Friends of Detroit and Ethiopia,
I’m writing to share some of our experiences in Ethiopia this past summer. I have never seen so much growth in a community in my lifetime, let alone in less than four years, and am hoping to give you a sense of that change.
Johnathon Matthews (pictured far left in the image below), the principal of Pershing High School in Detroit, and Shannon Gaston (pictured second from left), the leader of Young Life in Detroit, accompanied Maritza and me to the community of Kore. The goal of the trip was for us to provide personal and professional development sessions for our team and our scholars, and to explore whether a team of high school students from Detroit could make a similar trip in the future.
On our first afternoon in the community, Aschalew (center in the above image) talked to us about the economics and challenges of working in the dump. He is one of our only scholars who chooses to continue working in the dumps because of the money that he can make there, while still going to university to become an accountant. After our discussion, he took us to the dump to show us his home that the government forced him to abandon a few weeks ago.
The conversations and connection between our Ethiopian team and our Detroit partners were striking. By the end of each day, our US and Ethiopia teams would always end up in Selam’s office for an in-depth discussion about an issue that would culminate in our prayers together.
Throughout the trip, Johnathon and Shannon were consistently amazed by the unquenchable hope and strength of our scholars and their families. They made beautiful connections amidst deep conversations about what causes that exceptional resilience in Ethiopia and are eager to bring a team of students from Detroit back to Ethiopia this spring to discover that and share it with others back home.
For my part, I remain in awe of the progress that has been made. It’s like seeing a family member overcome a difficult life challenge and begin to flourish—but multiplied by 247 students and many of their family members. There are still awful things that happen in Kore, from sexual predators and abusive parents to poor health conditions and premature deaths. But the team we have on the ground there stands out as the best team I’ve been a part of since my time with the Red Wings in 1997 selling ice cream to help us win the Stanley Cup. I’m honored to be part of joining the hands of our team in Ethiopia, a place where my heart lies abroad, and our partners in Detroit, where my heart has been for so long, to help those on both sides break the chains of poverty and improve our lives together.
International Samaritan is a nonprofit organization with the designation 501(c)(3). Our headquarters is located in Ann Arbor Michigan.