Day 11: This is our last day working in the clinic. We went to the Meserites Kristos church in Bole, which was a large beautiful church on about 4 acres of grounds, unlike the other churches we had visited. Being the first medical team to work there, we were honored to have many of the pastoral staff and members of the church as our patients. For the first time, we now had the patients praying for our team after we prayed with them! The patients were generally older, and many were working and clearly had a better life than many of those we saw on the other days. Nevertheless, we were still given the opportunity to see many who struggled with even the simple things of life. The stories of a few of the women we encountered during our time here follows…

Life of Ethiopian women in the Bole Project

What women have in common appears to be the same all over the world. Women come together to find and share friendship, to have a place to talk about their lives, their children or their health, and simply to nurture one another through laughter, the shedding of tears, or sharing in one's pain. And the Ethiopian woman is no different. However, here at the Bole Project I have met women who have suffered beyond what I or any western woman could possibly imagine. From my simple request of a small group of women within a support group to share a little bit of their lives, including one small joy, I soon realized that the experience of joy is as foreign to them as the eating of injira is for me. Each of the stories of some 15 women all carried the same theme…

My name is Yesmiserach. I am 28 years old and I was born in Harar, a region to the east of Addis Ababa. At age 6 or 7, my parents divorced and left me alone in my house. I didn't know what to do so I wandered in the streets. I looked for my aunts and uncles but they all refused to help me. Until I was 11, I lived on the streets begging for food. Though I knew no one, I got on a train and came to Addis where there was a promise of work. At age 13, I was a young woman working as a housemaid. The owners raped me and when I became pregnant, they threw me into the streets. With nowhere to go, my baby was born on the street. I became very sick with tuberculosis and because of my TB, I was allowed to go to the hospital for additional testing. I learned I was HIV positive. Because I was too sick to care for my baby boy, I gave him up for adoption. Today he is 7 or 8 years old and I can sometimes visit him. I try to work as a housemaid but because I am very weak from HIV, I am mostly unable to.

My name is Lem-Lem. I don't know how old I am - possibly 30. I am from Gondar, 500 km. from Addis. At age 2 or 3, when my mother went to fetch water, a strange man kidnapped me. He brought me to a place that I can't remember; I lived for 15 years like a slave. I asked myself, "Who am I?" "Where is my mom?" "Where do I come from?" This man told me, "Gondar." I ran away to Addis, a large city center so I could find work as a house maid. The owners were terrible and I cried every day. A woman told me that I could find a new life with work and some money by working as a barmaid at a hotel. I was 17 when a merchant man saw me and wanted to be my boyfriend. He took me to a rented house and he was gone a lot. While he was away, I got sick so he abandoned me. I couldn't pay the rent so I was thrown into the streets. A Christian woman found me and took me into her home where I lived for 9 months. I was so sick with TB but I got some therapy. I felt ashamed because I couldn't contribute any money for my keep so I left this woman's house. I washed clothes but I had no place to live. Another woman gave me a tiny place on the ground so this became my plastic home. I became very, very sick. Addendum: The Bole Christian project workers, under the auspices of SIM (Serving in Mission) found Lem-Lem lying in a hole like a dying animal, a hole that had previously been used as a community toilet, barely covered by a piece of plastic suspended by several poles. She was covered in her own menstruating blood, her eyes were paper white, and she couldn't stand or walk. Not only was she anemic she was HIV positive. SIM workers took Lem-Lem to Black Lyon Hospital where she could only stay 1 day as seventeen million people must be served at this one city hospital. SIM provided money to help her live in a small room, to have milk, menstruating pads, soap and food. They followed her progress 3-4 times each week, showing her that she is a child of God, worthy of love. Lem-Lem now cries because she says, "I don't deserve this!" She keeps her room immaculate, she's obedient and she's now healthy enough to assist as a guide for new beneficiaries, taking them to the lab for HIV and other testing. Now she only cries when talking about her family as she still has no memory of her mother. Because Lem-Lem is multi-drug resistant TB, her condition is not treatable in Ethiopia. The SIM group continues to love her as one of their own.