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WELCOME TO ETHIOPIA!. Hi Everybody! I can’t tell y’all how totally stoked I am to share my experience in Peace Corps Ethiopia with you!. How can I steal Laura’s bananas….
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Hi Everybody! I can’t tell y’all how totally stoked I am to share my experience in Peace Corps Ethiopia with you! How can I steal Laura’s bananas… Ethiopia is a beautiful country full of struggle and strength, poverty and hope. I hope this will be a good opportunity to put a face to the issues you’ve been learning about in class. Being in Ethiopia, in the Peace Corps is well, totally awesome, so the last thing I’d want is for this exchange to be boring for you. So, today I’ll give you a brief introduction life in small town Ethiopia, my role as a public health volunteer, some of the strengths and challenges the country faces. After that, we’ll base our exchange on your interests and questions and what you all are learning in class.
This is me! 7-ish years ago I was sitting where you are today, in Mr. Loewenstern’s class, absorbing texts and images of social inequality and injustice across the world. I wasn’t wholly aware at the time, but a fire for social justice and a desire to take action was being kindled inside me. After LBJ, I got a degree in Biology from the University of Texas (Hook ‘em). A year later I find myself here, pursuing my dream of joining the Peace Corps. A refreshing avocado, orange, lime, guava smoothie.
This is Ethiopia I live here, in a town of 9,000 people called Finchaa.
This is Peace Corps!!! Goal: to promote world peace and friendship by 1) helping interested countries meet their need of skilled men and women and 2) promoting cultural exchange and understanding. My job: I’ll spend 2 years in my town Finchaa (the most beautiful place on earth), acting as a public health advisor and HIV/AIDS specialist. Peace Corps focuses on sustainable development through community integration by building capacity- providing communities with the support they need to solve their own problems.
Some of my future projects… • Provide life skills training and sexual health information for high school students. • Health Extension Workers are young women who go door-to-door in rural areas to teach good sanitation and disease prevention. I will work with them to improve their leadership skills and methods of information delivery. Also put on bi-annual women’s empowerment workshops. • Assist the PLWHA (people living with HIV/AIDS) association to expand their Income Generating Activities, particularly to create a internet café and cattle fattening project. • Help people living with HIV/AIDS understand their nutritional needs and potentially start a community garden to help them meet these needs.
The rural area, just outside my town. 90% of Ethiopia’s population is rural and depend on traditional herding and farming practices to survive.
A man traveling, probably several miles, from the rural area to sell fire wood in town for a meager profit. Finchaa is in the mountains and the countryside is often shrouded in clouds and fog.
Starbucks: This is my morning coffee stop- Shebiree (pictured below) sells traditional Ethiopian coffee and bread on the side of the road to earn a living. She is widowed and supports a young child. Coffee costs 2 birr – about $0.12
Office Supply Store: This store was started and is run by an association of people living with HIV/AIDS. The proceeds of the store benefit those most at need in the organization, who due to low education level, low economic status, social stigma towards HIV+ people and other factors have little or no other sources of income with which to support themselves and their families.
Inside the store: One of my major tasks will be to provide support for this organization of HIV+ people. This includes helping to expand their store to include an internet café. In a society where even important offices seldom have working computers, internet is a hot commodity.
A view of Finchaa high school. In the rural areas around Finchaa there are no high schools. Some students walk several hours to get to school every day.
High school geography classroom. Students only have school for ½ days, some in the morning and some in the afternoon. This is because there are more students than there are teachers and space to accommodate them. Also, it is due to the fact that many students have other family responsibilities they are expected to fulfill, particularly the female students. Some help run family stores, herd cattle, watch over younger siblings, prepare meals, fetch water etc.
My Office: This series of buildings is where people go for medical care. A hard working, but overworked medical staff treat patients as best they can with the limited resources available. There are no doctors (only nurses) and no ambulance. Patients who are too sick to walk to the health center are carried on horse carts. The most common conditions seen at the health center are preventable communicable diseases such as pneumonia, diarrheal diseases and malaria. HIV counseling, testing and treatment facility. The HIV prevalence rate is around 5%.
Everyday on my way to the Health Center I see the smiling face of Abebe. A sweet kid, who unfortunately has a condition that leaves him shaky and unable to walk without support of a large stick. Due to his condition, he has never been to school.
One of the most well stocked stores in town. Instead of Target or the gas station, tiny shops like these contain all the supplies needed for everyday life, from cookies to toilet paper.
Fruits, vegetables, spices, eggs, oil, live chickens. All fresh food is grown and sold by local farming families.
Ok, cool. Of course there is far far more to say about this country than can fit in a tiny powerpoint. This was a mere smattering of places and people, to help y’all get a picture of the everyday lives and struggles of folks here. There are so many unique facets to Ethiopian life and culture. I’ve made a list of some of the topics I think you might find interesting to help guide our future discussion. (on the next slide) Additionally, please ask any questions you have (about anything!), and I promise to do my best to answer them.
Some potential topics for future discussion (plus any you all are interested in) • Gender roles- a day in the life of a ethiopian male/female. • Harmful traditional practices: female genetial mutiliation, early marriage, wife ‘stealing’ • HIV/AIDS and commercial sex workers • A day in the life of an HIV+ member of society • Wealth distribution and disparity • Health and Sanitation • Religion • Attitudes towards homosexuality • Culture and traditions: Food, dance etc. • Natural history • Day to day life- how people survive, how I survive • Social life- what people do for fun • The way things we normally don’t notice actually really impact our lives • Transportation • Medical resources • Indoor plumbing • Water sanitation • Libraries, school books, desks, chairs • Part time jobs- how the lives of teens in Ethiopia compare to lives of Americans. • Work: what people do, how much they get paid • Influence of American/western culture • Attitudes toward America • Literacy rates and education system • The strong role of the government • NGO’s and foreign aid: help and hinderance to sustainable change • Class system
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world”~Gandhi Carpe diem my friends. Until next time…