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FROM OUR VOLUNTEERS
I’m so happy that I went on this trip. The joy that people have in Guatemala is incredible. It’s bittersweet: When I went to Guatemala and I was serving people, it was the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be that happy again.Anonymous, Marian High School
Medical Missions like this allow you to come home and look at your own patients a different way. I think it’s very rewarding, both personally and professionally.Dr. Harry Carr, M.D.
We did this exercise where we had to buy a week’s worth of groceries on $7, and it was absolutely eye-opening. It was really hard, and what I came up with wasn’t food that I wanted to eat. But that’s the reality for them. I get a Starbucks every morning that costs as much as their food for their whole family for the whole week.Anonymous, Saint Michael's Catholic Academy
Note: We are committed to respecting and uplifting our scholars. Due to some stories containing sensitive information, we redact or change the names of the scholars, their parents, their schools, and other details that could compromise their anonymity.
This story is from and written from the perspective of Selam Terefe, our program director in Ethiopia.
The first thing we noticed when we walked into Ebo’s one room house are the drawings posted on the clay walls: Some were drawn with pencil, others with pen, but they were all so good! There were more drawings in the notebook we found in his notebook, wedged between the family’s couch and his bed.
There was very little in the home: Besides the bed and the couch, there was just one small, beatdown cupboard. That was it – the one room could not hold anything else. Ebo’s mom, Dani, led us into the room and we sat on the small couch while she sat on the bed and faced us, ready to answer all our questions.
Dani told us that she has worked in the garbage dump for 11 years, picking up plastics and selling them. However, both the recent landslide and the new management coming into the garbage dump have made her work very challenging. She told us she’s even resorted to begging to raise her son, though she has found a way to make a little bit of money through weaving: Dani can make handmade scarves from scratch even though she lost her two fingers on her right hand as a kid due to a fire.
“I came to Addis Ababa from [REDACTED] when she was 15 seeking a better life,” she told us, “And I met Ebo’s father in Addis Ababa after he came from [REDACTED] for the same reason. We met while I worked as a maid in the house he was living in and we soon had Ebo. Ebo was my first child, but he was his father’s sixth. Ebo’s father and I separated when Ebo was only four. Ebo was… challenging as a child, so he was held back in the first grade, but he’s doing so well now.”
Dani is very supportive of her son’s education. The way she talks about him, it is evident how much she loves him. She sadly told us that she had a lot of people telling her to get rid of Ebo when he was younger and more difficult, but that never stopped her from trying to provide for her only son. She almost did lose him three years ago in a car accident, and she is so grateful he is with her and well.
At this point in our conversation with Dani, Ebo walked into the room. He politely greeted us with a smile, and we started talking. We asked him about his drawings first, of course – he told us that he drew all of them and we were so impressed. We took time going through the entire notebook and Ebo explained to us the meaning behind each drawing. My favorite was a drawing with the face of a man facing a woman with a heart in between them and flame from below, captioned “True love has lots of enemies”. He told us it was based on a story he wants to write one day. The notebook was filled with art, some bits of writing, and even song lyrics he’d written, so it was not surprising when Ebo told us he wants to be an artist when he grows up. Dani told us that, while she’s supportive, she would prefer if he focused on his studies because there isn’t money in art. She said she regrets not going to school herself and wants her son to be successful.
Ebo is heeding his mother’s wishes and focusing on academics – his report cards were clear indications. He scored 17th from 48 kids his first semester, and he’s found other classes to take outside of school. He even started going to church to take lessons recently and even participates in art and acting competitions he can find. He goes with kids in his neighborhood once a month to participate in poetry presentations, too.
When Ebo talks about his passion for the arts, this shy boy he becomes louder, more confident, and he has this fire in his eyes. He really loves it! We were so moved by this fifteen-year-old boy who wants nothing more than to follow his dreams and explore his talent, and his mother who has done so much to support him.
This story is from and written from the perspective of Selam Terefe, our program director in Ethiopia.The first thing we noticed when we walked into Ebo’s one room house are the drawings posted on the clay walls: Some were drawn with pencil, others with pen, but they...
Hello, I am Emanuel. I am 20 years old. When I was in my mother's womb, she did not want me to be born, so she hit her belly and took medication to cause a miscarriage, but I was born anyway. However, I was so badly damaged that when I was born I had to be...
My name is Selene. I was born and raised in the countryside by my mother and stepfather. I was sexually abused by my stepfather. I was sleeping in my bed and in the middle of the night I found my stepfather next to me in the bed. I was shouting when he tried to...
My name is Terry. I am 13 years old and an 8th grader at [REDACTED] School. When I grow up, I want to be an engineer and get a well-paying job. My mother was diagnosed with cervical cancer a couple of years ago. Before she got ill, she used to work as a washer, hand...
Note: Since this letter was written, Nora has graduated from high school and started studying at University. Everything started when my parents got together. They lived in Zone 18 [of Guatemala City] with my grandmother and my uncles, who lived lives full of luxury...
Greetings. I am Zoe. I am 10 years old and am a fourth grader in [REDACTED] Primary School. I live with 7 of my family members. Our house is always full of laughter and happiness. To an outsider, it would seem like we have everything in the world. I don’t think even...
Last week, a 15-year-old girl named Coco became the youngest person ever to win three matches at Wimbledon, including an awe-inspiring comeback after being down 6-3 and 5-2 in the second match. The thrill of that victory, and the beautiful bond so evident between her parents and her, captured the hearts of many, including me.
A clip of the court-side exchange between Coco and her parents after Coco’s victory, provided through ESPN. Clicking this link will redirect you to ESPN’s Twitter page.
Also last week, a 14-year-old girl in Ethiopia named Yona received her test results for the country’s national exam, and her mother beamed with pride. This story wasn’t on a global stage like Coco’s—in fact, only a handful of people have heard Yona’s story—but it captured my heart, too.
In the second grade, Yona ranked 29th out of 30 students in her class when she took the national assessment at the end of the year. When the scores came home, her mother’s heart sank, but she decided to celebrate anyway. Giving her daughter a piece of candy, Yona’s mother explained to her that they were celebrating because she got the second highest score and that this made her very proud. At the time it was a lie, but Yona’s mother wanted her daughter to have confidence. It worked: filled with pride, Yona began working much harder, and now, at 14, Yona actually did earn the 3rd highest score in her eighth grade class on the national exam this year.
Yona’s mom supported her daughter daily from age seven to age fourteen. She even took the national exam alongside her daughter, telling us, “I am not that strong, and my left foot doesn’t even work properly. I don’t have money or any property. But I can learn. If I don’t have anything, I will have knowledge. You need knowledge these days.”
Over the past 15 days, 675 parents like Yona’s mom applied for the 120 scholarships we are offering to children whose family members work in the dumpsite in Kore, Ethiopia. Our team members and volunteers are going house to house visiting with parents to ensure that the most deserving children get the scholarships that are available.
What they are finding, and what I want to share with you, is that these children have parents just like Coco’s. They are doing everything they can to help their children achieve their dreams, including scavenging through the dumps every day to put food on the table. The scholarships you support are a lifeline to them. And though it’s not Centre Court at Wimbledon, their bonds with their children and joy for their success are every bit as strong as Coco’s and the Gauffs.
Last week, a 15-year-old girl named Coco became the youngest person ever to win three matches at Wimbledon, including an awe-inspiring comeback after being down 6-3 and 5-2 in the second match. The thrill of that victory, and the beautiful bond so evident between her...
One of my strengths is that I never see a glass as half full; I see it as mostly full almost all the time. My natural optimism helps me in my work, but I've learned that it can also hurt me. Sometimes the glass can actually be half empty—or even completely empty...
On Mother’s Day in Guatemala, 70 women from a village bordering a dumpsite on the outskirts of Guatemala City gathered to work with our team on the answer to that question. Figuring out a list of needs was the easy part. They need: A school A recreation center Access...
What I love about our work at International Samaritan is how often I see and feel the presence of God in what we do. Recently, I had the unique privilege of sitting in on the conversations that our scholarship students in Guatemala were having with a woman who has...
In retaliation for what he perceives to be a lack of support from the leaders of Central American nations, President Trump announced last week that he intends to cut $500 million from programs addressing the root causes of migration from those nations. This makes me...
It wasn’t until I became a father that I realized how important food is to one’s emotional well-being. Growing up, three square meals a day were just always there for me, not much different than having clean water to drink. I just took food for granted. But when my...
Mike at his old favorite job, taken in 1999. For me, that answer has always been easy. For a couple of seasons before law school, and two glorious seasons after it, I sold ice cream at the Joe Louis Arena for the Detroit Red Wings. I made about a hundred bucks a...
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