemLem scarves), that employs hundreds of men and women. Their “drop in the bucket” has helped women succeed in a male denominated industry and provide sustainable living wages to their employees while promoting gender equality. From the many parents I met on the plane ride home with their new adopted Ethiopian babies, their “drop in the bucket” means rescuing a child from growing up in destitute slums likely to be subjected to modern-day slavery, homelessness, prostitution, extreme poverty, and other tragic lives. From the many foreign assistance programs such as USAID and PEPFAR who are changing thousands of lives because of programs to help the poorest of the poor. Their “drop in the bucket” provides needed programs in the agriculture, education and healthcare sectors, such as HIV/AIDS prevention, to assist in life changing opportunities which would not happen otherwise. All of these “drops in the bucket” matter to the lives these people and programs impact.
Without the single drops, there can be no collective drops. Change can only effectively happen when enough people extend a hand of hope and for the sake of compassion and the universal language of love.
If I have learned anything this last week it is this. It only takes the power of one. One person has the power within them to change the lives of so many people. It only takes the willingness of others, like you and me, to take action. A desire to change lives may feel good, but feelings don’t change lives. Action changes lives. We should not allow feelings of guilt to move us to action, but instead we should engage in humanitarian activism for the sake of changing the world for the better one drop, one person, at a time.
I will be writing more about my time as a #ONEMom in Ethiopia but for now I invite you to be a drop in the bucket by lending your voice by signing up with the ONE Campaign. Co-founded by Bono of the music band U2, ONE is a non-partisan, non-profit organization with the goal of encouraging national leaders to support international development and relief programs through advocacy. The ONE Campaign’s primary objective is to help fight extreme global poverty and preventable diseases through advocacy outreach movements, encouraging people like you and me to take action – not with your pocketbook but with your voice. By signing up, you are advocating on behalf of the poorest of the poor to keep our national leaders accountable to continue foreign aid assistance to countries like Ethiopia. By engaging your voice with ONE, your voice is joined with hundreds of thousands of others around the world to improve the lives of millions of people in Africa. Let us all be drips in the bucket with the collective hope our bucket will be full and overflowing some day. Please sign up to be a ONEMom (PS: You don’t need to be a mom to sign up, just a desire to lend your voice) and share the message of ONE today.