2014 marks twenty years since International Samaritan first recognized the heartbreaking poverty of the garbage dump community in Guatemala and decided to make alleviating severe poverty its mission. Since then, we have grown from a small organization serving that one garbage dump community in Central America to service in different countries around the world.
We are truly blessed to be able work in so many communities, most recently Kore in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world, and Kore, a garbage dump community in the capital city of Addis Ababa, is poor even by Ethiopian standards. The residents of Kore scrape together the most modest of livings by sifting through the garbage for waste that can be sold for recycling.
Even children live and work and play among the cast off trash in the huge dump. What sets Kore apart from other dump communities is that it is also a leper colony where hundreds of people are living with leprosy-related conditions. As you might imagine, living and working in a garbage dump means constant exposure to disease and pathogens, as well as high risk of injuries. In these communities, access to even the most basic health care is critically important. International Samaritan is proud to sponsor health care clinics in two of the countries it serves.
At the beginning of the year, two members of International Samaritan’s staff traveled to Kore and visited a medical clinic. The clinic was modest but clean and the staff was warm and welcoming. They were eager to share the work they do and to talk about the type of help they need to better serve the residents of the community.
Approximately 40 to 50 people are treated daily. The most common ailments seen are respiratory illnesses, like tuberculosis, pneumonia, influenza and other communicable diseases often caused by the lack of proper hygiene in the garbage dump environment. They also see chronic ailments, like diabetes and heart disease, but since the clinic is not yet licensed by the government, they are able to provide only first aid and a limited range of medications.
Many of the impoverished people of Kore cannot afford such treatment and their diseases worsen and become chronic. However, the clinic staff hopes with the support of International Samaritan, they can upgrade the facility and become a government licensed primary clinic. This would be wonderful for the community since so many residents have great need where there is no heath service currently available.
While visiting the clinic, Father Don Vettese, S.J. was shown a huge collage of photos of people who had come to help along with some of the patients who had been served. One boy in particular touched their hearts. The boy was well known to those in the clinic, as he had been seen many times for worsening neurologic symptoms. It was clear to them that he would eventually need surgery or he would surely die.
Unfortunately, in Ethiopia there are simply no facilities where neurosurgery is performed. The options for such patients are very limited. One day, though, visiting volunteers were there when the boy came in yet again. His condition was severe, and they were moved to sponsor the boy to come to the United States for surgery. Not only was the boy’s life saved, but he was able to stay in the U.S. to attend school.
Even with the terrible conditions in Kore and the struggles faced every day to help the residents, they still have ready smiles for the patients and an admirable air of optimism. One might wonder how they carry on that way until you notice the large sign near the photos, neatly handwritten in English: “All things are possible through God.”
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