I Am Grateful

2012-06-03 20.53.31The sound of thunder woke me at 2:00 A.M. I thought I heard light rain on the roof, I hoped it was a bird or a neighborhood cat. I went to the computer to check the weather. “10% chance of rain”. I have read on social media that a city 30 miles away had received rain. The terrain in Southern California is so different that it can rain on one street but not on the block two streets over. I prayed that it wouldn’t rain over my house until my roof was fixed.


A strange windstorm visited California 2 months ago and decided to take off ¼ of the shingles on my roof. My roof is 42 years old so it wasn’t hard to do. The insurance company had paid for the damage but I had a large deductible and I was paying the rest. I hired a contractor and he began work. We felt so smug, he was on schedule. The roof was scheduled to be inspected by the city on Monday.

Nature heard the prayers of California in the worst drought in our history. We left Saturday morning for a funeral 130 miles away. We returned the next day. Inside the house the ceiling had collapsed under the weight of the water. My beautiful home looked like a disaster area. We stood horrified. The electricity in many of the rooms didn’t work and there was mud and water damage everywhere.

2014-02-09-10-57-19.jpgThe contractor decided that it was not his responsibility to cover the roof. It was a freak storm and it never rains in Southern California in August and thus was not his fault. We never had windstorms in the summer so strong that they blow off roofs, uplift trees and take down telephone poles either. He profited from the unusual windstorm but wanted nothing to do with assuming any responsibility for the water damage.

Defeated and tired of arguing with two people trying to convince me to lie and commit fraud. I called the insurance company. Apparently there is an endorsement issued to all of their insured in 2010, which I never bothered to read. If the damage is due to poor workmanship or contractor error, it is not covered in my policy. Apparently my contractor realized that and came to cover the roof the day after the storm. So it was a slim chance that the insurance company would cover the damages and recoup their loss from the contractor.

I cleaned daily. There was no end to the Black swamp water that filled my home. Fortunately my washer and dryer worked because I washed endless loads of clothes. I wiped those nasty counters down more times that I care to admit trying to get the dirt and soot out.

2013-01-21 09.17.30I hired another contractor because life goes on. I had worked with this contractor 12 years ago while both of us were employed in the school district. The problem with making a poor choice is that you begin to doubt your judgment. They proceeded with the work and we passed the initial inspection. They started on the next phase and were halfway finished when the light tapping on the roof from rain awakened me at 2:30 A.M.


I prayer God what are you trying to teach me. It has been scorching hot with clouds overhead and less than 10% chance of rain and I hear rain. I prayed myself to sleep. At 3:00 A.M. I bolted awake, water fell on my face. The rain was coming in. My ordeal began. I paced the house for 3 hours checking for leaks and putting buckets and any container that I could find under the leaks. The upstairs area had drips of water but in the kitchen it was pouring. My mind flashed to the conversation with the new contractor “We have finished the downstairs and will start on the upstairs tomorrow”. I am sure that I heard those words. I didn’t go down and check for myself.

My daughter had received a certified letter from her doctor indicating that she might need surgery on Friday. I check the mail and saw the letter. My daughter didn’t want to open it and so I opened it for her. We agreed that we would go to the appointment together but my daughter would not agree to the surgery. I cared more about my child’s health than the stupid roof.

GE DIGITAL CAMERAAs I walked around the house moping floors, wiping counters and setting out containers, I considered going in the attic. I canceled that thought; there are electrical wires in the attic. Let’s not get electrocuted. My mind raced with thoughts of doom and gloom as the kitchen leaks made more noise. I texted the contractor and called several times and left messages.

I tripped over a wooden crucifiction on the stairs. I don’t remember seeing it or knowing where it comes from. It must have fell out of one of the containers. I don’t think that it was even mine, I don’t remember seeing if before. I wondered if God was trying to tell me something or maybe I was simply hallucinating.

Bobby the contractor finally called and said that he was getting the guys and they were on their way. I nervously waited and paced. The guys jumped out of the truck like the Cavalry. Some went on the roof and started banging. The ceiling guy came in the kitchen.

GE DIGITAL CAMERAHe calmly looked at me and said, “It looks like you can’t catch a break. We are going to fix you up. When it rains it pours” he finished as he looked up at the ceiling. This ceiling is coming down.” There is so much water that it’s bulging. Step back and let me clear the sink, then I will cut a hole above the sink and drain the water before I cut it down. “ I hurriedly grabbed dishes from his hand as he cleared the area and covered it with plastic. He took a box cutter and began to cut a hole, which allowed water to gush into the sink. “Looks like we got her right on time. “ Bobby rushed in and grabbed the other end of my ceiling and together the cut and pulled down my kitchen ceiling while I stood there numb. I can’t believe this is happening in Southern California, one more day and this roof would have been done. I couldn’t move.

James quietly began to throw the pieces of ceiling in the trash and I tried to clean the floor. We cut up boxes to put down on the floor to create better traction. I didn’t need anyone to slip in that muddy mire. Exhausted, I told the guys that I was taking my daughter to breakfast. I was tired. I couldn’t sleep because my bed was wet and I didn’t know what was happening to me.

My daughter and I went to McDonald’s to eat. As we enjoyed our breakfast and I drank my coffee, I blurted out “Whatever we have to do on Friday to save your life, we are doing it. I don’t intend to lose you. You are staying in this world”. Her eyes teared for a second and she nodded her head and looked away. “ Having another surgery doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you fortunate to have doctor’s who can perform procedures to save your life” She nodded and looked away.

2013-02-24 10.50.51“Look at me, do you think that I should throw away our house because I can’t get the roof fixed?” I asked. She looked at me thoughtfully. “This is the very situation that I wanted to avoid. The roof was old, the wind blew it off. I tried to replace it before the rainy season and before school started. I failed twice” I stated Does that make me a failure? Shall I forget the roof and say that I tried, so let’s just loose our house? Her face brightened. “I will fix the roof, no matter how many times it takes for me to get it right, your will have the surgery if needed and give your body time to get it right.” I told her. She looked relieved as we left.

When I got back, James was mopping the floor and cleaning the area. I didn’t expect this. I offered him a banana for breakfast, he seemed pleased and I got out of his way. My daughter came and told me that he was washing our dishes. As tired as I was, I needed to let him know that he didn’t need to do that.

James spoke in a quiet, soft yet firm voice. He assured me that cleaning up there mess wasn’t a problem. I asked him about himself. He had lived in the city longer that I had. He shared with me that he had endured a rough 5 years and this year was his exodus. Exodus was not a word that one hears often. He assured me that I would be having my exodus from this roofing situation soon. I could relax and be relieved of that burden of an unfinished house soon.

He shared with me that he was blind in one eye but he worked and did whatever jobs were available without complaint. I asked him if he had an accident or a disease that caused the loss of his sight. He told me that 5 years ago, he was serving time in prison. The prison had a right and someone threw a homemade bomb which split one eye and injured the other. He looked embarrassed as he showed me his wounds. “I shouldn’t have been in prison but I was, so there was something that I had to learn there ‘as he turned his body to the side to mop. I could see the tension and discomfort. “There were people you were suppose to meet there” I added “and so the conditions were set for you to meet them,” I stated quietly. He visibly relaxed.

2012-06-03 19.44.57I told him that I had been a Chaplain at the Prison. I shared experiences and stories. He became happy and animated. He shared his spiritual journey. Today was going to be a new beginning for him. He was going to get proper medical treatment and start seeing a therapist. “This year was his exodus, he could feel it and everything was going to turn around because he was getting help,” He explained excitedly as he washed dishes. I assured him that he was right and that his life was getting better, I could see it as well. As I thanked him for helping me and walked up the stairs, I saw his smile, and heard him say softly “I knew that I knew you, I recognized your spirit.” I smiled and walked up the stairs and looked at the cross on the file cabinet.

I don’t know where the crucifix came from. I think my grandson gave it to me 6 years ago as a Christmas present and I have not seen it since. I don’t know how it got on the stairway. I knew that I had seen the handprint of God. I checked the mail and got the letter that my daughter would have thrown in a drawer. We are going to the doctor’s appointment. We will take any recommendation that the doctor makes. I woke up in time to protect the upstairs from the rain. The kitchen was already damaged and the inspector would have recognized it. I have the money to pay for the damages. I won’t be able to go to Africa for the second time this year. I will go twice next year. I will skip some other things that I planned to do and save to pay off my car despite this setback. The house is still standing and being repaired. We are all alive. I am grateful.



Reflections in Ethiopia : The Dark Side

IMG_0518There was an orphan girl lying in the street in Ethiopia. She lay on the sidewalk on a filthy blanket,  thin, half naked and exhausted. People walked by her as if she was invisible. Some threw coins her way. Her hair was mated and disheveled. I walked by with a heavy heart. I knew that I couldn’t help her and so I was silent.

Further down the street, there were other children half clad in ill-fitting clothes  asleep on the jagged, broken concrete on the side of the road. They often snatch food from the merchants and run away. They are considered a nuisance. I can’t imagine being able to sleep on  jagged, broken concrete but they seem used to it. It hurts to see them.

According to UNICEF, Ethiopia counts one of the largest populations of orphans in the world: 13 per cent of children throughout the country are missing one or both parents. This represents an estimated 4.6 million children – 800,000 of whom were orphaned by HIV/AIDS.   
 Street children  don’t have access to basic rights such as proper care, education, psychological support and supervision. Orphans and other vulnerable children are forced to work to earn an income. They are exposed to various forms of exploitation, including sexual exploitation. In Addis Ababa more than 30 per cent of girls aged 10-14 are not living with their parents. Twenty per cent of these 30 per cent have run away from child marriages.  Twelve per cent of adolescents aged 10-14 – of the 30 per cent not living with their parents – surveyed in two areas of Addis Ababa were domestic workers. They are very young, very vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, and typically have no legal or social support.  In the Amhara region, the average age of marriage for girls is 14.

Very few government services help orphans.  This needs to change. The primary coping strategy for communities has  been the extended family.  “As more and more parents die, the capacity of the extended family to take care of orphans becomes smaller and smaller,” says Björn Ljungqvist, UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia. “In all countries where you have a big HIV/AIDS epidemic, at first you don’t see any orphans at all, as they are absorbed by the traditional systems. And then it reaches a breaking point and you start finding these children in the streets, you start finding them working in difficult conditions, you start finding even child-headed households.”

UNICEF strategies include :

  • strengthening the capacity of extended families,
  • mobilizing and strengthening community and home-based responses,
  • strengthening the capacity of children and young people to meet their own needs,

*  ensuring the government protects the most vulnerable children and provides essential policies and services.

Many well intended persons believe that the solution to this humanitarian dilemma is to adopt these orphans and bring them to the United States. I don’t begrudge any child a loving home with parents who care. U.S citizens adopt approximately 20,000 children from other countries each year.  United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, Michele Bond, expresses concern over the sharp increase in adoption from Ethiopia. Over 2,200 children who were adopted this year from Ethiopia.

In an ideal world, the 83,000,000 Ethiopians would absorb the 5,000,000 orphaned children into their family whether they were blood relatives or not. They would recognize that extending care, educational opportunities to all children builds a stronger nation. There would be no controversy or complaints about foreign adoptions because the children would be in  local, loving homes. No complaints about  children lacking cultural guidance because they would be immersed in the culture. I don’t see this situation being remediated by in country adoptions anytime soon.

There are  401,000 children in the United States in foster care with 105,000 waiting to be adopted according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration  on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. I believe that Americans first choice should be to adopt from American foster care,  These children represent the future of America. Children in foster care today become the children in prison tomorrow. We can not  afford to waste so much potential.

I don’t judge celebrities who go to Africa and adopt children, I applaud them. The truth is that most Africans are not going to adopt children who are orphaned.  Attitudes about adoption need to change. I would never interfere with an adoption but I don’t view it as the ideal solution.

Assisting orphaned children in their country of origin seems to be the next best thing. My only concern is that I have seen extended families abuse children  who have lost parents. I think that Americans can make as valuable a contribution to Ethiopian orphans by working with agencies who support vulnerable children and extend the strategies outlined by UNICEF to all vulnerable children and not just those impacted by HIV. Supporting governments in assisting their citizens appears to be the long term solution.

3 million pupils were in primary school in  Ethiopian in 1994/95; by 2008/09, primary enrolment had risen to 15.5 million – an increase of over 500%. Secondary school enrolment  grew over fivefold. The Ethiopian government, in partnership with donors,  invested heavily in improving access to education. Key measures  included abolishing school fees, increasing expenditure on school construction and maintenance and hiring and training thousands of new teachers, administrators and officials. This has been complemented by a shift to mother tongue instruction and   improved service delivery.

Ethiopia’s progress in education demonstrates that a sustained government-led effort to reduce poverty and expand the public education system equitably, backed by sufficient resources and improved service delivery, can dramatically increase school enrolment. This same delivery method of government in partnership with donors can increase educational opportunities  for orphans and increase the capacity of the nation to meet it’s future needs. So orphans will not need to be adopted from outside the country, they can stay in their  country and make a contribution to the betterment of society.

Reflections in Ethiopia: Making Peace with Foreign Aid

GE DIGITAL CAMERAEthiopian economy  is based on agriculture: 90% of exports, and 80% of total employment come from GE DIGITAL CAMERAagriculture. Much of Ethiopia’s agriculture sector produces coffee for export;  more than 15 million people (25% of the population) derive their livelihood from the coffee sector. The  Ethiopian government   relies on the foreign exchange generated by exports to service foreign debts incurred  mostly by military. An economy based on agriculture can be very vulnerable to natural disasters.

Ethiopia  suffered major drought and famine during the  1970s. which continued in 1980s.  By mid-1984  another drought and resulting famine of major proportions affected  Ethiopia. The government failed to provide relief.  By 1986, the famine  spread with an estimated 5.8 million people dependent on relief food. Exacerbating the problem in 1986 were locust plagues.

The famine in Ethiopia  killed over 1 million people and  over 8 million were affected. The CBC news crew was the first to document the famine. The report shocked Canada, motivating its citizens to bring world attention to the crisis in Ethiopia. Live Aid, a 1985 fund-raising effort headed by Bob Geldof, induced millions  in the West to donate money and  urge their governments to participate in  relief efforts.

3000 Americans died in the world trade center and we changed the world. I don’t claim that the wars which ensued after the attack were the right actions.  Changes needed to occur to ensure that the attack  wouldn’t happen again. We changed and other countries followed suit.  After Hurricane Katrina, we made changes in our disaster relief programs so that people could be served more quickly. Yes, Americans take care of Americans. We take care of them within the country and outside of the country.  I take great pride in this. We value our lives and use our resources to protect Americans.

In 2012, Unicef reports 4.5 million people  in need of health care and nutrition assistance, nearly a 50 percent rise since April 2011.Failed rains in late 2010 and delayed rains in early 2011 have led to widespread drought and the death of livestock, estimated to be around 60-80% for cattle, 25-35% for goats and 25-40% for camels. Food prices have also risen and are now 30% higher than they were a year ago, according to government statistics.

UNICEF and its partners have so far:

  • Delivered 63,000 metric tons of humanitarian aid including 31,500 tons of therapeutic food
  • Treated 1 million children for malnutrition
  • Immunized 1.5 million children (31% of the country’s children) against deadly diseases in Somalia
  • Scaled up response in nutrition, water and sanitation in Kenya, resulting in a three-fold reduction in acute malnutrition from 37.4% to 13.7%
  • Strengthened the safety nets and preventive measures in Ethiopia, including establishing a Health Extension program that employs 34,000 community-based health workers
  • OECD’s goal brings together 30 member countries committed to democracy and the market economy to support sustainable economic growth, boost employment, raise living standards, maintain financial stability, assist other employment, raise living standards, maintain financial stability, assist other countries economic development and contribute to growth in world trade.
  • OECD data shows that between 2001 and 2007 Ethiopia received a total of about 6.4 billion UAS from OECK member states.
  • This was about 38% of the nation’s budget for 2007/2008US $3.21 billion, Ethiopia’s budget for all of its operations including infrastructure defense, healthcare education  and transfer payments to states.
  • The highest donor country is the USA US 2.5 billion 2001-2007.  United Kingdom  813 million, Germany  443million, Italy $389 million Netherlands

$ 353million and Canada $435 million, Sweden $276million etc.

Is  Ethiopia  better with the foreign aid or worse? Culture and tradition are important in Ethiopia but adhering to the culture resulted in over 1 million people dying and 8 million suffering.  Can Ethiopia thrive without the aid?  If not, then work with Foreign Aid to improve the country. Decide how to use the money to improve living conditions for all citizens. Put aside ethnic differences and work together to make your country a better place. Ethiopians will never be able to tell Americans how to spend their money so why waste the time when you could be focusing on the development of your country?

We engage in relationships that benefit us. “Is it in America’s interest. We provide humanitarian aid to other countries where we gain experience to better serve ourselves. We invest in innovations  as a pilot project before we bring the innovation home.  We strive to improve and we accomplish this goal by interacting with others.  Change happens, embrace it and move forward.

We are not a random society shaped by circumstances. We share a national vision.  The U.S.A. is a nation of immigrants,  who created their own circumstances. Willingly and unwillingly, we came with nothing but hope and a resolve to do whatever it takes to achieve a  dream.  We are a flawed people who  have chosen our destiny from the depth and breadth of our being. We created our world and when we help, we do so without jeopardizing our own well being. Self preservation is the first law of nature.

Americans receive a lot of criticism for valuing American life. We can’t make decisions on what is best for another country. You have to make those decisions. You have to say no if something doesn’t serve your needs. We live by our wits and change with the tide. When  something serves our needs, we adapt it and brand it as American.  If it is the best then we use it. No one rescues us from ourselves. We live with our mistakes and pay the consequences. No one bails us out. Ethiopia  has become financially dependent on Western cultures for  survival in the past 30 years. Use the funds  received from outside sources,  develop your natural resources and become more financially independent. Financial independence is achieved through imagination, flexibility, commitment, hard work and working together. China, Korea, Pakistan, India and even Japan show the way in taking foreign investments and becoming a world power.

Reflections in Ethiopia: Complicated Relationships Within the Economy and With Outsiders

IMG_0585For  two days I  interacted with wealthy Ethiopians. The wealthy  promote each other as keepers of the poor.  Wealthy Africans   ask for donations and assistance  for themselves. I interviewed personnel at a state of the art hospital that bragged about not helping the poor but  wanted American doctors to volunteer to help them make more money.

The world changed in 2007. American led wars  turned the world upside down. Preemptive strikes are bad for life as well as business. The global economy experienced a downturn. In 2010, it seem like things were getting better.    2011 saw increasing strains in the eurozone,  debt crisis in several countries, oil and food price volatility,  earthquake and  tsunami in Japan, the Arab Spring, etc.  The  result,  weakened economic growth around the world. . Global growth eased to  3.9 percent in 2011 from 5.3 percent in 2010, according to the recent IMF outlook.

Africa’s growth spurt experienced a decline.  A weakening external demand, compounded by the devastating impact of the political turmoil and social unrest in North  Africa slowed growth. The post-crisis tension in Côte d’Ivoire,  spilled over in neighboring countries. These negative impacts were  offset by the strong performance of a number of African countries that benefited from high commodity prices and the relatively brisk pace in world trade, buoyed by demand from BRIC countries. Domestic demand proved to be resilient. The bottom line??? Everyone is hungry and creating products and services which add value is the only way to succeed in this competitive world. Creating job is the order of the day.

I interviewed members of the hospital staff with my guide coaching them on their requests like a child making demands . Some physicians showed visible discomfort. They  wanted to focus on the wonderful service which they provided their patients. They felt uncomfortable asking Americans for money and equipment. They followed the instructions of their countrymen. A focus on the high quality of service given by the hospital, attracts those with the skills  and  desire to participate in service.

People want to learn from Africa because Africa existed long before other civilizations. Somehow that gets lost when people encounter the extreme poverty, exploitation and corruption.  Life is a two way street and the truth is that Universal Principles of reciprocity apply for everybody in the world.

I mentioned on facebook that I don’t have any problems with the criticisms hurled at NGO’s for their interference with providing free mosquito nets. My friend stated the following.” It ‘s the same with the free wheelchair mission, the shoe campaigns, the t-shirt campaigns.. there are local makings these things and trying to make a living off selling and fixing items for everyday life. When foreigners ship their stuff from overseas and distribute it for free, it kills local businesses. This is true, there are plenty of honest people trying to earn a living and treating everyone fairly. There are many   who discriminate against people from other ethnic groups and sell the goods to them at a higher price and refuse to hire someone from another  group and exploited them in a million other ways. So I don’t really have a lot of sympathy for local people who deny services or marginalize services to other on the basis of ethnicity or religion. I don’t shop at Lowe’s because they made refused to sponsor  a reality show about Muslims.

I have seen people slap and hit someone from another group and make  unfair, immoral, unethical  demands.  If those foreigners truly cared about  fixing one problem without causing another, then why don’t they buy the goods from the locals.

And if the locals can’t produce enough, then why not work with them to build their production? It makes no sense to spend that kind of money that is spent to make and ship wheelchairs-that is so expensive. They could  provide twice as many wheelchairs and ones that are more appropriate to the local terrain and culture/lifestyle.  True statements,  just because they can provide them doesn’t mean that they will provide them to everyone regardless of ethnicity or religion.I don’t willingly association with people who abuse others on the basis of ethnicity. The  other side of the story,  these goods may not available to anyone outside of their ethnic group or they abuse others. I chose to avoid someone who uses unfair business practices and exploits others.

In Namibia,  Americans invested in an automotive plant which provided jobs to locals who exploited other locals. Native supervisors  hired incompetents from their ethnic groups , provided free services for people from their ethnic group and overcharged others to make up for the difference. They  served people from their ethnic group no matter how long the other party have been waiting. Men in positions of authority would offered menial jobs to women of other ethnic groups if they passed the “couch test”. These women could be highly educated and competent but if they didn’t agree to sexual harassment, they wouldn’t get the job. Plenty of women from the chosen ethnic group received high salaries to do absolutely nothing.

“But  half of it is North American, European and Australian organizations wanting to provide support to businesses in their own country. In my opinion it is not ok to ignore the problems that you’re causing when you go in with you own intervention-especially when you haven’t done the proper legwork to try to figure out a solution with the locals. So yeah, I’ve got plenty of criticisms for western/northern NGOs”.  Yes, Westerners look out for each other. Most aid workers are young females who risk their lives to go to developing countries to make a difference and become overwhelmed.   NGO’s don’t always get it right, but they keep trying and I admire them for that. Africans are not rebellious adolescents, they are intelligent capable and competent adults. Yes, people in NGO’s need to learn African language and  culture. They need to spend time on the ground without being exploited as well.  Africans need to treat others with the same respect that they demand for themselves.  Criticism and accountability cut both ways.

Reflections in Ethiopia: Vision for Education

GE DIGITAL CAMERA“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”    Elizabeth Kubler Ross

I worked my way through undergraduate and graduate school. I started supporting myself from the age of 17. Yes, my government assisted with grants and loans for my education but I always needed a job to pay my living expenses. I believe that working gives you a deeper understanding of problems and more information from which to develop solutions.

I noticed that educated people in decision-making positions lacked worked experience in Ethiopia. Many stories started with family members sacrificing so that these selected few people could attend school. They received sponsorship from family friends and/or relatives. I noticed that the resumes of Ethiopians fall short when compared to their Western peers because they lacked relevant experience.

I read many research papers from my African colleagues and even though it contained significant breadth of information, it lacked depth of knowledge. I knew the lack revealed a lack of relevant experience with the problem. The research reflected the perspective of an outsider looking in despite the native writer. I noticed that most scholars failed to research topics unless someone outside financed these endeavors. So the writing reflected a narrow and romanticized view of the problem.

The people who understand the problems and imagine a more thorough solution lack the skills to integrate outside of their narrow cultural circle. They socialize with people from their family or village and these people lack the knowledge or resources to develop solutions, which benefit a wider circle. They lack the vision to engage outside people of their circle. People help you when it is of benefit to them. They invest in Africa because there is much to learn in Africa. They don’t invest in Africa because they feel sorry for Africans. This type of relationships needs to be valued and nurtured but it requires a partner that knows their worth.

When I tell current employers that I visited the continent about 12 times. They want to know what I learned during my time there and how does my increased knowledge benefit their business. What skills can I teach their employees to make them more effective in their roles? They want to know how what I developed in the educational system in Africa can benefit children in the United States.

The first step in any joint endeavor that is mutually beneficial is to establish a relationship. It really bothers me that so many African children are not in school and when they do attend government schools they don’t receive a quality education, which allows them to pass the exam to attend secondary school. When they do pass the exam for secondary school insufficient secondary schools or slots exist. They can’t afford the school fees. They graduate from secondary school and can’t pass the test for University. They pass the test for University but fewer slots available mean a loss of talent along the way.

How does one change this picture? Reading and talking about teaching does not make one an effective teacher. You have to be able to walk in front of that classroom and show how it’s done. Teacher training programs must include classroom teaching as a part of the training program and mentor new teachers in their role of educating the country and not just representing their own ethnic group.

Funds for education become mismanaged at all levels even in the schools. The focus on immediate gratification and family income supercedes the long term objective of educating a generation of Ethiopians who can make life better for the entire country. This requires leaders who can be present and rise about the pettiness and the corruption.

Africans view Westerners as  money for discretionary income and not as investors in Africa’s future. Most Africans focus on  the need for a job. No one wants to hire you because you need a job. Solve a problem. Add value to my mission or my organization.  Create your own job by solving a problem and you never have to worry about earning a living. .

Connect  work with solving someone’s problem .  Solve the problem  of school dropouts in Ethiopia and show how to motivate low income students in the United States, Canada or Europe. Problems in education span the globe. Schools in China face the same problems of engaging all students. Focusing on what we have in common and not the differences guarantees funding for your education problems because they reflect global education problems.

Billions have been spent and misused in Africa. The long term effects of expecting something for nothing cripples the country. Seeing the short term gains keeps the country in a state of emergency . I am amazed at the professional educators  people who ask me to buy them personal things. It is a difficult place to be.

The system must expand it’s mechanism for including children who failed the exam. These children who failed and then take their lessons from life hold the key to the prosperity of the country. They work every day for a living. Nothing does as much for a (wo)man’s soul than a hard day’s work. These young people need to be brought back into the educational system an given a chance to make their dreams a reality. Give them your all instead of relegating them to the position of second class citizen. Meet them halfway and they can make a difference in the future of your country.

Learn to network 360 degrees. Include the views and opinions of everyone in the environment to develop solutions. Learn to partner with people who consider the long term interests of all involved. Create win-win solutions.

Reflections in Ethiopia: The Diaspora

IMG_0518The banks in Ethiopia are filled with people waiting on remittances from the U.S. and Europe. I stayed in Ethiopia 2 months but I have known Ethiopians who send money home faithfully for 20 years. I view this situation from both sides. I don’t believe that the people here understand or appreciate the sacrifices and hardships their relatives undergo to send money home. They have created an artificial middle class who are conspicuous consumers and exploit those who do not have relatives to send money.

There is a disconnect with money. I understand that I earn money because I solve someone’s problems. I change my business in accordance with the needs of my clients. I know that if I don’t solve someone’s problem then I won’t have an income. I don’t think this is always evident to people outside of the United States or people in the United States who live on government assistance.

After World War II, there was a mass exodus of African Americans who left the farms of the south for the industrial north. They left families to find a better life in the promised land of the north. They found themselves living in cramped quarters with few comforts. Many young people turned to illegal activities to make money and became the victim of exploitation.

They worked as janitors, maids, prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers and any other profession to send money home to their family. I am not implying that Ethiopians work in illegal professions abroad to earn money. The comparison begins and ends with the hard work and performing jobs that are not glamorous.

My Ethiopian friends with children face an added dilemma. They choose between allowing their children to participate in the advantages of this country or send money home to help family members. If their children fail to take advantage of the opportunities in this country, they become a permanent underclass. America is not an easy country, she demands the most competitive persons.

My African friends tell me stories of sending money home to build a family home only to return to Africa and find that the money has been wasted on entertainment. One friend stated challenged his brother about the misuse of funds, he shrugged his shoulders and said that “he could get plenty money in the United States”. This friend was a college professor in Africa with a Master’s degree. He  drove a cab 12 hours a day 6 days a week in dangerous areas to be able to assist both families on both sides of the ocean. He denied his children to ensure that his home family didn’t suffer only to return to see that other than spending more time at the coffee shops, shopping for clothes or hanging out at the bars nothing had changed.

We read a lot about the principles of success. Wallace Wattles The Science of Getting Rich and Napoleon Hills Think and Grow Rich. They have been with us for 100 years. It surprised me when a high-ranking official of the University in Ethiopia stated that people who have money received it because they stole it. Living below your means and investing your money for future returns does not appear to be a priority. Financial literacy seems to be a weakness with Africans throughout the world, in the United States, Brazil, Caribbean, Europe, etc. Yet we give to our family even when they have limited or no appreciation.

Investing money  given by NGO’s or relatives in  business or entrepreneurial effort seem rare. People don’t’ seem to appreciate money that they have not earned. Billions are wasted in international aid. People given money become complacent and take the money for granted.  I know this seems harsh. Life is harsh.  The law of giving and receiving are clearly outlined in every holy book. The Principles of wealth apply to all equally just as gravity applies to all equally. Gravity doesn’t change because we live in a different country.

Middle and upper class people approach me all the time about giving jobs to their family members. We don’t give jobs to our own family members, they earn them.  We provide scholarships to vocational college to the young man who almost died and his girlfriend who  help me with  research. People complain because they think that educating someone who failed the exam the first time  is a waste of money. These  young people are extremely intelligent and capable but  failed the 10th grade exam due to family tragedies. They consider their fate to be sealed. Less than $10 US per month would give them skills in ITC so that they may start their own business. Stop looking for jobs and create a job.

They continue their day work and attend school at night.  The resentment from my colleagues seem unreasonable. They contribute  to the  research of my organization and receive compensation.  I am accused of interfering with the culture and their fate. You have to feed and nurture the goose that lays the golden egg. The goose that lays the golden egg needs investment. When the goose dies, then you die, there is an interdependent relationship. There has to be accountability.

The principles of valuing what you receive is  a Universal Principle. I don’t give money away.  I teach principles of wealth and investment and treat people the way that I want to be treated. I bring people together who have complementary strengths so that they can work together. Every person must decide for himself/herself that s/he is 100% responsible for his/her life.

Change can be uncomfortable. When you view your time and money as an investment, then you can decide how much to give based on the outcomes. My children know better than to ask me for handouts. They earn money by completing a project with high standards. I don’t support mediocrity. Value the resources that you have and invest in them, they will reap more. Squander them and you live in poverty. It is a Universal Principle.

Servas and Volunteering in Ethiopia

I heard about Servas from another American University of Women(AAUW) member at the International Federation of University Women (IFUW) conference in Ottawa, Canada in 2001. An organization that promoted global peace through home stays appealed to my mission of championing

peace. I downloaded the application  and made an appointment with my interviewer Twyla Aspenleiter.

My colleague from Canada and I went to visit Twyla together in Southern California. She delighted us with her scrapbooks of travels. We interviewed her more than she interviewed us. My Canadian friend made a commitment to get her parents involved in Canada.

My first trip with Servas  happened in November of 2001. The airlines cancelled my flight to Guatemala to meet with my tour group. I would arrive 2 days early or 2 days later. If I arrived 2 days later, someone would need to come down from the mountains and connect me with the group, a major inconvenience. I chose to come 2 days early and stay with a Servas host. They were wonderful people and I enjoyed my stay immensely.

My Servas hosts taught me that there is always another side. I came to Central America to learn about street children and how they found themselves in the United States with people other than their parents. I learned that the treatment of street children was terrible as my official hosts indicated but that the street children terrorized the businesses through theft like my Servas Hosts shared. I learned early that there are many sides to the story of assisting children.

Today I have a study/work abroad program in East Africa. I remember my Servas lessons. We are leaving the U.S. from Los Angeles, Ca. and Memphis, Tn. on July 5 and returning on July 29. We will be leading reading groups at a primary school with books by Maya Angelou and James Baldwin. Children must past an exam on English language to attend secondary school. They must know English in order to survive in secondary school because it is taught in English. So this gives them the opportunity to speak with Native Speakers. We also will counsel some very young mothers from the countryside with fistula and provide art therapy.  We will be bringing books and surgical gowns for the doctors who don’t have enough gowns for surgery.

This is the beginning of connecting like minded people together to work on family literacy. People who live, work and eat together form an extraordinary bond.  We hope to build a joint use library at the school one day.  It would be great to have a public library which allows parents and students to check out materials. The next year we will add a study/work program to Kenya and in 2015 we had Tanzania. 2016 we expand to South Africa.

Servas focuses on spreading peace and friendship through homestays. We added work/study programs to our agenda on promoting peace. People who work and live together can not view each other as enemies. Thanks Servas for showing the way.