If one term defines the past two days “whirlwind” would be it. We’ve begun to delve into the vast programs supported by HCS and CRS, as well as visited food distribution and agriculture co-ops that are the product of the more than $80 million in food aid these organizations provide in Ethiopia in response to emergency drought conditions.
Our inaugural day in Dire Dawa was initiated by Ato Bekele (“Ato” referring to Mr.) HCS’ Executive director, who quickly became our good friend, as well as by visits to two sites that left an indelible impression on us. The first site was Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, a clinic and residence that is dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor. At the Mission Sr. Marie Tomas introduced us to mothers and their infants stricken with HIV/AIDS and walked us through the ward for handicapped children, many of whom will spend their entire lives solely among the Sisters because their families have abandoned them and society shuns them. Although the Mission’s capacity is 600 individuals, its inhabitants often swell to 1800 plus. The second site was a CRS-led, multi-NGO Food Distribution Center that is the largest of its kind in Ethiopia and is situated within a stones throw from the Ethiopian Federal Prison.
More learning is to come as we trek to a university and NGO partner in Harer, a field office, and continue our internal interviews in order to dig into how HCS’ organizational structure works. All work and no play makes the Irish a dull group, so we’ll of course conclude the day as we have the past few with food (pizza for those of us seeking the familiar and injera for the adventurers in the group), drinks and chats about what we’ve tackled and what’s to come.