Ethiopia: A Book Is Created

David Maier’s integrated design class at Mount Hood Community College will be taking on the assignment of creating a book that will depict the state of women’s health in rural Ethiopia.

A copy can be obtained by purchasing is directly from

Here are some images that I gave the students to use for this book:

Book Content

Faces of Ethiopian Women and Children

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Ethiopia: Dongoro School

On a side trip to an outer clinic, we were able to see a typical school house.  We were astonished to see that children and young adults, in their urgent desire to be educated, had to do their school work on broken desks.

We would love to find a school in the US who would consider “adopting” this school.  Funds could be raised to replace the desks, and badly needed supplies could be purchased for the students.

Any takers?

Ethiopia: End Of The Day

Our last day stretches long, and we can’t sleep.  We have a 10 hour drive ahead of us in the morning, but all we can do is walk around the surgeon’s house and find mindless things to do.  Where is that coffee mug? Did you get a photo of the view outside from the porch? Should we freeze our water we will take in the vehicle? What should we pack for lunch?  Where is the headlight I just set down?

It is all nervous energy to diffuse our real feelings: we are not ready to leave. We all agree that we have only scratched the surface regarding how we can help this hospital do its vitally important work.

Ethiopia: The Beginning Of Man

It is said that the beginning of manhood began in Ethiopia.  Looking at the faces here, I believe it.

Here is a model of “Selam”, representing the earliest and most complete skeleton of a child human ancestor ever discovered in the history of paleoanthropology.  She was about three years old when she died 3.3 million years ago.  This was 150,000 years before “Lucy”, whose skeleton was also discovered in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia: A Fusion Of Cultures

Dr. Rahel Nardos moves calmly down the aisles of the ward, smiling and touching the arms of patients.  Growing up in Addis Ababa, Rahel earned a scholarship to attend the American School.  She set off to America to get her undergraduate degree, and soon was sitting in a classroom at Yale, enrolled in medical school.  Her work is becoming more refined as a urogynocologist as a fellow at Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU).

Rahel is devoted to her country, and feels a strong desire to return in some way to help women’s health in rural settings.  She is writing a proposal so that OHSU might start sending a rotation of doctors to Gimbie Hospital.  We all have high hopes that this proposal will go through.  The women of Ethiopia and the medical staff at Gimbie will benefit, and the OHSU students will increase their knowledge by working with pathologies rarely seen in the United States.

Rahel worked day and night at Gimbie Hospital, long after the other doctors retired for the night. Most importantly, she connected with the women via hope and understanding.

We are in awe of you, Rahel, and hope to be a part of your journey.

(See extremely tired Rahel dancing to Madagascar’s Olombelo Ricky’s music here.)

Ethiopia: Daughter Brynn Finds Her Place

White skin and blond hair is rarely seen in Ethiopia, so Brynn has learned to navigate the stares and pleading requests for her attention. When our vehicle stops for gas, crowds of young men press their faces up against the glass and call out for her to look at them.  Most often, she does not exit from the car, as it creates quite a frenzy.

I am proud of Brynn’s involvement here.  She is thoughtful, kind and does not shy away from the difficulties.  I see her tending to patients, cutting suture during surgeries, extracting teeth, even performing pelvic exams to check reinforcement levels after surgery.  As well, she delights in playing with the many orphans that constantly surround her and we all can see that this experience has had a marked effect on her.  She is unwavering in her confidence, even in the most dire situations.

I am not sure I could have handled this so beautifully when I was her age.

Ethiopia: A Rural Woman’s Life

A woman who lives in rural Ethiopia has a physically taxing life.  Wood is gathered and carried home, water must be fetched, and just gathering enough food for one meal a day is a labor intensive effort.  When she becomes ill, her world stops and her children try to fill in as best they can.  If her illness is lengthy, her family suffers greatly, sometimes abandoning her in search of comfort elsewhere.

Most of the women we interviewed have been living with their prolapse or fistula condition for many years.

Ethiopia: Early Ideas, Organization, and Donated Funds

The coordination of our time in Gimbie is a huge undertaking.  Moving a large group from A to B, with varying goals, backgrounds, skills, and convictions takes an enormous amount of energy.  All of the coordination falls upon the shoulders of two people, and their stamina is nothing short of admirable.

Janice, a fitness director from the University of Oregon, is the person who initiated the idea of coming to Gimbie to provide surgeries for women in the first place.  She tirelessly gave her time and talents working with the doctors from Lincoln City who have been trekking to Ethiopia for years to make sure we arrived safely.

In addition to being a master organizer, she also jumped on the fundraising wagon and sold calendars, held bake sales, collected dresses, managed a vegetable seed delivery, and put her heart and soul into making sure everything was working like a well oiled wheel.  She raised $4500 that was earmarked for prolapse surgeries, nutritional supplements for children, and a satellite project.

This year, Janice was awarded The University of Oregon’s Martin Luther King Award.

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” Martin Luther King

Seyoum, a native Ethiopian and recent Oregonian, spends many sleepless days and nights coordinating travel arrangements, vetting complaints, managing the herd of cats we are, and answering cultural questions to ensure that our experience here is the most positive it can be.  He sees the payoff of his efforts: we all have fallen hard for this beautiful country, and our time here is but a small part of our broader intentions. His energy has enabled us to take that first step.

We cannot do great things – only small things with great love.”  Mother Teresa

Ethiopia: Coffee! Popcorn! Injera! Spaghetti! Exotic birds! Handwashing! Dancing! Donkeys!

How can a culture have so many things I absolutely love?  Strong coffee (and the ceremony surrounding it) is something I am sure to crave when I get back to the states.  And they serve popcorn with it!  POPCORN!

The Ethiopian fasting injera with various vegetable stews is so good that we eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  And since Ethiopia is one of the only African countries not to be fully colonized except for a very brief invasion from Italy, the Italian food is to be had everywhere with an Ethiopian twist of including chili peppers in the sauce. Delizioso!

The Ethiopian practice of eating with hands only (no utensils) necessitates frequent hand washing.  When it is done at the table before eating, it is a most sensuous experience when warm, gently flowing water is poured over each person’s hands while everyone watches.

The click clack sound of a herd of donkeys rushing purposely by, with their cute little over-sized heads swaying to the beat of their hooves makes me want to get up and dance!  And speaking of dance, the Ethiopians’ tribal dances with quivering shoulders and neck nibbling is over the top alluring.

Just as you start to believe that you have arrived in paradise, that thought is validated when some colorful exotic bird with a three foot tail flies by or a bush tailed money jumps in the trees over your head.

There are so many things to love about this country.

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