Dembi Dolo is in the Southwestern part of Ethiopia close to South Sudan. It’s a small town in the green hills dotted with coffee plantations. This year, I had the opportunity of working at the Daughters of Charity, a local Christian organization, on behalf of SEE International. Along with the host, Dr. Samuel, the coordinator Sister Evelyn, and a sponsor, Dr. Larry Thomas, we did 240 cataract surgeries!
The World and I
A Poem by Dr. Reddy
When I water you, my thirst is quenched,
When I feed you, I am full,
When I shelter you, I am safe,
When I teach you, I learn,
When I help you see, my eyes open,
When I hug you, I am comforted,
When I kiss you, I am treasured,
When I love you, I am loved.
When I share what I have, my life has a purpose.
In addition to the clinic, the Daughters of Charity also have an orphanage there for girls of all ages. They live with the sisters and go to a local school in the morning, study, sing, dance and have fun in the evening.
I made so many wonderful new friends on this expedition: Letu, the girl in Pink; Ayantu (the girl standing behind Letu, playing with my hair); the lady patient with the white eye patch; and Dawood, who gave me a bear hug, when we took his patch off next day!
Jürgen, the German philanthropist, Father Mario at Don Bosco in Addis, and the little Omo children in Jinka in South Omo valley. Then there is more, the lady from the Hamer tribe who gave me a kiss in return for some advice for her eye problem! I can’t forget the girl who asked for my shirt and got it too 🙂
Next, I have to tell you about the local communities – the Mursi and Hamer peoples. The story goes that when the slave traders started kidnapping Africans, the Mursi elders decided that they will split the lower lip of the girls and insert a clay plate to make them look undesirable. The men tend cattle and women carry water and prepare food and take care of children.
They eat corn and sorghum porridge and boil coffee husk with peppers. They supplement their food with milk, cattle blood and honey! Hamer people…. a young man must jump a line of bulls in order to be worthy of a bride!! The married ladies color their hair with red clay and butter. The unmarried girls shave their heads!
Ethiopia is not only the birthplace of Homo Sapiens but also coffee. It grows wild and in plantations! Lovely Rebekah in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, invited me home for a coffee ceremony. Green coffee beans are roasted to perfection in front of you and ground after you approve their smell, then coffee is made in a clay coffee pot over red hot coals. You drink three dainty cups, black and delicious with sugar, while enjoying fragrant incense. A calabash for a coffee cup with Mursi and a Macchiato with Jürgen!!
Food! Yes, food was a non stop sensory adventure for two weeks! Injera, a huge pancake/dosa made of fermented teff filled with all kinds of spicy trappings, fish, lamb, chicken, herbed lentils and veggies. One large plate for all the guests, you eat with your hands and feed each other too 🙂 The markets are full of spices, local butter and giant red cardamoms. And the spirits were high with local stuff, Rift Valley wine, the village corn beer and of course the honey wine!!
The last stop…the flora and the fauna! A bird watcher’s paradise with a few baboons, crocs, and a hippo or two thrown in!
That was Endless Ethiopia!
Dr. Madhavi Reddy has volunteered with SEE International since 2004.
Originally from India, Dr. Reddy lives in Brownsville, Texas. She has volunteered to serve those less fortunate than herself since childhood. In addition to her work in Ethiopia, Dr. Reddy has participated in SEE’s sight-restoring programs in Cambodia, Honduras, Ecuador, Vanuatu, Ghana and Myanmar.