Good things come in three’s.
In June 2014, I had the honor of traveling to Ethiopia for two weeks with the International Reporting Project (IRP), a program based at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of The Johns Hopkins University that provides opportunities to US journalists to go overseas to do international reporting on critical issues that are under covered in the U.S. news media. The focus of the fellowship was newborn and maternal health as Ethiopia has made great strides in saving the lives of mothers and children under five.
One of the highlights of our trip was visiting Mosebo Village, a remote village located about 42 kilometers outside of Bahir Dar in rural Ethiopia. Reaching the village is not for the faint at heart. It requires a land cruiser, patience, and a bit of adventure to cover the hour and a half drive on bumpy, muddy roads to reach Mosebo and see how over 90% of Ethiopians live. If it starts to rain as it frequently does during Ethiopia’s three month rainy season, the road becomes dangerous and impassable.
My visit to this village opened my eyes to the dichotomy of struggles and progress being made for millions around the world, and has instilled a passion for doing whatever I can to raise awareness of the world’s challenges in regards to global health, nutrition, inequality, women’s rights and empowerment and more. I read books on religion, politics and culture. I watch documentaries and listen to the latest podcasts to educate myself on what is going on. I seek out alternative media sources as opposed to mainstream media to get a better understanding of terrorism, poverty, education and child marriage.
Far away from Africa, in my home in Minneapolis I often wonder about this trio of children I photographed in Mosebo Village. Are they still healthy? Are they in school? How is their family doing and the community around them? What will their future be?
I also often think about the young girl I saw with a club foot and how I raised money to get it repaired with an International NGO called Cure International. I spent months trying to track her down as I didn’t know her name. All I had was a single photo of her. Months later they were able to find her but her family didn’t want to leave the village for the operation. They had never left their village and the thought of going all the way to Addis Ababa, the nation’s capital, was out of the question despite the benefit of getting the girl’s foot repaired and the positive impact it would make on her life. I was sadly disappointed yet also learned a valuable lesson by my eagerness to help and make a difference. Sometimes it simply does not work. Another child in Ethiopia was able to have the life-changing surgery so a difference was made in someone’s life. Just not this girl.
The only photo I had of the girl was similar to this one but showed her foot. She is the girl under the red umbrella on the left.
As we were leaving, the Chinese were building new roads all over Ethiopia in both urban and rural settings. A new road was being built that would connect Mosebo with Bahir Dar meaning families will have much better access to hospitals, markets and schools. The addition of new infrastructure will significantly improve the lives of millions. It will open doors that have previously been closed.
I share this story because in times of turmoil and so much misunderstanding, I believe that compassion, education, acceptance of others and the desire to help, is the only way we can make the world better. As politicians and people want to build walls to keep the problems out, I believe we need to build more bridges to bring people together. There is too much hatred in the world.