Back in March, I (Paul) had the opportunity to spend three weeks in Ethiopia. The trip provided a learning experience that it will take me a while to process. There are considerable misconceptions regarding Ethiopia. It is not simply a land of war, famine and desert as it is often portrayed by the media in the Western World. It is not true that misery is all you will see should you go there. However, they do have some major issues that they are ill-equipped to fight, including food insecurity, poverty (Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world), and water access.
Furthermore, Ethiopia is dealing with a crisis with HIV/AIDS, which is considered the single greatest threat to development in the country. In 2003, Ethiopia was second only to South Africa in terms of numbers of deaths and infections. I had the opportunity to visit an NGO called Goh Ethiopia while I was in the town of Bahir Dar, a place hit particularly hard by HIV/AIDS and malaria. Part of the organization's mandate is to help AIDS orphans. They are very courageous people and they have social skills of a kind that is scarcely found in our part of the world. Like many other such organizations, however, they are extremely under-funded. I only have a very slight idea of what hardships Ethiopians face daily and spending time amongst them was a very humbling experience. Yet I think that even a small group of concerned individuals can make a difference and I feel that, at this point, the best way we can help is by raising funds and sending them money, while making sure that that money is spent wisely. Therefore, I am thankful to have this opportunity to give back to Ethiopia through The Mountain Movement and the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which I know ensures the money goes where it should.