Ann Arbor residents that met Samuel Liben this weekend will never look at their personal wish lists the same. After hearing Samuel’s journey of overcoming a life of severe poverty in the garbage dump community of Korah, Ethiopia, and what he’s doing today to change it, their suburban lives became ones without want. International Samaritan, a non-profit based in Ann Arbor, hosted the event at the home of David and Molly Mengebier. Approximately 25 guests, including International Samaritan board member, Ernie Sorini, MD, who is travelling to Ethiopia later this year, were in attendance.
The biggest difference between Korah and other dump communities in the world is that it is home to a large population of lepers. Because of this sickness, they are social outcasts with health issues, so they flock together in a community that no outsiders want to visit. Samuel is the son of lepers although he personally has never been affected with the condition. He knows from his loved ones how lepers are further driven into poverty.
Samuel says of poverty: “It puts a yoke on you that you have no confidence you will live past today. You become a slave to your needs.” He knows how poverty leads to desperation and a cycle of making poor life choices. He works every day to change that fate for others.
At only 25 years old, Samuel is doing life-changing work for the dump community of Korah with a joyful heart. Growing up, he saw others his own age dying from starvation or poison at the dump. He vividly remembers finding dead infants at the dump and giving them a proper burial. People doing the Lord’s work saved him and he is driven to do the same for others.
Today he is a leader in sending 500 children from the dump to a top Ethiopian school where they are safe, fed, and receiving an education. This is just one of many accomplishments he has. Having “lived the life” and using the power of Christ’s love, Samuel feels that he can make a substantial difference in Korah. His ultimate goal is to alleviate the poverty in Korah by educating more children, providing job training to adults, and securing programs that bring medical treatment, recreation, and self-sufficiency to the community.
“A lesson learned from Samuel’s story is that when generous souls are willing to help provide an opportunity for those in great need, a life with basic dignity and hope can result. It begins with generosity,” said Father Don Vettese, S.J., founder of International Samaritan. He looks forward to the work that can be done together, stating, “Our mission is not about proximity, it is about Samuel. Wherever we find him and with any partners willing to work with us to serve him.”