We Just Need to Build More - Page 2

Author // Jamie Grumet

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We Just Need to Build More
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As we drove down the streets of Awassa, we saw the sewer children emerge. Some members of our group started to cry as they saw the children, without parents or advocates, living in the filth of the gutter. Many had the instinct to jump out and take in the children they saw, but they soon realized there were too many to count. The helplessness and the hopelessness of the situation started sinking in.

When we made it to the Awassa Children’s Center, it was like a beam of sunshine for all of us. The extreme contrast of the children outside of the gates and the 100 children living inside was devastating. The ACP children were in a warm, loving, family environment and living in conditions that would be sufficient for any Westerner. The children with HIV/AIDS had their own quarters for sleeping—not to protect the other children from those infected with the virus, but rather to keep the children with the virus (and therefore a compromised immune system) in the cleanest environment possible, and to not welcome any opportunistic illnesses from the other children.

ACP fueled the team’s resolve after the emotional ride. We felt we had discovered something special in Awassa. This center was created for orphans so they could keep a connection with their living relatives in the area, receive a good education, medical care and love, and become leaders for their region and their country. We heard about Paul’s desire to build more vocational schools and children’s centers along the famous road from Cape to Cairo, where HIV has hit most prevalently and infiltrated the area.

The desperation of Paul’s voice when he said over the phone to me, “We just need to build more,” suddenly made complete sense to our group as we listened to Paul explain how the 30 toddlers happily climbing all over us had entered the center. UNICEF had brought 50 children to the center, although there had only been space for 10. The center stretched every way possible and took in 30. When I asked what happened to the other 20 children, Paul stayed silent. He finally responded that they were “reintegrated” into society, which means they were dropped off in the community. It was essentially a death sentence for most of the children. The day Paul found out the 20 children would have to be reintegrated, he collapsed at the center and needed medical attention. We agreed we would do everything in our power to not allow something so evil to happen again.

What struck me the most about my group was how our tone changed as our journey progressed. We originally saw complete devastation; everyone had the gut instinct to come in and “save” anyone and everyone from the devastation of their geographic location. However, as we started learning about the culture and the spirit of the people of the area, everyone started to feel a different kind of fire being lit inside of them. Awassa, Ethiopia, has a love of community of which the Western world can only dream. The way they value family and relationships with neighbors is how humans were created to live. Rather than coming in with our Western ways and ideals, we all started listening and learning from the people we heard were so desperate for our help. We discovered the people of Awassa and other developing towns are not infantile or any less developed in their state of mind as a community, but rather are our brothers and sisters that have fallen. We have the ability to offer our hand to help them back up, just as they can do for us. We need to realize that true philanthropy is love for one another and creating a global community. We need to learn the importance of other cultures and all of the things that many of these “developing” countries are doing better than we are. In this way, we can positively change the future of Western society.

Pathways Issue 36 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #36.

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