Heading Back To Ethiopia

In less than a week I’m heading back to Korah Ethiopia.  This will be my third trip in a year.

Its hard to explain the connection I feel to Korah.  I have no obvious reason to be there.  I did not adopt a child from there or even know a single Ethiopian before I traveled there last January.  That first trip was more about my own personal wander lust, that and a curiosity sparked by my good friend Stacy who had recently returned from a mission trip to Korah.  But once i experienced Korah, the warmth of the people, the smiles of the children and the need…the UNIMAGINABLE NEED, I was hooked.

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You’ll recall I led a team of physicians last summer on a medical brigade to Korah.  It was a small team, sort of the knock down cruise for what I hoped would be a full brigade at some point.  And that’s just how its worked out. Next week our second Brigade, this one 29 Brigadeers strong will return to Korah.

Much is planned for this brigade. We expect to see upwards of 2,000 patients.  We have added a dental hygienist to the team.  We are teaching local physicians and nurses critical skills that will survive long after our visit.

Before the medical team arrives though I will be working on another project that is near and dear to my heart. I serve as the Board President for an organization called Out of the Ashes. OA provides scholarships for kids in Korah Ethiopia, a leper colony and slum located on the edge of a garbage dump. Quite literally the OA program takes kids from the dump and places them in boarding schools where they receive food, clothing, healthcare, books, supplies and the education needed to lift them out of poverty.

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Last summer OA started its program with 51 students. (More than 3000 kids applied for scholarships!) While the program was modest in size it was well executed. The kids just completed their inaugural semester in school and I can confidently declare the OA program is a success. The kids are healthy, thriving and learning.

Unfortunately though at that same time OA was getting started another organization also providing student sponsorships under the program name Project 61, was falling apart. P61 was responsible for educating 360 kids in boarding schools, local schools and technical school. Last November P61’s board announced suddenly they would be closing the program which meant 360 kids would not be able to return to school.

The OA board, entered into discussions with P61 in an attempt to keep the kids, many of whom were seniors about to graduate, in school. P61’s board agreed to transition the program to OA however support was limited. At the end of the day OA needed to find sponsors for 360 kids…and we had to do it in 45 days!

Well call it a miracle, good luck or a phenomenal fundraising effort but as of today we have 310 of those kids sponsored!

And while that is fantastic it does leave us with 50 children still needing sponsorship.

OA’s founder (my a fore mentioned good friend Stacy) and I leave in less than one week and (GULP) one of the first heartbreaking things we will have to do in Korah is inform children without sponsors that they will not be returning to school. Can you even imagine?

Praying for miracles…

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