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Strong Hearts’ daycare program is an incredible opportunity

When I was asked to help out in the daycare program two weeks ago, I was quite apprehensive. Honestly, having never been the babysitter-type, I was dreading it. I agreed to this knowing that anyone can survive almost anything for two weeks. I am here to serve where I’m most needed, not to serve where I’m most comfortable or even most skilled.

It turns out that I not only survived the past two weeks, but I actually enjoyed them. I worked in the infant room with Tigist and Meseret, the two caregivers whom I now refer to as the Baby Whisperers. Never have I seen two women with such motherly intuition, strength, and patience. (Five days a week, they spend 9 hours in a small room with about ten children, ages 6 months to 1 year. And to think they have their own family waiting for them at home!) These women can transform tears and fussing into smiles and calm with ease. They work together seamlessly, taking turns with the more unpleasant duties, all the while laughing with and encouraging one another as friends. Their passion and love for the children are obvious. They work with joy and gratitude, and it’s contagious. I quickly began to look forward to walking through the infant room door in the morning, warmly greeted by Tigist, Meseret, and all the babies’ wide, beautiful brown eyes. I didn’t mind changing diapers (it actually gave me a surprising sense of accomplishment – how wonderful it is to hold a newly dry, clean baby!) and wiping so many runny noses. I loved feeling the warmth of their little bodies against mine while rocking them to sleep, discovering their unique personalities, and hearing their sweet babbling.

Strong Hearts’ daycare program is an incredible opportunity and blessing for families in need of sponsorship and support. Working mothers can have peace of mind that their little ones are being well cared for in their absence. Clothing, food, medication as necessary, and fun activities are provided for each child through the generosity of donors and the dedication of caregivers. As a nurse, I’m familiar with the formative impact a child’s early years has on long- term health and development. These children are gifts from God, and they are incomprehensibly precious to Him. This daycare offers a vibrant, safe environment where children can grow in the nurturing love and warm light of Christ.

Jana Mead


I have been amazed and humbled

During my initial meeting with the Director of Strong Hearts, one of the first questions asked of me was “Do you love Jesus?” Never have I been asked that during an interview, and I must say, it was both startling and refreshing. As I’ve begun volunteering in the hospice program at Strong Hearts, I have seen the ardent love of Jesus as a value shared and upheld by all staff in word and in action. Thus far, what I have appreciated most about the hospice program is its holistic approach; not only is physical comfort a goal, but also spiritual and emotional comfort. Scripture readings, prayer, and counsel are always offered during visits. I have sensed that hospice care is not just a job to my Ethiopian teammates, but rather their unique calling from God. Patients within the program are not just sick people, but friends, brothers and sisters in Christ.

The most difficult aspect of volunteering has been the language barrier. I perceive that important things are being said, and oh how I wish I knew those things! Despite my frustration with the language barrier, visiting the homes of patients has been a joy and privilege. When entering homes within and surrounding the city dump, I am entering different worlds. The majority of the homes have one or two crowded rooms with dirt floors, walls made of a combination of rock, clay, and grasses, and roofs constructed with scraps of plastic and sheet metal. I have met men and women who have remarkably strong, steady faith in the midst of extreme poverty and physical suffering. I have met middle-school aged children who are forced to quit school and find day labor jobs in order to support their bedridden parent and pay rent. I have been amazed and humbled to find that patients and families have been such generous hosts despite having so little. During almost every home visit thus far, some sort of food or drink has been shared. A number of families have welcomed us to join their coffee ceremony (the whole process done over a tiny charcoal fire pit, from green coffee beans to steaming hot cups). These ceremonies are occasions where the barrier of language is overcome through the act of hospitality and the shared enjoyment of an Ethiopian tradition.

Over the next few months, I am looking forward to seeing more of how the organization’s vision of “transforming from the inside out” comes alive and bears fruit. God is at work in this community and I’m grateful to be a part of it.

Jana Mead


Rescue Slameweyt who is age 17

Kasech has been a patient of the hospice program for over one year. Over this time she has been fighting through the stages of HIV and TB. At this time she is bedridden once again, and because of this cannot work. Her daughter, Slameweyt, has been forced to take over the role of providing for the family, as Kasech’s husband has passed away. Slameweyt is 17-years-old and because of having to provide for her family had to drop out of school over a year ago. She had finished through grade 8 and she said Biology was her favorite subject in school. She also said that she misses her friends and social interaction with peers her age. This past year, instead of school, she worked 10-hour everyday 6-days a week as a day laborer carrying heavy blocks and working with cement, but even this is not possible anymore. She hurt her leg at work and has not been able to work for the past 15 days. Typically, Slameweyt was making about $50 a month, which was enough to cover all of their needs. But now, they have no source of income. Their rent is due in 8 days, and costs about $25 a month. Even once Slameweyt’s leg heals, she does not belong as a day laborer, but in school where she can get an education and hope for the future.

if you are interested to send Selameweyt to school please do extend our hand of blessing on the following onine doations


God Bless you!


“When i walk in the valley of Death you are there with me!!”

This has been a challenging week for the Hospice Program. We learned on Monday thatour patient Serekalem went to the doctor for a check up and was told she onlyhad a short time left to live. Serekalem has cervical cancer, and ended her chemotherapy treatment months ago. The last round of chemotherapy caused kidneyfailure, so now she is living with only one kidney. The day after she heard thenews the hospice staff spent a lot of time with her offering her words ofsolace, as well as praying with her. The news has been very hard for Serekalem,and she has spent the past few days with family and friends. It has been veryimportant to us to keep her faith strong, and make sure she knows that she willbe going to a better place. One of our big concerns is both of her daughters. Serekalem’sdaughters are ages four and twelve, and their father recently moved to Americafor work. Serekalem has always been a very hardworking, friendly, and positivepatient that we have always enjoyed visiting. We at Strong Hearts hope that thefamily stays strong, and will continue to regularly visit them throughout thenext few weeks, as well as keep Serekalem and her family in our prayers.





Debre with Ovarian cancer

Debre is fifty one years old. She came to addis from the countryside region of Gojam when she was ten years old. She is in stage four at this time, and is bedridden. Last August Debre learned that she had ovarian cancer. The doctors did biopsies and other tests that showed the cancer has already metastasized to many organs in her body. They were not able to remove the present tumors and sent her home. There is much accumulation of fluid in her abdomen, back, and peritonea. She suffers with extreme pain and discomfort, including shortness of breath from the fluid. She is taking morphine four times a day for pain. Debre worked before she got sick, but is now unable to leave her home and is dependent. Now her husband and twenty five year old daughter work to support their family. Debre is our newest patient, only having been with strong hearts for two months. Strong Hearts provides her with groceries monthly and other needs periodically. The Hospice team visit Debre everyday in her home to evaluate her physical state and encourage her spiritually, psychologically and emotionally.IMG_4836 IMG_4832


Shibere & Her sucess

Twenty-five years ago, Shibera Bogale who is currently our Hospice care Client, came to Addis Ababa from the countryside of Welo. She had no children, but her husband, who came with her, has children that live with them currently. Eight years ago Shibera went to the hospital to be tested and treated for Herpes Zoster. The tests revealed that she also was positive for HIV AIDS. She started treatment immediately. Shibera and her husband support themselves by collecting garbage from people’s homes. Last year Shibera began growing vegetables to sell. Although her garden is flourishing, she is becoming increasingly weak from her illness, and struggles to carry water from far away for her garden. One month ago, she took out a loan, which she will repay within 18 months, to purchase 15 young chickens. Shibera is an excellent example for people suffering from HIV AIDS. She does not let her illness keep her from setting goals for herself and accomplishing things. She is industrious, positive, and should be an encouragement for all HIV AIDS patients.

If Shibera got a water tab line at her house then that will make her successful in her garden work and Strong Hearts appreciate any help towards this need!!! The water tab line costs abdout $250 if anyone is interested in helping Shiberea please let me know!

Shibere Shibere



My visit to Strong Hearts

Today I spent the day with Dundee, the co-founder and visionary behind Strong Hearts – the recipient organization of the first two solar lights. An incredibly special day for me.

Dundee’s real name is Getinet Tafesse. A few years ago a couple from PEI, Canada saw Dundee opening a pop bottle with his teeth, thought he looked liked Crocodile Dundee and since then the name has stuck. He said now even his parents call him Dundee.

He picked me up at Guenet’s Hotel in the center of Addis Ababa (which actually hasn’t been a hotel for years) where we had set up our camp. Our first stop was the super cute Strong Hearts School filled with the cutest, best-behaved kids I’d seen in all of Ethiopia (OMG – well behaved children DO exist in Ethiopia!!!!!!)

I had to wonder if they had shipped these kids in from Kenya, they were THAT good.

About 100 children attend this school and are broken into three grades – the equivalent of Kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2. The story behind these kids and this school is pretty incredible. All of the children attending this school were specially selected; their parents either have HIV, Leprosy or are affected by extreme poverty.

The school is located blocks from the only Leprosy colony in all of Ethiopia, also making it one of the poorest areas of Addis Ababa. It is also conveniently located next to the city garbage dump. Prior to opening this school, Dundee went into the area and interviewed kids about their future dreams (he said most kids in Ethiopia want to be one of three things when they grow up a doctor, a pilot or a teacher/professor). But when he asked the kids from this area what they wanted to be it was either a garbage scrapper/picker or a thief – other occupational choices did not even exist in their wee minds.

This school provides the children with two meals a day, breakfast and lunch. Everyone knows it is easier to concentrate in school with food in your belly!

Besides the school, Strong Hearts has ventured out into other areas of the community as well.

A mini micro-financing department was opened two years ago. Ten women from the community were provided with sewing training and a loan to start their own repair business in 2010. These women are all now self-employed, paying off their sewing machines and start-up supplies and will have their loans paid back by the end of 2012.

A housing project was also started last year. Twenty-five local families were provided with a place to live and Strong Hearts paid 100% of their rent last year. This year the recipients had to pay 60% of their own rent and next year they will be responsible for 100%. Once these families are 100% self-sufficient, Strong Hearts will support another 25 families.

The next stop in my day with Dundee was a new office space that will be used for nurses and pharmacists heading the new medical program at Strong Hearts. These nurses and pharmacists will provide home visits/care to cancer and HIV patients. It will only be the second hospice care organization in all of Ethiopia.

Two of the solar lights my community helped me raise money for will be donated to two local families connected to the Strong Hearts community. The first family’s parents are blind and are not able to provide their family with any kind of electricity. Their children will now be able to study after dark. The second light will go to a family within the Leprosy colony. The father is very ill, cannot work and again cannot afford any electricity. These recipients are extremely grateful for the gift of light into their homes.

My day with Dundee was extremely interesting. He is passionate about his country, gave me a lot of insights into the Ethiopian government and confirmed some of my personal thoughts about the current situation in Ethiopia. But this blog post is about my amazing day at an organization doing some incredible work ( I will write another blog post about my personal thoughts on Ethiopia later). Dundee does not believe in giving anything away, especially money. You have to work for it, and continue working. He is one man changing Ethiopia for the better and I was so happy to have had the opportunity to spend the day with him. Thanks Dundee, for being Dundee and for being such a rock (star) in your community.

Ps:- this page is written by one of our guest from Canada!



My time at Hospice Care

Strong Hearts Hospice Program located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia helps people who have HIV or cancer. The program helps with managing medication, going to medical appointments, counseling, and assisting with the daily cost of living when needed. The program is run by a medical staff which includes a pharmacist and trained nurses as well as a range of volunteers with different medical backgrounds.

I am an American student taking pre-med courses who has decided to volunteer with the hospice program over the summer. These past few weeks I have had the privilege to work with this team visiting the patients in their homes, and it has been a remarkable experience.

One patient I was particularly moved to meet was Emawayish, she is 35 years old with a 7 year old daughter who she named Dasasha which she explained translates as her everything. She is widowed, and her daughter is extremely precious. Emawayish is HIV positive and has cervical cancer and is in continual pain. Her only source of income is begging as she has no other family to help. Despite that she was initially reluctant to accept money for medication, but is now being helped by Strong Hearts with medication and food for her and her daughter. I found Dasasha and Emawayish to be friendly, and she wished blessing on the team visiting her. I was touched by her courage and optimism. With the medication and food being provided the outlook for both her and her daughter looks more positive.

We are also helping 27-year-old Meaza, who was working as a housemaid before she was tragically raped, as a result of which she contracted HIV. Her parents had already passed away and when she went back to her village she was rejected. She then moved to Addis Ababa and got married, however, when her daughter was born her husband left her. She bakes as a source of income to help support herself and her daughter, and Strong Hearts are able to support her work by assisting with pain medication to help her. I felt deeply affected by visiting her and her efforts to overcome the adversities life has thrown at her, and to remain positive and keep faith to provide her and her daughter with the best life possible.

I find it amazing to see the Ethiopian team, with assistance from other volunteers, enter the peoples’ homes, spend time listening to them, working to understand them, praying with them, helping with managing their medication, and bringing pain relief as far is as possible, and food and rent when needed. I think its great that they are taking the time and effort to care about these people who could easily be forgotten and left alone in their homes with just their pain and suffering.


Juilian’s stay at Strong Hearts

For those of you who know me well, you know that I’ve been going through a metamorphosis of sorts. After college, I went through a roller coaster of emotions. Just over the past year, I was laid-off, engaged in a social environment that wasn’t catered to my development as a person, and was rejected in a pursuit of a relationship. In that same year, I was provided a new job, learned how to invest in a community, was accepted in my pursuit of a relationship, discovered my faith so that I could finally stand for something, and was given the opportunity to touch the lives of people in another country. In life we all go through trials and periods of celebration but how great is He who can use those tribulations to further enhance life’s positive experiences. I hope that this testimony will instill a spark inside your hearts to contemplate life and begin your journey in faith while you are strong and able because time is short. If we wait until we die, we might miss the incredible adventure that was intended for our lives. One thing I noticed from my time abroad was how people lived their lives. They didn’t have nearly as many physical “things” as we have and yet they seemed happier – really LIVING life. Since my return to The States, I find that we are bombarded with so many options and marketing campaigns, that we become obsessed with making the RIGHT decision in order to achieve some greater level of happiness. What if we could make a decision and have the faith that we could find joy in any circumstance. How much more could we get out of life if we found joy in our experiences (good and bad) instead of dwelling in what we should have done, or being stuck in the destructive mindset of “woe is me”? Romans 5:3-5 says in the NIV, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” After meditating on this truth, I began to understand that now forgetting my keys isn’t just to cause a nuisance, but is a chance to practice patience; a broken bone isn’t robbing me of something that was mine but an opportunity to practice faith; and a death of a close family member isn’t a divine attack on my heart but can proved a possibility to show love in family relationships where relationships might be strained or non-existent. It seemed to me that their faith in God helped them approach everything with a mindset of “everything was for us and nothing was against us” which led me to ponder what if we had the same type of mindset. This type of faith, this type of thinking is just a fraction of what I had learned in Ethiopia: living to live instead of dwelling in our inadequacies.

Most of you who are close to me and my family, know that I have moved a lot while growing up. Our lives were filled with a “grass is greener on the other side” mentality. Because of that, I became really good at making a lot of friends. If you doubt that, find me on Facebook… Although this seems like a positive from some perspectives, I began to realize that although I had a large quantity of good friends, I didn’t have any really close friends who knew me. When a relationship became strained or I felt the need to move to another social group, I would pick up and leave. I guess it’s easier to not get too close in case I ever need to say good bye. It wasn’t until a year ago, last September that I began to explore the idea of transparency, community, and how they relate to faith. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” It is my assertion that it is in our nature to desire to be loved for who we are completely, both the good and the bad. It is through having faith in how the bad has shaped you that leads us to share. Once we receive a reaction of love we can begin to feel whole. In essence, we are free to no longer hide different parts of us anymore. Although I am still working through this idea (and probably will be for the duration of my life), simply working on it has changed me drastically in regards to developing healthy relationships with people who truly see me and building new friendships with people I come in contact with. God has used things in my past to strengthen and redeem me in a way that I can reach out to others. In Ethiopia it helped me in opening up to the people I met which in turn helped them open up with me. This gave me opportunities to become empathetic to their needs and really see them for who they are from the inside out. When I had conflict with Hebtambu, I relied on this idea, understanding that there was a reason he was acting a certain way. Perhaps he was plagued with a feeling of inadequacies leading to a perspective towards foreigners built around the ideas of, “how could they come here and really love me with all the things that they have? How could they really care or understand when they don’t see the things I see on a daily basis?”

As a result of my interactions with Hebtambu, I began to feel really convicted about something but couldn’t put my finger on it. James 1:9-10 says, “The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.” Upon reading this passage, I began to realize another big reason I began this journey to begin with. It began to become apparent to me that two things were happening. First, although I realized I wanted to help the needy, I didn’t realize exactly how much they would be helping me. Without materiality and the fear of not obtaining the American Dream clouding their relationships and judgments, Ethiopians were free to live life rooted in their faith. I began to realize that I was feeling empty before because I had placed my identity in things that were out of my control: career, health, relationships, etc. – things that I thought would make me happy. Thinking that “I had it made” when I came over seas, I didn’t anticipate the fact that perhaps it was I who was in a low position. Through this, God showed me a great deal about living in the present and not dwelling in fear on whether my decisions would pan out the way I wanted them to. The second thing happening was that Hebtambu felt low when he was actually in a high position. Because of his circumstance, he didn’t have anything to obstruct his reliance on faith and his community except for his insecurities. I realized that my conviction was to persevere through the uncomfortable relationship so that hopefully through my actions and investing in him, he could understand this truth and find power and hope in his circumstance rather than emptiness. This was also apparent to me when I went to visit the leprosy colony. The old couple there was so gracious and joyful, praising God in their circumstance that I almost cried. In order to experience this, two things needed to happen: 1) I needed to realize that I was in a low position by witnessing a humble circumstance and, 2) The couple needed to realize that they were in a high position by encouraging graciously. It is ironic seeing people who have nothing give everything and people who have everything give nothing…

To summarize my experience, I had diarrhea twice, was electrocuted, had congestion once, had pink eye in both eyes, painted in the rain, and still came out alive. Dealing with the elements, my health, learning names I wasn’t familiar with, learning a language I’ve never heard, teaching classes, and learning customs I knew nothing about; I had to root myself in something. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law.” I was so worried about completing all my tasks on time and trying to be a good “servant” that I felt overwhelmed. Once I realized that I had no control over the elements or what bacteria I would be infested with the next day, I understood that it wasn’t the outcome of the tasks that was important, it was how I performed the tasks that I was given. I began to ask myself, “When I’m teaching, am I patient?”, “When I’m engaged in conflict am I approaching it with gentleness?”, and “When I’m investing in a new friendship, do I exhibiting love?” By switching the focus to the process and not the outcome, I began to notice a real connection with those around me. When I returned to the United States, I had a conversation with Getinet, the director and founder of Strong Hearts. He suggested that I should become a full time missionary and that he and the whole organization missed me. I missed them, just as much and felt a great sense of joy and encouragement and realized that the whole reason I embarked on this journey finally came to a conclusion. In the second half of Romans 15:31, Paul says, “[Pray] that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there”. When Getinet expressed his thanks, I knew that my service pleased them and was “acceptable”, which was a great way to conclude such a divine experience. As I move forward from this milestone in God’s shaping of my character, I look forward to the many opportunities to live transformed. As you move forward, whether you are Christian or not, I encourage you to meditate on this, Isaiah 58:6-7, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to lose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and provide the poor wanderer with shelter– when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”




Korah Dump is not only a curse…

The road is bumpy and unpaved. There is still mud on the ground from the rain that drenched the ground only an hour earlier. The air is clear but there is still a musty odor that leads me to believe that there is more than just mud on the ground. We drive a little bit further and reach our destination. To most people, this place is disregarded as a nuisance, but to a select few, this place is a haven where beggars no longer need to beg, and one can generate enough income and resources to live a life that gives them meaning and hope.

At first glance, the typical firengie (Amharic word for foreigner) might only notice the extreme poverty that exists at the dump in the Korah community of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The picture of kids digging through mountains of garbage and men and women jumping out of the way of garbage trucks can be quite a shock for someone from another country to see such extreme poverty, especially if poverty like this does not exist or is more concealed. Because of this, it’s only natural that the poverty seen here is the first thing people notice. However, once one spends some extended time here, a certain beauty seems to be brought to light. It is true that poverty may be the driving force that brings people to this place, but once here, it is evident that there is hope here. The hope that extreme poverty can be transformed into life worth living through the micro-economy that has developed over time. This “economy” can provide both primary needs (food and shelter), as well as secondary needs (a means to increase wealth).

In regards to providing for primary needs, the Korah dump is a place were people can find resources in order to put what little money they have to use in other places that can move them to a better life. Although the sight of seeing people scrape for food might be hard to watch, and it shows the depth of the poverty but more than the scrape of food there are some opportunities that are there in the midst of it. In addition, there are a plethora of resources to be found that a family can use to sustain their lives. Common items that can be found include paper and wood to fuel fires for cooking and warmth, furniture and cooking utensils, and other treasures that others have cast away or labeled useless.

In addition to these primary needs being met, some have even found ways to generate an income. There are two ways the people here have been able to create a way to improve their living conditions. One is searching for things to sell on the street and the other way is through recycling glass or plastics (though there are only few who do recycling). Some of these people have essentially built a business from nothing and to see that sort of resourcefulness, when most would loose hope, is inspiring.

Watching this happen first hand and talking about it in such an academic way may seem insensitive, but it also raises some good questions like, “How did the need to eat and cook turn into the need to have new luxuries to cook with?” or, “How can I really give them something that can be life changing?” It is becoming obvious to me that no money I have to offer them will be able to sustain them so the answer is deeper then just handing them a spare 5, 10, or 100 dollar bill.

After pondering about this for some time, two things come to mind: an increase of hope and sense of purpose, and a refining and development of their process. As a believer in Jesus Christ, there is a comfort that I feel in believing that I have a purpose in my current situation, whatever that may be. In a sense it’s not about what I do on a daily basis, it’s about how I do it on a daily basis. Whether I live in a one meter by two meter shack or a mansion, there are opportunities to serve others and give people hope. In the Bible, Isaiah the profit was going through a period of his life where he was feeling a sense of hopelessness and depression. Instead of handing him something that would distract him from his emptiness, God gave him a job to do. He gave him a purpose and a sense of self worth. Attaching the hope for something better and more fulfilling is essential. Through Christ we all have a purpose that is greater than anything we could imagine. Sharing this and allowing them to experience their own walk is a greater empowerment than anything I could physically offer them. Now that this hope has taken root, it is possible to refine their process.

Giving them money or resources without first giving them faith or something to work for can have a negative effect. Of course there are situations in which you possibly need to give them money, but in most cases it should be in the way how to fish the fish than always giving them the fish!