April 16, 2004: Headlines: COS - Ethiopia: COS - Thailand: Diplomacy: Hunger: Dayton Daily News: U.S. ambassador and RPCV Tony Hall returns to Ethiopia - Ethiopian children dying young, but not alone

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ethiopia: Peace Corps Ethiopia : The Peace Corps in Ethiopia: April 16, 2004: Headlines: COS - Ethiopia: COS - Thailand: Diplomacy: Hunger: Dayton Daily News: U.S. ambassador and RPCV Tony Hall returns to Ethiopia - Ethiopian children dying young, but not alone

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-239-147.balt.east.verizon.net - 151.196.239.147) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 6:05 pm: Edit Post

U.S. ambassador and RPCV Tony Hall returns to Ethiopia - Ethiopian children dying young, but not alone

U.S. ambassador and RPCV Tony Hall returns to Ethiopia - Ethiopian children dying young, but not alone

U.S. ambassador and RPCV Tony Hall returns to Ethiopia - Ethiopian children dying young, but not alone

Ethiopian children dying young, but not alone

Orphanage gives AIDS, HIV patients love to the end

By Ellen Belcher

Dayton Daily News

Dayton Daily News Editorial Page Editor Ellen Belcher has been traveling with Ambassador Tony Hall in Ethiopia. This is the fifth of six letters home.

Ten-year-old Sinthe died Friday night at the Gift of Love Orphanage. No one but the nuns of Mother Teresa's order knew. He was sent to this home exclusively for AIDS orphans two months ago, after his parents both died of the disease.

When we arrived Saturday morning, his body, neatly covered with a blanket, was still on the cot in the far corner where Sister Soraya said he suffered horribly. We were in the dying room for these children. Today two others, who were sleeping peacefully, shared the space with Sinthe's body. A wall-size painting of Jesus as the Good Shepherd dominates the room. Christ is watching over the children, sister said.

Ethiopia has an estimated 230,000 children who are HIV-positive, not to mention the 1.2 million who are not infected but who have been orphaned because of it. Today we saw 246 of those who have been twice victimized: They are HIV-positive and alone.

As soon as we arrived at the home just outside Addis Ababa, children descended on us. Most appear healthy; they aren't yet showing the signs of the illness. Baruk, who is maybe 5, latched on to me. He held my hand almost constantly. He didn't say anything until we got to his sparkling clean ward where the only furniture consists of beds next to more beds. Thirty or so children sleep in the room. Their drawings dot the walls "Fish, fish," he beamed, pointing to his colored picture.

When we moved to the area for smaller children, a little girl began clinging to my leg, rubbing her head against me like a kitten. She wanted to be held, so I picked her up. She kept resting her head on my shoulder, as if she couldn't get close enough. When it came time to put her down, she didn't just cry; she heaved sobs. And she leaned against a cupboard door and bowed her head almost as if she were going to bang it in grief.

Profound grief and indefatigable hope go hand in hand here. Sister Benedicta, who was taking us around, said that by age 6 or 7, many of the children understand that they are HIV-positive and that they're going to die. She said many eagerly await the periodic AIDS tests that are given; the children also know that miracles have happened, that a few have suddenly tested negative. The phenomenon is not unheard of in AIDS research, but there's no money to provide drugs to these children, who range in age from infants to 15, that could explain a recovery.

Sister Benedicta, 44, is not the least bit surprised by the occasional miracle; she depends on them. The German dentist came to Addis Ababa 14 years ago. Her order runs 14 centers that treat and feed the sick and dying throughout Ethiopia at a cost of $27 million annually. Each site is overwhelmed by the throngs that come to the door every morning.

People have to be turned away, but Sister Benedicta doesn't apologize for doing more than she is allowed, frustrating the U.S. Agency for International Development auditors who monitor some of the funding she receives. She admits that she bends the rules about standards. But, just like in the Bible, a few fish and loaves of bread can be stretched further than bureaucrats realize when God's work is being done.

By U.S. standards, the orphanage would seem to be an awful place. There are few toys, the children run freely and the child-to-adult ratio is another reminder of how hard a few people are working. Four sisters live at the home and there's a staff of 30 to 40; sometimes there are three or four volunteers. But for however long these children have left, they have a safe place to sleep, they're fed well and they're unquestionably loved.

Besides this orphanage, the sisters also run a second hospice near Addis Ababa. Though they don't call it an AIDS hospice, it is. It has 700 in-patients and 1,700 outpatients who come for food, a bath and someone to change their dressings.

Though Ethiopia has just 1 percent of the world's population, it has 9 percent of the HIV/AIDS cases. Three million of the 66.5 million people here are infected, and many experts say that number is an undercount because of the stigma associated with the disease and because testing isn't widely available.

Like the orphanage, this hospice is crowded, and it's infinitely bleaker. It's older the AIDS orphans used to be here, too, until the new hospice for them opened last year and all the people are showing signs of the disease. In ward after ward, people lie on cots, many simply staring. We saw two people who had IV tubes, but mostly the treatment consists of touching and feeding.

Sister Benedicta, a woman for whom the word radiant is woefully inadequate, was at her most passionate when explaining her anger at people who ask her why the Sisters of Charity are paying so much attention to the dying. "I don't apologize," she said. "Why? Because you and I also are going to die. That time will come. We don't want to be alone. They should not be alone."

Many of the patients want to know where they are going after death, Sister Benedicta said, and if the nuns will go with them. The sisters assure them that they're going to a better place, and that there will be others they know there. In a country that's nearly half Muslim, the nuns don't try to convert; they let their good works speak for their faith.

The sisters are eager to show outsiders their work, but they're intensely protective of their patients' dignity. No pictures are allowed to be taken inside the walls of their refuge.

When we go to one of the women's wards, Sister Benedicta emphasized that though there are fewer women at the hospice, they're dying younger than the men. "The other difference," she said, "is the women suffer quietly until the end. There is no crying."

Ambassador Tony Hall asked Sister Benedicta why she was always smiling.

"We give people hope," she said. "If I sit here and cry, what good is that going to do?"

TO CONTRIBUTE

Catholic Relief Services/Ethiopia

209 W. Fayette St.

Baltimore, MD 21201

Attn: Missionaries of Charity Gift of Love Home

DSN 3500

Project #6340035

Catholic Relief Services/Ethiopia

209 W. Fayette St.

Baltimore, MD 21201

Attn: Missionaries of Charity Gift of Love Home

DSN 3500

Project #6340035

Catholic Relief Services/Ethiopia

209 W. Fayette St.

Baltimore, MD 21201

Attn: Missionaries of Charity Gift of Love Home

DSN 3500

Project #6340035





When this story was prepared, here was the front page of PCOL magazine:

This Month's Issue: August 2004 This Month's Issue: August 2004
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?

Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."

In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.


Read the stories and leave your comments.






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Story Source: Dayton Daily News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ethiopia; COS - Thailand; Diplomacy; Hunger

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By Anonymous (allptrs.eq.edu.au - 203.10.121.83) on Sunday, July 30, 2006 - 9:23 pm: Edit Post

this is all amazazing it just imspires me more and more to be a missionary i know this is were god is calling me and i would just like to thank you all for the hope that you give those children! thankyou godbless


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