Peggy Storr BSRDH
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
This is a quote found on Hope Arising’s face book page and it is so appropriate that I had to include it here. In October, I was incredibly fortunate to travel to Ethiopia with Chantal Carr, one of two founders of Hope Arising, Dr. Chet Jenkins, and a team of 28 great people, including six teenagers. As I sit and try to write a blog about my trip, I realize that nothing I say will describe the experience nor do it justice. A picture being worth a thousand words, check out Hope Arising’s facebook page. This will offer a more accurate glimpse into the work that three humanitarians (Chantal Carr, Rochelle Sellers, and Dr. Chet Jenkins) have accomplished in a relatively short few years.
When Chantal and Rochelle visited the small village of Dera, Ethiopia in 2008, the village people were walking as many as 5 miles to wait in lines to fill cans of water. These “Jerry” cans weigh 40 lbs and elderly women and small children were also making this trek. The country was in a 16-month drought and being completely dependent on nature for its water, Dera was in distress. There was no work and children no longer attended school, as the quest for water became the only thing that mattered. We can’t fathom what having no water would be like but without it there is only starvation, despair, disease and death. The amazing story of how these two women, two regular moms from Gilbert AZ, brought water to this village is one of the most inspiring stories I’ve ever heard.
Through their efforts and compassion, a water reservoir was built. The people in a small village a world away now have hope and a future but the need is great and the work of Hope Arising continues to provide support and aid. When our team arrived in early October, we were greeted by a group of women whom had each been loaned a small amount of money to begin small businesses. They were so grateful to Hope Arising that they provided us with a celebratory meal. Self-sufficiency and independence is the goal and now these women can feed and support their families through the businesses they have started.
These gorgeous women came to a class where they learned how to make soap on our latest trip to Ethiopia.
Dera, Ethiopia has three elementary schools with combined capacity of over 4,700 students, a middle school, and a high school. Children attend in four hour blocks so everyone can have a turn going to school. When we first visited Agriti Elementary school with 1,600 children, they had no library and no books. Volunteers raised $500 and the school now has a bookshelf full of books, aptly called the library.
The woman with trachoma getting fitted for her glasses.
I found the people in Ethiopia to be literally beautiful, despite extreme poverty and suffering. They have so little and yet they are a happy, gracious and proud people. Many of the children are orphaned (actually 6 million in Ethiopia) but like children everywhere, they sing and laugh and love to play. They literally have nothing…if they have a ball, it is homemade, stitched and stuffed at home. Simply taking a picture of them thrilled them, as most have never seen a reflection of themselves. This is true even of the adults. Can you imagine never having seen yourself in a mirror?
What Hope Arising has accomplished is nothing short of incredible and it was my complete honor to have been a small part of it. Our dental team treated over 500 people and the eye team saw 736 patients. Many patients received glasses for the first time in their lives. The most difficult part of the trip was leaving, knowing that there were still many hundreds needing our help. If you have the ability to join this incredible organization please do so. There are many ways to help throughout the year, from donating your time, helping with the annual golf tournament, or running in a mud run. You can sponsor a family with a small monetary monthly gift. Go with them as part of the team sometime soon! It doesn’t matter what your strengths, experiences and talents are, there is a job for you and you will work hard. But it will be the best work and one of the most satisfying experiences of your life. And, who knows, you might just find yourself in the process. At the very least, you will come home with a different perspective on what a bad day really looks like.