>Why Ethiopia? Why now?

>Explaining why I am taking this trip seems to be the best topic for my next blog post. The answer is a fairly complicated one, but I will do my best to explain simply my reasons for this trip.

Let’s handle the most obvious reason first. Part of my heart belongs to the beautiful country of Ethiopia. As many of you know or have learned by reading my blog, my son is from Ethiopia. Teketel is the most amazing kid in the world. Granted, I may be a little bias. But seriously I’ve never met a kid so cool. J Andy and I will be eternally grateful to the country of Ethiopia and Teketel’s birth family for the opportunity to raise this captivating little boy. Our trip to Ethiopia in May 2007 to pick up our son was a life changing experience. Not only because we became parents for the first time but because we fell in love with the country. The warmness of the people we encountered and the strength and joy they possess, despite their heart wrenching poverty, has taught me lifelong lessons. When I have those “woe is me” days, you know the ones, when work is taxing or relationships are difficult. It is when the self-pitying begins and you are stuck in a rut. It is in those moments, I remind myself of the people I have encountered and how even in the most hopeless situations, they find hope and joy. All Americans could learn a thing or two from them. Poor customer service at a restaurant, frustrating driving tourists in downtown Savannah, or unfair treatment at our workplace would likely not get us so angry so quickly, if we lived life in the shoes of the Ethiopians I encountered on our trip. As the organization I am traveling with has so eloquently put it, it is for this very reason, “We need Africa more than Africa needs us.”

The second reason I am traveling to Ethiopia with Mocha Club is because I feel that it is our responsibility as Americans to make a difference in this world. We are so incredibly blessed to be born into this country. I did absolutely nothing to earn being born into a middle class family in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. I did nothing to deserve the food on my table every day, the warm clothes on my back, the education I received, or the loving family I was given. God blessed me. And I believe the reason he chose to bless me, was so that I may in turn bless others. The girl in the developing country, who was sold into prostitution because she had no other foreseeable value, did nothing to deserve that life. She was simply born into it. Now we could argue all day about her government’s role in all of this or how her family may have squandered money or how the history of that country caused the current situation… but when it comes down to it… she is a girl, a human being, a person if in America we would believe deserves “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” She is a person just like anyone else that deserves more than the hand she was dealt. And I believe it is my responsibility to use the gifts given me (and they truly are gifts) to help her.

Many of you may say if that is the case, then why not just raise the money and donate it? That would do far more than anything you could possibly accomplish in three weeks. And I agree with that statement wholeheartedly. And my family practices that principle in our own finances, giving to organizations such as Mocha Club, Oxfam, World Vision, Children International, Ahope, Ethiopia Reads, etc. But there are undeniable values of individuals going on trips such as this one. First, trips such as this raise awareness. Not only will the traveler see firsthand what individuals in developing countries have to overcome, but also family and friends back home are impacted by the trip. Hearing another person’s experience and passion is an incredibly powerful thing. My blog will be one of the ways I share my experience and I hope that through my trip others will be encouraged to do the same. Second, these trips engage a person to become a lifelong giver. A person that sees firsthand what their dollars can do, are far more likely to give more in their lifetime. Third, trips such as mine will continue to keep organizations accountable. Non-profits will always be better stewards of their resources if contributors are able to see their dollars in action. I encourage every individual to be educated on where your dollars are going and to take any opportunity to witness your impact.

The last value of this trip is a little more specific to my individual goals. I plan to meet with organizations with whom our church and community can partner. Partnerships that communities, workplaces, schools, or churches make with non-profit organizations are shown to accomplish far more than individual giving. When a group of people are able to take ownership of a project and work together in a likeminded fashion, it is amazing how much more they are able to accomplish. I hope to return with plans and ideas (not to mention names and contact information) to implement here in Savannah. I believe Savannah is very strong in giving back to their community. The United Way and other organizations in Savannah have a strong following and accomplish more and more each year. I am constantly blown away by the time and resources that individuals and groups dedicate to such organizations. I do not want to take away from that, only expand it. I hope to inspire people in Savannah to expand their compassion and dedication to outside their own community and into the world. I believe that our community can make a difference in the world, and I hope to assist in making that happen. As Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I want to see Americans take an interest in speaking and acting on the behalves of those in the world who cannot. Therefore, I will begin with me and I will be that change.

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