Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest independent nation and its second most populous, home to ruggedly beautiful landscapes dotted with the monuments of medieval Christian kingdoms. Several years of relative peace have brought new buildings, new roads, low crime and a booming trade in cut flowers and coffee.
Despite this it remains one of the poorest nations on earth, frequently drought and famine-stricken, about half-Christian and half-Muslim, surrounded by hostile enemies and full of heavily armed separatist factions. Since the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie I’s corrupt regime in 1974, the nation has been riven by conflicts involving rebel movements that have been brutally suppressed, and with its neighbors to the north and south, Eritrea and Somalia.
In the early 1990’s, the overthrow of the Derg, a Marxist junta led by Mengistu Haile Mariam, promised an end to several decades of political terror and runaway military spending. But the independence in 1993 of Eritrea, a small and often contested section of Africa’s horn region, would lead to two years of fighting that cost a hundred thousand lives. A truce has held for several years, but tens of thousands of troops stand poised on either side of the contested borderline to begin hostilities anew.
–December 13, 2007 NewYorkTimes
I need to interrupt this history lesson for a moment:
After reading this brief history of Ethiopia, what comes to mind? For Westerners, images of famine stricken children may appear. We grew up with flashes of those photos in our minds. Pre-adoption, that is the image I believe would have been in my mind. However, I’ve been to Ethiopia, spent a quick two weeks traveling within the country and the image that pops into my mind now? A smile.
The smiles of the young boys who lived together in Lalibela so that they could go to secondary school. They grew up 9 hours away and went home on the weekends. They ran so they could make it before dark. They RAN. They showed us their homework-Chemistry equations in English. So proud of simply being able to go to secondary school.
I see the smiles of boys on their homemade reed raft on Lake Tana doing homework while they make their daily commute from their home on one of the many islands in the lake to their school in Bahir Dar.
I see the smiles of the nannies that cared and loved my daughter for the months she was in their care. Their smiles went from an appraising look at our first meeting, to the tearful, happy and hopeful smiles of our goodbye ceremony.
I see the smiles of the children we saw on our drive to Hosanna and outside the orphanage where our daughter was taken. Their feet mostly bare covered in the dust of living and walking amidst the dusty southern land.
.……and the smiles that should come to mind to you? The smiles from all the hundreds of children that benefit everyday from the donations to EOR. The smiles that erupt at the sight of a new toilet, a new well, a new foundation for a school, a new pillowcase dress, a new notebook and a desk for an AIDS orphanage. Ethiopia’s history is proud and strong…and with you helping with our mission to help the vulnerable children in need, those smiles will only multiply and grow.
Thank you and now back to our history lesson….