Day 4: WV Micro / Leadercast Vision Trip - Wonchi ADP
Today we are going to meet Yadashi and her four children – Melakut (Angel), Lidya (Lidya), Asther (Esther) and Avantu-Chaitu (Graceful, Better). Our experience couldn’t have been more opposite to yesterday’s yet it was equally fulfilling. Everyone was moved – from Brian and Karen from World Vision Micro to Brooke from Leadercast to Laurie, Luke and I.
Our second day in the field started with breakfast in the hotel. The Kaleb Hotel’s breakfast selections that would be familiar in any western breakfast buffet – hard-boiled eggs, and omelet bar, fresh fruit, pastries, and fresh, warm donuts, and porridge. There are also some selections that are probably not to be found at your Embassy Suites – steamed broccoli and baked beans.
Today I get an omelet and ask if there are any hot peppers. I guess it isn’t a request that he’s used to but was very excited to be able to make me a hot and spicy omelet. The omelet was excellent as were there donuts. I avoid the baked beans – while it is a culturally appropriate menu item I have to spend the next three hours in a car with three other members of our travel party. I pray they do the same.
Our ride to Wonchi was similar to the ride to Tiya, weaving through city traffic for almost an hour until we hit the open road to Wonchi. “Open” may be an overstatement. While there is not that much vehicular traffic we assailed by four-footed obstacles constantly. As we get further from the capital and make our way to Wonchi, the scenery opens up to vast expanses of land peppered with sheds, huts and homes. Well cared for farmland dots the landscape and I am intrigued by one small feature that I see in many of the remote farm plots. A single tree grows inside the bounds of the plot. It has taken me a little while to reason out the purpose of the tree and the best I can do is to hypothesize that the tree provides shade for the laborer during the heat of the day. I hope that is the case – this close to the equator shade and relief can be at a premium.
Pulling into the World Vision ADP (Area Development Project) we see a well ordered small town with small shops offering Pepsi on their signs but only selling Coke. We pass a small outdoor market filled with vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and other necessities. We don’t explore the market but I could see myself wandering aimlessly, thinking about what I might want to prepare for dinner and purchasing my fresh ingredients. We have to drive on a pretty rough stretch of road to get to Yadashi’s home but that provides us the opportunity to view a wonderful, majestic tree that strikes many of us in our group as a living example of the Disney Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life. After experiencing both, I would take this one over the one in Orlando.
Parking our vehicles outside of Yadashi’s house we all get out and stretch. It was a long, rough ride and we are all sore and tired. It is good that she is not there – she is collecting her children from school early so they can meet us. As we settle and prepare for her arrival we get to meet some of her neighbors. As soon as she joins us, Yadashi invites us in to her home. It is a rectangular structure with two rooms. I remark to Tripp Crosby, our “Mike Rowe”, that not only is the home spacious, but it is wonderful that she has two rooms to raise her family in.
We are seated and we all introduce ourselves with the help of our guide, Tamiru. We are quickly enraptured by Yadashi’s quiet grace and it is immediately apparent that she is thankful for the opportunity that the loans that she has taken and been able to repay. What comes across even stronger is the pride she takes in raising her four children.
Melakut, her oldest is the only boy of the family. At 14, many of his peers expect their future to be that of ‘subsistence living’. Melakut dreams of being a professor – not just any subject but of Physics and Math, his favorite subjects. As the top boy in his area, he was invited to a regional competition with over 40 other top students from their region and he placed first. It is with good reason that he dreams of becoming a professor.
The middle daughters, Lydia and Aster are both in the fourth grade and giggle when they learn that Laurie is a fifth grade teacher at home. They are both quiet but let us know that English and Math are their favorite subjects. Both want to be doctors and for some reason I have no doubt that they will be.
The youngest daughter, Avantu, is still to young to go to school but her mother tells us with pride that she will be starting in September. Avantu is the shyest of the bunch, hiding behind her mother and sisters.
Yadashi shares her story – sad in any language or any corner of the world. Married young, her husband was teaching at a college, took an apartment in the city and hooked up with a student who he eventually married, abandoning Yadashi. It is unclear if there was ever a divorce and in reality it doesn’t matter. Yadashi was alone, abandoned and hopeless. Some of her friends suggested that she go and apply for a small loan from World Vision Micro to help her afford the means to help herself. When she applied for a loan of 1,500 birr ($75) her application was accepted and she had money to purchase a heifer. Her home had a rotting tin roof and in the rainy season they were not able to stay dry. With what was left over she put a new aluminum roof on her home and beamed with pride when she told us that she doesn’t worry anymore about the rain. I ask her how it felt to have paid back her first loan and she beams with pride and tells me “wonderful.”
Yadashi has taken other loans to purchase seer and fertilizer as well as an ox to help her plow her fields. She has turned her two into three with a fourth on the way – the heifer is again pregnant! We ask to be ‘introduced’ to the animals and I am shocked – and practically giggle when the ox pokes his head out of the second room. My earlier assumption that she had a two room home was wrong – one room and a stable!
We walk outside with her as she herds the cattle to their grazing area and she guides them skillfully around her crops. We get a tour of what she is growing – and we are amazed. Her main crops are tomatoes, cabbage and corn. She grows enough coffee to supply her own needs, and cassava. One of the plants she grows is enset – a tree-like plant that resembles a banana tree. In fact, it’s name is ‘false banana’. The pulp of the plant is harvested and mashed to create a thick paste that is fermented for three months and then used for enset bread and porridge. During the famine in 1984 it was the enset plant that saved many Ethiopian lives from starvation.
On the walk I bet Tripp that he doesn’t know what we are looking at on the ground. They look like paving stones and I am sure he doesn’t have a clue. I lose 100 birr on the deal. Take a look at the video.
I have some one-on-one time with Yadashi and get to know her more. When we were all together we took her how honored and proud we were of her and amazed at the work that she is doing. I asked her about the chores that the children do. “They go to school and study” she replied, “I take care of the crops, milk the cows, make the butter and yogurt to sell at the market so they can study.” She tells me that she only got through the 11th grade and wants her children to have anything in the way to complete their education. While I was impressed before I am blown away now. I want to hug her but I tell her that she is an inspiration and that her story will inspire others. We have a little fun argument that I think win. I tell her how proud I am of her, blessed and honored to be here to meet her. She tells me that she is honored as she pantomimes the universal sign of a plane flying because we have flown so far to meet her. “It is because of you” I say as I point to her, “that we made the trip.”
While I am speaking to Yadashi, Laurie and Luke are sharing the small gifts we have brought for them. Crayons, coloring books and a “magna doodle” are a big hit. The girls also get dolls. They have never seen any of these items and have to learn to play with them. Laurie is happy to teach them. Avantu writes here name in her native language and her brother prompts her to write it in English. “My name is Grace” she writes. Yadashi joins them and beams with pride.
The older children receive pens. We learn that a pen is one of their favorite gifts! Aster receives a journal and small school bag. Melakut gets a green soccer ball sure to make him very popular with his class. Instead of soccer we have a game of volley ball (or as we used to call it “keep it up”. With the altitude I find myself quickly out of breath and have to stop.)
Before we go we hand out Rainbow Loom bracelets made for us by 5th and 6th graders at Auten Road Intermediate School and our niece Riley and friends Veronica and Sadie. The video got messed up but you get the idea.
It’s time for us to go and make the three hour trip back to Addis Ababa so we reluctantly say our good byes. Laurie give Yadashi a hug and I am jealous.
Two days now, two strong women. Polar opposites – one a community leader and driven business woman and the other a driven mother determined to give her children every opportunity to succeed. Both give the glory to God and both credit World Vision Micro with the opportunity to raise themselves out of despair. I am humbled, honored and overwhelmed with emotion. I need to process all that is happening. There is such a dichotomy between want and need and it is no more apparent than it was these past two days. This world needs more Firehiwots and Yadashis – the world would certainly be a better place.
Tomorrow we head to the ADP of Angolola. Stay tuned.
Bits & Pieces
- I typed this on my iPhone so please forgive any typos or grammatical inconsistencies.