Wonji is a sugar plantation area with seasonal laborers and therefore
an AIDS problem. MPPC is helping more than 100 children who are
living with grandparents, relatives, or sick parents. Because of
the poverty of the families, they would not be able to afford school
fees (it's not free) or clothes. Besides the orphan support, we
are helping the evangelical churches run an after-school tutoring
program for these children. When we arrived, we were treated like
royalty. The children sang for us and prayed the Lord's Prayer in
alternating Amharic and English. The grandparents gathered and prayed
blessings on us and our children and grandchildren. They so appreciate
our help in raising their grandchildren after their own adult children
have died of AIDS.
Wonji Hospital is run by the sugar company and only treats sugar
workers and their families (about half the population). MPPC bought
medications that, while not anti-retrovirals, significantly extend
the lives of AIDS patients who are not eligible for ARV's because
they don't work for the company. The doctors volunteer their services
treating them because of heir strong relationship with the evangelical
churches and because now they have medicines to give.
In the Wonji area, we are also helping HIV+ women who want to start
small businesses. The Ethiopia Initiative's funds will match their
own savings over time, then will be released when the women have
received training and have a business plan. We talked to home-care
givers who visit orphans and AIDS patients. They were inspiring.
When we asked her why she did this work, one woman said that it's
clear from the Bible that we have a responsibility to care for the
sick and widows. She does the work with grace and joy.
It was a happy day. AIDS is such a terrible and large problem that
it helps to see that we can make a difference in this area.
In Wonji Shoa, we visited a school started by Solomon,
a man from the village, to give these poor children the opportunity
to 'catch up' to those with more advantages.