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Ethiopia RPCV Sally Timmel heads a women's training center in South Africa
Ethiopia RPCV Sally Timmel heads a women's training center in South Africa
Career leads former resident to life of service
Donna Frake, staff writer
October 01, 2003
Growing up in Oconomowoc, Sally Timmel never imagined that her work would one day take her far away from the idyllic scene of her childhood.
Coming of age during the turbulence and wonder of the '60s, Timmel has made a career, and a life, of service to others.
Beginning with a stint in the inaugural year of the Peace Corps, Timmel followed with nearly 30 years of working in Africa and 10 years in Washington, D.C.
Currently, the Oconomowoc native heads a women's training center in South Africa, working with an organization called The Grail.
According to Timmel, The Grail is "a community of women rooted in Christian faith, strengthening and supporting one another in their search for God. We encourage each other to be open to the Spirit and work toward transforming our world into a place of justice, peace and love. The Grail has existed for 76 years and is working in 18 countries. The spirit of The Grail is expressed in practical work toward our international goals: working for justice and solidarity, developing intercultural understanding, building bridges of trust and breaking down barriers, healing our planet and the divisions among us, enabling women to cooperate and support one another in their spiritual search and their efforts to develop their full potential in different walks of life."
Her road to that point started in 1962 when she began her work in the Peace Corps, teaching biology and chemistry in Ethiopia.
"I shook Kennedy's hand in the Rose Garden," she recalled. Upon arrival, the group immediately doubled the available teaching staff.
She followed that experience by accepting a position with the YWCA in Cincinnati, Ohio. "It was during the civil rights/anti-Vietnam era, during the great '60s. Most of us believed we really could change the world, and I think some of us still hold onto that belief," she offered.
Completing a master's degree in adult education at Boston University, Timmel was exposed to a Brazilian educator, Paul Friere, who would affect her career.
"He had a whole methodology about how to help people come to critical awareness, basically how to help people read their own reality and write their own history. Poor people are often the recipients of what other people do to them. He turned that around and said people know what they need. They just need to get themselves organized and figure out why they're in the situation they are in, and to start to write their own history rather than having other people determine what their life would be. So I started getting involved in all that work," he explained.
Timmel then spent the next seven years in Zimbabwe and Kenya, developing adult education programs. "It grew from the two of us to the point where the training programs reached over 3 million people in seven years."
The widespread success of the program, Timmel said, was due to the fact that those who went through the program then trained others. "They had parish training, literacy training, women's training, agricultural training, whatever," she said.
"So then, after that I came back to the States and was the director for Church Women United legislative office for 10 years, from 1984 to 1994. I got involved in healthcare reform, which is still lingering, I am told."
In 1995, Timmel left for South Africa, where she still lives today. I come home every year to visit my mother," said Timmel. Her 98-year-old mother is a resident of Shorehaven.
"I've started a number of programs in the Cape Town area. One is a gender advocacy program, another an economic literacy program and a women's training center.
Key to change, Timmel believes, is empowerment of women.
"Women, basically, are the weavers of the fabric of society. If you want to get at culture and long-term change, women will do that - in any country."
"I think, if you scratch the surface of most any woman, and ask who will make the difference, and they will all say, yes, women. Men get caught more with the status quo. Women are much more long-term thinkers and problem solvers.
"That's what we target, but it's not the only thing we target. We're working on low-income housing programs, HIV/AIDS programs with churches and the training programs," Timmel noted.
"The training center is really capacity building, helping communities think through how they can better access funding through local government or developing low income housing. Job placement is the most difficult (challenge), anywhere in the world. The commonality, besides women's issues, is that economic globalization has harmed people globally. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer - in every country. It's job-loss growth. The average minimum wage in South Africa is $150 a month for a family. We need to say 'Could I live on that?' Then some compassion starts," she stated.
Timmel suggests an exercise in which you choose a meal and research where everything came from and how many miles it traveled to get to the table. "Add up the number of miles your breakfast traveled and say 'This is how many gasoline miles I ate for breakfast.' We did this for one of our training programs and found, for a weekend, the food traveled about 30,000 miles, because everyone brought rice, which was being imported from Libya. If you try it here, you will be astonished," she challenged.
"It makes absolutely no sense. Buy local and support the local economy. It would change the nature of jobs," she said emphatically.
Another matter facing the people Timmel works with is the issue of HIV/AIDS.
"Poverty is part of that. It's very complex. It's a question of hope, a belief that you have a future. If you consider that we have 45 percent unemployment in the country, how do you have any kind of hope for the future? So what's the alternative - drugs, crime and sex.
"What we're doing is trying to motivate every faith-based organization in the province we're in to have an HIV/AIDS program. We have a list of things from foster care to nutritional guidance, which is critical. If you don't have good food, you can't build up your immune system.
"We're a staff of 26, and I do all the fundraising, between $600,000 and $700,000 a year, to keep it all going," Timmel explained.
Timmel said that although her mother always felt the Peace Corps was responsible for the career choices she made, she herself believes it began even earlier.
"Deep down, it was the Lutheran Church," that propelled the sense of justice, she offered.
Although her annual visits provide a nice respite, Timmel said, she has no plans to move from South Africa.
"I will probably spend my life there," she said.
©Oconomowoc Focus 2003
|By M.Ismail (cpe00402b678366-cm000a7369e086.cpe.net.cable.rogers.com - 184.108.40.206) on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 - 6:14 am: Edit Post|
The love of Etiopia is in the centre of heart.
I'am Ethiopian, i love my country the modhre and heart of Africa.Ethiopia is where you find a
people of lion heart.I wish this empire gouvernment will end, if they only put a side of the rase, tripe, religent and thing about haw the people be united for develope there country.
More important thing about the starvation, there people starving because the empire gouvernment is eating there money.I WISH I COULD CHANGE THE FUTUR OF A BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY OF ETHIOPIA.Is dificulte to STOP a killer empire gouvernment, that hunt every day to kill anthoter tripe.When people forget peace and love over money and power they turn to killer that's Ethiopia situation.I LEAVE HOPE IN TO GOD IS HAND ON ETHIOPIA FUTUR.=+=+=GOD BLESS RTHIOPIA+=+=+