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HEAR FROM OUR SCHOLARS
Scholarship Students Worldwide
4 schools of medical care provided on medical missions
Service trips conducted
Wealth increase for scholarship graduates
Patients served on Medical Missions
3 service groups can complete a home
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.
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.
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.
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...
By Mike Tenbusch | May 28, 2021
Just before the pandemic was declared last year in March, a team of students from University of Michigan’s campus chapter of International Samaritan served on our organization’s first service immersion trip to the garbage dump community of Kore in Ethiopia. Kore is where the trash of 7 million people living in the nation’s capital city is dumped every day. Our team was blessed on the trip by the friendship of four recyclers, who walked with us through the outskirts of the dump. They told us stories about their work and showing us with pride the mounds of plastic they had collected and bundled to sell.
When one of the U of M students asked how safe it was for girls working in the dump, all four men abruptly stopped smiling. It wasn’t safe at all, they said. One told a story about how a gang leader had recently terrorized a group of women in the dump, making them all lie face-down on the ground while he jabbed a sharpened stick into their legs to make a point about something he cared about. “It’s not safe here for women,” our guide concluded, as his friends looked down at the ground and shook their heads in agreement.
“Why didn’t those guys do something?” the students asked me on the van ride back to our home at the Jesuit residence in town. I didn’t have a good answer. I’ve confronted bullies a few times in my life, but I’ve been paralyzed by them at critical moments too—times I deeply regret to this day.
Worldwide, girls and women are paying the price for leaders’ refusal to act. Just this month, terrorists bombed a girls’ school in Afghanistan, killing 85, and the media’s attention span lasted one day. Across the world, in just the last 50 years, more girls and women were killed because of their gender than all the men in all the wars of the last century. In China alone, 39,000 baby girls die each year because they don’t receive the same medical care a son would receive, according to one study. Doctors in both India and China are not allowed to reveal the gender of the child in the womb because of how many girls would be aborted as a result. That’s to say nothing of the forced prostitution, sex-trafficking, and violent abuse suffered by millions of girls, particularly—but not exclusively–those in the dire poverty of developing nations. (These statistics are from Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunities for Women Worldwide, a challenging and inspiring read.)
That is why my heart swelled with pride when I received an email recently from one of the U of M students on that trip who asked if she could work with our team in Ethiopia to research and implement ideas to make conditions safer for girls and women working in the dump. She had just finished the hardest year of her life completing pre-med studies through the pandemic, and wanted to find a way to help.
After hearing about the idea, more than 40 girls in our scholarship program in Ethiopia came forward to help. Their numbers are so strong because they are part of a Samaritan Girls Club, founded by one of our scholars last year, that meets every Wednesday to strengthen their bonds and collectively discuss the challenges they each face individually.
The Samaritan Girls Club was inspired by the power of their mothers who came together to learn to read and write after their children first received scholarships from International Samaritan seven years ago. Soon after that, their moms formed a co-op to raise 20 chickens and sell their eggs. Since then, they have raised and sold hundreds of chickens, dozens of goats and sheep, and thousands of eggs. They have built one community garden in the shadows of the dump and just began work on a second, producing fresh vegetables for their families in the midst of the pandemic.
More importantly, the resilience of these mothers has produced daughters who are not just graduating and finding work, they are using their education and networks to change the world. That gang leader and others like him better watch out. May their reality be changed and justice reign quickly, I pray.
The Samaritan Girls Club in Ethiopia celebrating Christmas together.
Bottom Row (left to right): Yanchialem, Samrawit, Bizunesh, Bethlehem, Hana Mekonnen
Second row (left to right): Feven, Fikerte, Rediet, Kalkidan, Loza, Azeb
Third row (left to right): Hana Tadege and Tigist
By Mike Tenbusch | May 28, 2021 Just before the pandemic was declared last year in March, a team of students from University of Michigan’s campus chapter of International Samaritan served on our organization’s first service immersion trip to the garbage dump community...
By Mike Tenbusch | May 18, 2021 This week, I’d like to share with you a little bit of what our mission feels like when we say we are walking hand-in-hand with people in garbage dump communities, along with those with a calling to help, to break the chains of poverty...
By Mike Tenbusch | April 30, 2021 The story you are about to read is true. The names have not been changed to protect the innocent… With a few minutes to go in the 1986 high school district semi-finals at Redford Thurston High School, just west of Detroit, U of D...
By Mike Tenbusch | April 13, 2021 Last week I received an email from Kevin Lopez, our team leader in Nicaragua, about Mateo, one of our scholarship students in Managua. One picture he sent of Mateo instantly reminded me of a picture taken years ago of my own...
Finding Light in Loss Presented in collaboration with the Catholic Foundation of Michigan By Mike Tenbusch | March 30, 2021In August of 1927, President Calvin Coolidge visited the construction site of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota. While there, he...
By Mike Tenbusch | March 11, 2021 There was a fascinating article by Siddhartha Mukherjee in the New Yorker last week about the wide divergence in how the pandemic has affected different nations. Some nations are continuing to show inexplicable resilience to the...
International Samaritan is a nonprofit organization with the designation 501(c)(3). Our headquarters is located in Ann Arbor Michigan.