Our family has sponsored a child through World Vision in Ethiopia ever since I began working with Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, an organisation based in Addis Ababa treating women with childbirth injuries and training local midwives.
I began as a volunteer in 2004 and now I am the CEO of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia (Australia). World Vision sponsors some of our midwives at the Hamlin College of Midwives and I sponsor a child through World Vision so it’s a win-win!
Living conditions for more than 80 million Ethiopians are very, very hard. Most villages have no sanitation or running water, very few health services and a basic education system with no social support for the poor.
We went to the World Vision website one evening and chose a little girl named Derartu who lives in the western hills of Ethiopia. She’s about the same age as my eldest child (Hudson is now 9, Harlow 7 and Sheba is 5 years old). We popped her photo in a frame and she became part of the family overnight. We wrote letters, the kids sent drawings and I masterminded ways of sending her nice little gifts, which could still fit in the required flat DL envelope!
In 2009 on my annual trip to Ethiopia, I was able to include a personal visit to Derartu’s home. I had already been travelling for a few weeks and was glad to be picked up by the World Vision team in Addis Ababa and driven for a full day out west. I can easily drive around Ethiopia all day long – it is so fascinating.
We stayed overnight at a motel en route where I had my first encounter with what I thought were monkeys galloping on the roof but turned out to be rats!
The next day we drove to Derartu’s house and found that she was at school up the road so we went there to see her. It was quite an eye opener. My son’s school had been fundraising for smart boards and here was Derartu’s school with a dirt floor, wooden benches and a blackboard. Not even a light switch, let alone a USB port!
It seemed like every kid in western Ethiopia came out to see me, the ferenji (foreigner) with the WV team. Here’s a snapshot:
We then walked to Derartu’s home and I met her mother and father and her seven brothers and sisters. They cracked open Coke especially for my visit and I was touched that they had put on drinks for me.
We sat in the sun on the front porch of their little house, drinking warm Coke and chatting through an interpreter for a while. Derartu’s dad produced an envelope and in it was everything I had ever sent to Derartu, with little red dirt fingerprints all over it like it had been loved to death!
Derartu was very shy at first but by the time I left she was the life of the party. She introduced me to the family donkey and gave me a big hug when it was time to leave. I had to get a photo with the donkey!
Visiting my sponsor child was a very special experience, one which made me feel privileged to support them and their community. When I go back to Ethiopia later this year, this time with my daughter Harlow, we hope to make the trek west to catch up with Derartu again.
Lucy Perry is Chief Executive Officer of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia (Australia).
Have you ever visited your sponsor child? We’d love to hear your stories below!