ONE + Ethiopia: The Quick-and-Dirty Guide

Children on Fence at Health Post Outside Bahir Dar, Ethiopia | ONEMoms

Today, something really exciting is happening for both ONE and myself. Our local newspaper, The Lansing State Journal, is featuring a front page story about ONE, my work with them, and our trip to Ethiopia. Front page! So, with apologies to those regular readers who have seen all of this before, I want to give a big welcome to the LSJ readers who are clicking through, and offer up a recap of some of the most notable trip highlights.

Mom and Child at Health Post in Ethiopia | ONEMoms

The Stories

You can find all the posts about my work with ONE — before, during, and after the Ethiopia trip — here, and pieces from each and every member of ONE’s Delegation to Ethiopia over at There are so many inspiring pieces I can’t possibly link to them all, but I would encourage everyone to take a few moments out of their day to browse.

Meanwhile, here are a few of my favorites:

Thousands | I knew Ethiopia would be “behind”, but I wasn’t prepared for just how far behind.

Smell. Sip. Sacrament. | “Of all the exotic aromas and experiences from my sojourn in Ethiopia, it’s the frankincense I miss most.” – Cathleen Falsani

Soul-Pulling Dance in Ethiopia | “For a while I stopped eating and couldn’t take my eyes off of the live performers and musicians. I kept staring at them and didn’t realize I was crying until the tears starting falling from my chin and I wiped them off with my scarf hoping that no one would notice this odd breakdown I was having in the middle of dinner.” – Kelly Wickham

On The 6.8 Million | Thoughts on the malnourished children of Ethiopia and a look at how the programs on the ground there are helping make things better long term.

What Mother Want for Our Children. | “While the statistics are, with good reason, what the administrators are proud of, it’s the children–the joyful, amazing, energetic children–that demonstrated to us in the most basic way, that things are going well thanks to grants from the US.” – Liz Gumbinner

Conservative Thoughts on Foreign Aid and The Fiscal Cliff | Why foreign aid is not just a pet project of the left and how going over The Fiscal Cliff will effect us all.

The Faces of Ethiopia | “I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love faces — because I truly believe every one of them is beautiful. ​And so today, I want to share with you some of the amazing faces that I was able to photograph while I was in Ethiopia.” – Karen Walrond

“You See Something That You Can’t Unsee” | How a quote from a speech Bono, co-founder of ONE, gave at Georgetown University helped me finally put into words one of the most powerful parts of our trip.

Video by Ryan Youngblood, Youngblood Films

The Action

First, go to and join the cause. ONE never asks for your money, only your voice. And works to make it easier for you to leverage your power as a citizen of one of the world’s biggest governments.

If you still have time after that, consider signing the ONE petitions to help combat AIDs, support life-saving vaccine availability, support sustainable food solutions that will help end hunger and malnutrition, encourage politicians to take action on the federal budget, and foster transparency in all the world’s major governments.

You can also follow ONE on Twitter, like ONE on Facebook, and follow the ONE Campaign on Pinterest.

Child outside Bahir Dar, Ethiopia | ONEMoms

The Delegation

Click on any picture, or its corresponding name/number below to learn more about each ONE Delegation member.

Asha Dornfest Cathleen Falsani Kelly Wickham Gabrielle Blair Michelle Pannell Christine Koh Maya Haile Samuelsson Jen Howze Liz Gumbinner

[1] Asha Dornfest [2] Cathleen Falsani [3] Kelly Wickham
[4] Gabrielle Blair [5] Michelle Pannell [6] Christine Koh
[7] Maya Haile Samuelsson [8] Jen Howze [9] Liz Gumbinner
[10] Alice Currah [11] Rana DiOrio [12] Me!

Karen Walrond All headshots copyright the incredible Karen Walrond, pictured at left. Karen traveled with ONE as part of a delegation to Kenya last year and returned to Africa with us this year as the official trip photographer. Trini by blood, Texan by choice, and English by Marriage, Karen is, above all else, a force to be reckoned with.

Karen’s headshot copyright Maile Wilson

Conservative Thoughts On The Fiscal Cliff & Foreign Aid

Last summer, in a last ditch attempt at spurring the budgetary super committee to action on the crushing federal deficit, an agreement was reached in Washington D.C.

That agreement — known officially as the Budget Control Act, and unofficially as The Sequester – combined with impending tax hikes as a result of congress’ inability to come to any other notable agreements since, are what is now collectively known as The Fiscal Cliff. So appropriately named, because — when the mandatory across-the-board budget cuts that make up The Sequester collide with the substantial tax hikes that will sucker punch virtually every American family — it will so drastically affect the political and economic landscape in the United States (and by extension the world) that it will look and feel as though we’ve fallen over a cliff. An event, I might add, that is coming directly to you in less than two months.

If our legislators don’t take action we will run full-tilt off The Fiscal Cliff on January 2, 2013. Less than eight very short weeks from now.

Since I’ve already written about the tax hikes that are awaiting us at the edge of the cliff*, today I’d like to talk more about the sequestration side of things. Specifically, the part of it that will affect our foreign aid expenditures. Similar cuts and their consequences will be felt domestically, and I plan to write about them in the coming days, but as most of you know I just returned from a trip to Ethiopia as a guest of the ONE Campaign and foreign aid is fresh in my mind.

The truth is, the irony of the precarious position in which I’ve found myself is not lost on me; a right-leaning writer advocating for the preservation of foreign aid in a time when even expenditures for domestic aid and entitlement programs are an especially embittered topic on my own side of the aisle. As I review the discussions we’re having about the cliff, our options for avoiding it, and what will happen if we don’t, I keep coming back to just one thing though: this is not a partisan issue and there are no partisan fixes.

Even if we take those programs that are traditionally thought of as pet programs of one party or the other, drastic cuts to them will have a marked effect on issues that are of cornerstone importance to us all. And this is, perhaps, no truer than when considering foreign aid.

Though foreign aid is often thought of as a left-leaning budget line item, its integral role in two of the right’s dearest priorities is undeniable. As much as we spend investing in both our national security and the viability of the private sector economy, the relatively paltry sum that is allotted to foreign aid is likely the single area in which we get the most bang for our buck in both of them.

Developing countries present enormous economic opportunities for the U.S. The Washington Post reports that between 2004 and 2008 our exports to major developing economies — Brazil, India, and China — increased at more then two and half times the rate of our exports overall; 121% for the former compared to just 46% for the latter. Aiding developing countries such as Ethiopia with longterm investments in their society through developments of infrastructure, education, and eradication of disease increases opportunities for our products on the global market.

And that’s exactly what our aid dollars are doing. Long gone are the days of giving a man a fish. On the ground in Ethiopia we repeatedly and consistently saw that U.S. funded programs are successfully fostering independence, not breeding dependence.

At health posts and clinics charts pepper the walls where health care workers comprehensively track the success of the initiatives they’ve implemented in their surrounding communities, and the numbers they’re coming up with on shoestring budgets are staggering. According to estimates from amFAR, the amount of foreign aid budget that would be cut under sequestration alone would otherwise prevent 21,000 babies from becoming HIV positive as a result of mother-child transmission, prevent some 63,000 AIDS related deaths, and keep 124,000 children from becoming AIDS orphans.

At a beekeeping co-op in the hills outside Bahir Dar we met women who collectively saved the tiny incomes they were previously able to scrape together in order to put up half of the initial investment it took to begin their honey farming business. They now guard their bee hives 24/7, often with babies strapped to their backs. They will work around the clock for nearly a full year before they are able to harvest their first batch of product. These are the very definition of hardworking people and these dollars are being utilized in such a way that they could not be farther from a handout, nor closer to a hand up.

Of course, we can’t ignore the other side of this coin either. Developing economies also present opportunities for other countries in a position to invest; those who may or may not approach the opportunities in such an ethical manner. During a dinner meeting with USAID while we were on the ground in Ethiopia one of the representatives that was briefing us on their initiatives mentioned the interest China has expressed in the region — especially the opportunities presented by the harvesting of natural resources. As a deep believer in capitalism I can’t say as though I could fault any country for seizing an opportunity for advancement of their own society, but I also understand how easy it is for the lesser of two parties to be easily taken advantage of in situations where deals are made between parties of widely different means. Without aid developing countries would be at greater risk of economic colonization; something that could reverse the social, political, and economic advances they’ve made by decades and halt any opportunities between those countries and the U.S. well into the future.

Unfortunately, the lost opportunities and benefits would not be limited to economics. Historically, we have seen that civil, political, and social instability arises out of extreme need — especially for food. Hunger has always been the world’s greatest catalyst for social uprising and it probably always will be. Today, perhaps more than ever before, our national security depends on a stable developing world and hunger is a direct threat to that.

In the past two years we have seen the immediate effects of hunger on developing nations as the Arab Spring swept across the middle east and skirted the edges of Sub-Saharan Africa. We’ve also seen the very real U.S. toll of the political instability that arises from hunger as recently as last month, when four Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya.

Aside from the direct health threats that sequestration would present, amFAR estimates that 1 million families would be plunged back into food insecurity and about 700,000 children would miss out on nutrition programs aimed at preventing permanent mental and physical stunting as a result of malnutrition. To allow hunger back into these regions at levels the world has not seen since the 1980s — especially in a time of already soaring food prices — would not only be a fiscally irresponsible forfeiture of the investments we’ve made so far, it would be a dangerous national security play.

Leaving developing countries in a position of civil uprising at the precise same time at which they would be most vulnerable to economic colonization would not just be a security threat to our countrymen serving in their regions of the world either. It would open up the door for alliances with our enemies whose means are much broader, potentially putting us at greater risk even here at home and possibly closing our door to opportunities in certain regions of the globe without expensive military engagement in the future.

If we’re going to avoid the Fiscal Cliff, we’re going to have to work together to make some difficult decisions in the coming weeks. Our deficit must be reduced and in order to do that we’re going to have to take a serious look at where we’re spending and where we can afford to cut back. Part of that will be examining our priorities and cross referencing those causes which are of vital importance to all of us. If I didn’t truly believe this was an area that is essential for achieving the ultimate goals on both sides of our political aisles I most certainly wouldn’t have spent the past fourteen hundred words telling you about it.

It’s also why I’m asking you to add your name to the ONE Petition, in order to urge congress to act now to avoid sequestration and the devastating effects of across-the-board budget cuts.

Please, if you should take just a few moments out of your day to affect change, make it this:

Sign The Petition.

And share this link — — on your social networks to spread the word.

On The 6.8 Million

Group Gathers for Nutrition Demo, Copyright Karen Walrond

Sitting among the women (and few curious men) who’d gathered around an old desk, under a tree, in the front yard of a rural health post outside Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, I felt strangely at home. We’d all come to learn — them about cooking, us about them — but in that place, in the minutes that would follow, we were all just women, mothers, friends. We didn’t speak the same language, and at the same time we did. My Amharic is rudimentary at best, their English seldom better, but if there’s anything I learned for sure on this trip it’s this: kindness, joy, and a genuine interest in one another are universal.

Cabbage at ENGINE Farmer Training Center, Rural Ethiopia

Cabbage Grows at ENGINE Farmer Training Center

Our group had just come from a USAID ENGINE farm training center in the same village, not a mile up the road. There, we’d learned about the new vegetables female farmers in the area are learning to grow — lettuce, swiss chard, beet root, carrot, and cabbage among them — and this stop was the next incarnation of that program.

Since visiting Ethiopia I’ve become increasingly aware that we, here in the U.S., sometimes fail to realize a few things of great importance to the effectiveness of social enrichment programs. Among them, that you can teach a man to fish, but if he has no idea how to cook a filet his children will still starve; something that is not at all lost on the people there. To grow beets and chard is one thing, but to use them effectively is another. And here again we were greeted by the incredibly holistic approach of the organizations on the ground in Africa.


Female Farmer, Member of the ENGINE Farmer Training Program.

At one point a member of our group enlisted the help of a translator to ask the women which of the new vegetables they were learning to use were their favorites. After a little chatter we couldn’t understand, but a lot of body language, smiles, and nodding we could, cabbage and carrots were the (seemingly unanimous) answer.

To be honest, I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around a life in which carrots and cabbages were exotic and new ever since. A life in which those vegetables we consider most basic and affordable are key to unlocking the future of a culture that is otherwise trapped in a cycle of hunger and poverty; a cycle that is, in and of itself, difficult to grasp.


Supplies at Nutrition Demo.

6.8 million Ethiopian children under the age of five are physically and mentally stunted as a result of malnutrition. That’s roughly equivalent to 82% of the population of New York City. It is almost twice the population of Los Angeles. Almost two cities of LA filled to the brim with malnourished children. And that statistic says nothing of their adult counterparts — many of which came to age during the famine of the 1980s.

6.8 million Ethiopian children are only now learning what carrots and cabbage taste like. The mothers of roughly 6.8 million Ethiopian children are only now learning how to cook with cabbage and carrots, what doing so can mean for their country’s future. I’ve been allowing that to sink in for the better part of a week and a half and I’m still not sure how well it’s settled.

Karakul Ewe in Home of Above Pictured Farmer, Copyright Karen Walrond

On the way home, on the flight from D.C. to Detroit, I was seated next to an English gentleman who — among other topics of conversation — asked me what I’d been doing in Ethiopia. When I told him I’d been there with ONE, as an agriculture and food writer trying to shed light on the programs on the ground there and what is still needed to combat the extreme poverty and hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa, he responded with a deep sigh. “I thought what I did was difficult, but that,” he shook his head, “is far beyond my ability.”

At the time I thought it an odd reaction. I’m just telling stories, after all. But the longer I allow what we’ve learned to settle in my mind, the more it all makes sense. It’s beyond my ability, too. And yours. We cannot nourish 6.8 million children today, or tomorrow, or next week, or even next year. It’s a daunting task at best, one that is well beyond the ability of even the greatest thinkers and doers of our time.

Porridge at Nutrition Demo, Copyright Karen Walrond

What we can do however, what is entirely within reach for each and every one of us, is to teach a woman to grow cabbage, and then, how to cook it. She will nourish a child. She will teach her friends how to do the same. Her daughters will grow up in a world in which cabbage and carrots are not exotic and new, in which cooking with them is not a barrier to being nourished by them.

What we can do is to teach a man not just how to fish, but how to eat fish. And that, I think, is making all the difference in the world.

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I just returned from traveling in Ethiopia as an expense-paid guest of the ONE Campaign to report on how American-supported programs are improving and saving lives. ONE is a non-partisan organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease by pressing political leaders to support smart programs that do just that. They’re also launching a new initiative to focus specifically on Agriculture, which is where I’m most excited to join in. ONE doesn’t ask for your money, just your voice. It’s something I can get behind and I hope you can, too.



It’s not until you find a man, tucked into the picturesque folds of an Ethiopian mountainside, threshing Barley by hand, a veritable scene straight from the Bible, that you realize exactly what it takes to feed a family in the rural areas of a third world country.

And it’s not until the day after you return, the one on which you trek to the grocery store to replenish the stocks your children and husband ravenously devoured while you were gone, that you realize how very far removed it is from what it takes to feed your own.


At one point last year, during one of many perusals in a local antique shop, I found a tattered and worn cook and home-keeping book. Its cover was long gone, the spine so used and abused not a word could be made out. On the top page there was a drawing of a sheep, and as I flipped through those beneath it I found more; of cows and deer and pigs and birds and fruits and the proper ways to set a table.

I bought it for the pictures, I had planned to frame them, but as I read through it at home I began to realize how old it really was. Well more than a century and a half had passed since its publication. And yet, the methods by which I was able to date it were product mentions within the text. Not handmade bowls and twig brooms and the value of a breeze in removing chaff, but store-bought products. Canning jars and tea pots and ladies journals.


It’s not until you find a man, tucked into the picturesque folds of an Ethiopian mountainside, using twig brooms and the power of a light breeze to feed his family that you realize how far behind the agricultural practices of an entire country really are. It’s not until you stand there, thinking of a book you bought at an antique store for its novelty, and realizing how very advanced its contents would be for the people here, that you realize the amount of lag is measured in thousands of years, not hundreds.

Which is something we Americans would probably find rather quaint, if only it were a choice, if only more than forty percent of the country’s children were not so chronically malnourished they will never mentally and physically recover.


I asked him how much Barley he’d thresh in an average day. In Amharic and gestures he responded; each day he’d thresh just one of the four or five piles that surrounded him. From the looks of the result, the final product was less than a bushel. Less than a bushel a day.

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I just returned from traveling in Ethiopia as an expense-paid guest of the ONE Campaign to report on how American-supported programs are improving and saving lives. ONE is a non-partisan organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease by pressing political leaders to support smart programs that do just that. They’re also launching a new initiative to focus specifically on Agriculture, which is where I’m most excited to join in. ONE doesn’t ask for your money, just your voice. It’s something I can get behind and I hope you can, too.

Re-Entry + Favorite Scenes from Ethiopia, Part 1


Yesterday, after almost thirty hours of travel, I stepped foot in my own home for the first time in a week and a half. It’s good to be back, but also surreal. Even the sounds of the hogs feel foreign, and today, as I drove to the mill to pick up a batch of feed, I found myself gazing across our freshly harvested Michigan fields, looking for the shepherds that dotted the farm land I was traveling across just days ago in Ethiopia’s Amhara region.


I don’t think I’ve ever traveled somewhere where coming home felt anything but familiar, but that’s not what’s happening now. This is home. It’s home, but it feels different. There’s something not quite right the same.

In Liz’s post on re-entry she wrote that she doesn’t know where this is going, just that it’s going. Somewhere. Something. Sometime. I don’t know how she’s in my head, but it’s precisely how I feel.


I don’t know what this is, this feeling I can’t quite pin down. The way it’s almost as if I’m still dreaming; as if I’ve been dreaming for the whole of the month of October and it just won’t stop. I don’t know what it is or where it’s going, but it feels transformative. And probably not in the way you’d expect, I’d have expected.


I don’t have an insatiable urge to do without, to eschew material comforts, to send everything we own to the other side of the world; in a word, to give. What I have is an insatiable urge to do.

I’m not sure if that’s right or wrong, or if it even matters how one is supposed to react to these things. All I know is that it is; that I feel consumed by it and that, if nothing else, this alone is very clear to me.


Over the next few weeks I’ll share more about the trip, about whatever manifests of this feeling. I probably won’t write about every single thing we saw and experienced while there — as Karen pointed out, to do so would have me writing about it every day between now and 2013 — but I will share a lot, especially about the food and agriculture visits. For right now though, as I try to figure out what this is and how to put it to work, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite scenes from the trip.


I won’t be able to post all of them, but you can always find more on Flickr.


They’re in no particular order, except, maybe, the order in which I manage to download, process, and then upload them.


They are scenes from farms and “factories” and health clinics and homes. From schools and monasteries, towns, cities and rural areas.


They are of people and things and animals and joy.


If you have a question about one, I would love for you to ask it; just be prepared for a long and animated answer. I didn’t realize until I walked out of the mill today how much I lit up when I was telling them about this trip. Now that I do, I can warn you. Be prepared, friends. Very, very prepared.


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I just returned from traveling in Ethiopia as an expense-paid guest of the ONE Campaign to report on how American-supported programs are improving and saving lives. ONE is a non-partisan organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease by pressing political leaders to support smart programs that do just that. They’re also launching a new initiative to focus specifically on Agriculture, which is where I’m most excited to join in. ONE doesn’t ask for your money, just your voice. It’s something I can get behind and I hope you can, too.

Ethiopia, Day 3-6: Complexity + Sounds of Africa

For the past few days in Ethiopia, I’ve been struck by the recurring theme of complexity in the issues we’re encountering. If there’s anything I can tell you absolutely for sure it’s that there is no simple fix to the problems plaguing the people of Sub-Saharan Africa, and most especially Ethiopia.

Though the organizations on the ground here are doing incredible holistic work with the resources they have, the hurdles they continue to face are those that will have to be carefully maneuvered over and around, rather than leapt.

Ethiopia is the single most populated land-locked country in the world, and the second most populous country in Africa. Inhabited by more than eighty-four million people and with just over four-hundred thousand square miles of space this means they’re packed in at roughly two hundred people per square mile. Which is, if you can imagine it, quite astounding in and of itself.

While here we’ve seen over and over again how the tremendous population and high density living circumstances complicate the cycle of poverty. With so many people needing help, scalability is especially important for the organizations working here, but expansion can be slow and difficult. Meanwhile, infrastructure is not what it could be.

Over the past week our group has expressed surprise at the quality of the roads we’ve traveled. Many have been in far better condition than we would have expected — I’ve even observed that the paved roads are far better than many of the roads in my home state of Michigan, of course Ethiopia doesn’t deal with the freeze-thaw cycle that causes potholes either. But as we spoke with entrepreneurs here in Addis during a dinner meeting we were also surprised to find out that even the middle class families routinely lose power and that even in the bustling hub of the their capital, Addis Ababa, they’ve only been able to move away from dial-up internet in the last two years.

At the same time farmers struggle with market access for their products (something I’ll write more about later) and one textile company expressed distress over the world’s perception of Ethiopia and how trust in business relationships — or rather a lack thereof — has cost her company contracts, and, by extension, prevented her from hiring more employees, enriching more Ethiopians’ lives. In fact, while visiting Primary and Secondary Schools in the town of Mojo we were greeted by the difficulties of getting supplies and supporting people where they need to be first hand when we asked if we could donate books to the kids’ very lacking library and were told it was unlikely anything we sent would make it to them.

Meanwhile, in some areas — both geographical areas and areas of need — political red tape and cultural pre-conceptions rail against change in such a way that progress seems virtually impossible. We’ve heard stories of donated medications and supplies being confiscated despite all proper protocols having been followed, and while the Ethiopian people who have been willing to really open up about their government are few, those that have mostly expressed frustration and skepticism. Outside cities, in areas tightly bound by tradition and history, ideas about how to do things are deeply ingrained and difficult to manuever around. Change is coming, but slowly.

It has been difficult to wrap my head around the onslaught of information and experience we’ve been able to gather in the seven days we’ve been here, but as I come to terms with what I’ve seen and heard I’m slowly formulating ideas about ways in which these complex problems could be addressed. While I think Ethiopia and other developing countries like it need continued support in the form of governmental and NGO aid — those programs we’ve seen working wonders on the ground here already — I also believe big ideas and really revolutionary investment will have the most impact on her future.

And on that note, I’d like to leave you with the hopeful sounds of an African children’s school. Because, despite the complexity, hope continues to be what I feel most for Ethiopia.

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I am currently traveling in Ethiopia as an expense-paid guest of the ONE Campaign to report on how American-supported programs are improving and saving lives. ONE is a non-partisan organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease by pressing political leaders to support smart programs that do just that. They’re also launching a new initiative to focus specifically on Agriculture, which is where I’m most excited to join in. ONE doesn’t ask for your money, just your voice. It’s something I can get behind and I hope you can, too.

*All photos by the incredible Karen Walrond.

Ethiopia: Day 2, Hope + FashionABLE Giveaway

Coming into this trip I knew I would walk away a changed woman. I prepared myself as well as possible for the extreme poverty, the hunger, the disease. I tried to learn a little Amharic, the most common of the more than eighty languages spoken here. I even tried the traditional food of Ethiopia. And I came ready to report back to you on all of those things. I came ready to tell you what was needed, but as I settle in tonight after a full day of site visits with FashionABLE and the Hamlin Fistula Hospital all I feel is hope.

This isn’t to say there isn’t need here. The need is tremendous. I have met adult women who are smaller than my own eleven year old daughter. I have seen bodies frail from malnourishment. I have met children so intense, so thirsty for affection they are everything you might imagine of orphans and so much more. And we haven’t even left Addis Ababa yet.

But I have also witnessed the most vibrant spirit I have ever seen. I have met people whose work is lifesaving in more senses of the word than I knew existed. I now understand why one of ONE’s greatest missions is to support local organizations on the ground. It’s because these people know what they’re doing.

At both the FashionABLE Scarf factory (which is so far from what you might imagine as a factory) and the Hamlin Fistula hospital I was deeply inspired by how holistically these organizations are approaching the unique problems they face.

FashionABLE’s partner organization, Women at Risk, has developed a comprehensive one year transition training program for the women they work with. One that begins with the simplest things; like teaching the women, former sex workers, to sleep at night and be awake during the day. They complete regular market need assessments in and around Addis Ababa and match the women’s natural strengths and interests with industries where there is need, jobs that can provide them and their children with a living wage. And at the Hamlin Fistula hospital, they don’t treat just the physical complications that arrive from Fistula, but the emotional trauma that the patients experience and the social constructs that lead to Fistula to begin with.

So, if there were just one thing I wanted you to know about today, about this experience so far, it’s that there is hope. There are organizations who are doing the work that needs to be done, those that are servicing a need with tremendous success and in such a way that it is scalable, so it can be extended to help even more women and children. And they’re not just changing the lives of the women with whom they work directly, but the lives of all women and children in Ethiopia. They are shaping social mores, erasing stigma that would previously leave women alone, homeless, and at risk. And, above all, they are well known in their communities for the work they do.

And, since I whole heartedly believe that if you stuck with me through those last six hundred words you deserve something amazing (and, yes, fine, because I would love to raise even more awareness about FashionABLE leading up to this holiday season) I’m giving away a scarf to one lucky reader who will be chosen at random when I return.

The scarf is the Ethanesh in Grey/Green. It came with my briefing packet before the trip and is a little extra special in that not only was it made here in Ethiopia by a woman who was liberated from dangerous and degrading sex work, it’s also travelled back here with me to meet the women who made it.

If you’d like to be entered in the drawing, leave a comment below and share this post on one (or more) of your social media networks; Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest — you choose, but I recommend all of the above.

I am currently traveling in Ethiopia as an expense-paid guest of the ONE Campaign to report on how American-supported programs are improving and saving lives. ONE is a non-partisan organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease by pressing political leaders to support smart programs that do just that. They’re also launching a new initiative to focus specifically on Agriculture, which is where I’m most excited to join in. ONE doesn’t ask for your money, just your voice. It’s something I can get behind and I hope you can, too.

*All photos by the incredible Karen Walrond.

Ethiopia: Day 1

Addis Ababa, View from My Hotel Room

I wish I had something profound to tell you, but I’m still mostly speechless.  We arrived yesterday afternoon after a five hour flight delay in DC and thirteen hours in the air and immediately headed out to Mary Joy Development Association.

The kids put on incredible shows for us, dancing, tumbling, and juggling.  There were traditional Ethiopian coffee and tea ceremonies, and so many intense, vibrant kids to connect with.  Mary Joy helps community children with education, health care, and housing.  It’s a program that allows orphaned kids to stay in their communities, and grow to be good citizens who can, in turn, enrich that community as adults.

After that we capped off the night with dinner at Yod Abyssinia.

The environment, live entertainment, and food was incredible.  It was a great way to immerse ourselves in Ethiopian culture on the first night.

More tomorrow.  Hopefully I won’t be as speechless.

* Last three photos by our awesome trip photographer, Karen Walrond

I’ll be traveling to Ethiopia as an expense-paid guest of the ONE Campaign to report on how American-supported programs are improving and saving lives. ONE is a non-partisan organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease by pressing political leaders to support smart programs that do just that. They’re also launching a new initiative to focus specifically on Agriculture, which is where I’m most excited to join in. ONE doesn’t ask for your money, just your voice. It’s something I can get behind and I hope you can, too.

Miscellany: Final Stretch Packing & Jitters

I feel, very suddenly, like you’re all coming here for something profound; something I can’t deliver. And I’ve been quiet as a result.

I’m packing today, seems as good a day as any. You know, given I leave tomorrow. I’m still not sure I have everything I will need. Or even most things I will need. Most of the things I’m missing are mental; the feeling of being ready to go not the least of them.

In my head there is a running dialogue about how bad a time this is for me to be gone, but the truth is there is no “good” time. It’s fall now. There’s harvest, and winter prep, and darkness that comes far too early. But next it will be winter. The darkness will leave even later and come even earlier each day, there will be the cold and ice and snow to contend with, there will be the added chores of keeping the pens deeply bedded for warmth. And after that, spring. With its manic rebirth, planting, tilling, moving, sorting, shipping, selling, starting. Summer, of course, is no better. It has its own unique list of chores.

Life is, as Karen recently put it, always full. And for that, I’m trying to be optimistic and grateful.

I’ve never travelled internationally before, let alone internationally for ten days on a carry-on sized suitcase and a back pack (self-imposed limits, yes. But limits nonetheless.) So packing in and of itself — mental angst and nerve-induced paralysis aside — has been an adventure. I think I’ve managed to whittle the pile down to a manageable size. I ditched a couple pair of jeans in favor of yoga pants, which pack tighter and will be more comfortable anyway. I’m hoping, with the help of scarves and sweaters, I can dress them up enough to not look sloppy. We’ll see. Or, I’ll just be the horribly sloppy looking chick in all the pictures. Whatever.

I’m (of course) taking my camera and two lenses — no not one that would prevent me from having to “just get closer to the lions” — but, because my processing software is on my desktop, I won’t be able to upload any of them until I get back. Hold me!

I have a bottle of pure DEET — I’m kidding. Mostly. — some sunscreen, anti-malaria meds, and a ONE journal. Oh my gosh! Pens! Don’t let me forget pens! There is shampoo, conditioner, lotion, make-up, and a hair straightener. The latter of those mostly so my Small Humans do not try to use it while I’m gone and burn down the house. I wish that was a joke.

Humangear actually sent me four of their GoToobs to carry my shampoo, conditioner and lotion. So far I love them, but I’ll report back after a week and a half of globetrotting.

I’ve got my passport, briefing binder, itinerary, a tiny bit of cash, and my credit card — which I’ll have one shot at using because, they “no longer do prior notification”. In case you’re wondering, yes, I did hang up on the service representative at my bank. Right after she tried to assure me that I shouldn’t worry because they’ll contact me by cell to find out whether or not it’s a fraudulent charge before shutting the good old boy down. Because I’ll be wildly available by cell in Ethiopia. Again, I say, whatever. What’s life if you’re not living it on the edge right? Right!

Oh, which reminds me. 80% protection from Hepatitis A is pretty good, right? Yeah. I’m mostly vaccinated.

Shot record. Got my shot record.

ID. Insurance card. Don’t let me forget my insurance card.

At this point, I’m just shamelessly using you all as a public list making service.

We received our itinerary today. It’s still confidential, but I will tell you this: there are some extremely exciting items on the agenda that I cannot wait to share with you. This is happening. It’s real. And somehow, in the course of the past six hundred words (and the six hours I’ve spent coming back to this post on and off) I’ve gone from nervous and hesitant to excited and chomping at the bit to get on the road. I’m glad we had this talk.

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