‘Just recently they found a baby in a box in the dump. They are very clever in trying to track the family down and keep them together, and if necessary promote Ethiopian adoption.’ Liz Lester, a Highton GP, says she has been drawn in by the need in this African country, where the life expectancy is only 53. She takes donations and medical supplies to the “Grace Center” https://www.facebook.com/minardsatgracecenter which supports children and families in Bahir Dar, a town on a beautiful lake an hour’s flight from the capital Addis Ababa. It is similar in size to Geelong. Brisbane couple Deanne and Andrew are the co-founders of the Center, which helps over 300 children with before and after school care, childcare, and an orphanage.
‘The need is overwhelming, you just have to focus on one thing. I can see that making positive change through empowering women and helping children can make a huge difference. I do check-ups on the kids in care and provide medical advice for families. I also give “Pink Girl Ethiopia” talks that are about empowering women through education and extra tuition. Last year 96 girls passed a Year 12 equivalent. It is all about life skills, sex education and standing up against sexual assault. We teach them not to trust what the boys try to tell them, such as they won’t get pregnant if they stand on their heads and other such nonsense.’
The Center also pays for schooling, childcare and rent for families in need. Once the families get back on their feet, the children can graduate from the program.
‘My favourite character is Abebu, a nurse who I have been working with since I first went over. On my first trip I met a girl named Hiwot, who very sadly is HIV+. On my second visit Hiwot was orphaned as the lady who was caring for her had passed away, but on my third visit Hiwot had been adopted by Abebu. I am now trying to organise Abebu to visit my practice here in Geelong, even with all the red tape involved.
I notice things are getting better in Ethiopia on each visit. The roads are better and there are more shops. My patients and friends back in Geelong have been very supportive. They sponsor kids, knit clothes and give donations. The good thing is money goes directly to the cause.’
Photo: Phil Hines Photography