Earlier this month, I had the joy and privilege to go with my church to Ethiopia on a trip with International Crisis Aid (ICA). ICA is my featured Freedom Fighter until the end of the year, and all donations made on the blog will be given to ICA.
ICA is very active in Ethiopia. They have several programs including a feeding program, a medical clinic, an orphanage, a ministry to women in the red light district of Addis Ababa and safe homes for women and girls who have been rescued from trafficking and commercial sex work.
The first thing we were able to do was help enter families into the feeding program and distribute flour. Currently, there is a severe famine in East Africa, the worst in over 60 years according to USAID. We weren't expecting to have many new families come to be entered into the program, but, to our surprise there were many new families. They heard Americans were coming.
The process of determining if a family is eligible for the program is heart-wrenching. Basically, we had to measure the babies' upper arms to determine their level of malnutrition. Twelve is the measurement for malnutrition. That day, around thirty families were entered in the program because their babies measured eleven or below, some even with measurements of eight and nine.
ICA also runs an orphanage for girls who have lost both parents to HIV/AIDS. We were able to help with a much-needed paint project at the orphanage and spend time playing with the girls and giving them gifts. We were able to take them to Addis and help them pick out new shoes, eat at a restaurant and play at a theme park.
The smell is indescribable, the streets are dirty and poorly maintained and the girls live and work in shanties that are about the size of a phone booth. Provocative images of scantily-clad women adorn their shanties, though most were dressed as a normal teenager would. It seemed to me that these girls were simply the object for the men to use to get what they wanted. I was struck profoundly by the thought that my smiles and tender, kind touches might be the only ones they ever encounter.
We invited them to join us for a party a Mercy Chapel, a former brothel that ICA has transformed into a place of hope and light. There, the girls are offered vocational training (computers, hairstyling, sewing, etc.), counseling and an opportunity to attend church there on Sundays. The day the party was held, we lost count at about 500 girls when we started having to turn girls away because there was no more room inside.
The trip was spiritually challenging, sobering and amazing all at the same time. I will never be the same. I have lived in areas of such poverty before. I have worked with women and girls who have been rescued from sex slavery before. I have loved on sweet children in orphanages before. This experience with ICA only solidified my desire to be a voice for these people, no matter their race or religion. ICA fights for freedom. Will you join them?
To learn more about the programs of ICA, how you can sponsor a community or orphanage child or how you can be a part of a future trip to Ethiopia, please visit www.crisisaid.org.
Donate to International Crisis Aid: