A River Called Hope in Ethiopia

Father Kevin Feeney is Dean of Formation at Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois. He, two other priests and eight Mundelein seminarians recently traveled with CRS Ethiopia as part of the Global Fellows program. Here he shares thoughts from a day visiting water projects.

Our otherwise tranquil arrival today at the Mekelle Airport was shaken by a public expression of profound grief: An elderly woman, her head draped in a white shawl, raised her arms and wept openly. A loved one lost, no doubt, but whom? She had arrived with us on the early morning flight from Addis Ababa, but now she disappeared into a gathering of similarly clad mourners. Her grief flowed into theirs and then outside where it was expressed in tears, wailing and dance. The rest of us witnessed this grief from afar.

Ethiopia water

All of the villagers—especially the elders—appreciate the gains received from CRS water projects. Photo by Debbie DeVoe/CRS

In this mission trip from the states, we have drawn near from afar to see first-hand the struggle and courage of our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia. In our brief time thus far we have witnessed suffering in many forms. We have also witnessed the generous and brave response of Catholic Relief Services, its Church partners and the Ethiopians they serve. It is, of course, not enough to simply witness the suffering of so many affected by Ethiopia’s ongoing drought. Compassionate action is required by our faith—in particular, emergency relief in the form of food and water, but also a more lasting solution to the ongoing crisis, which CRS calls integral human development.

Ethiopia drought

By helping communities to protect their watersheds, CRS and our local Church partners are enabling villagers to grow crops even as drought persists. Photo by Debbie DeVoe/CRS

We met some of the thousands of people benefitting from the watershed management projects undertaken by the local diocese of Adigrat and CRS. Potable water, water for livestock and irrigation, as well as new systems of sanitation, join to form a river of hope in this exceedingly dry area. Unreliable rains over many years have reduced much of this land to a kind of eerie moonscape. Vast unrelieved stretches of rocky ground are home to thousands of men, women and children who bravely soldier on, washed in the waters of hope. Their hopes have been given a boost as they see the outcomes of the water management efforts: new water projects through which the precious and increasingly scarce gift of water is purified and channeled; growing numbers of startlingly green agricultural plots; housing improvements and opportunities for education spilling from the new assets being generated; roads (rough though they may be) that pave a way for people and products and equipment.

Grief can be as deep and as unrelenting as a wild river; so too, despair. The heroic effort to deliver water to the people of this region is far from over. Help is still urgently needed. But hope is a brave and beautiful river. It courses through imaginative minds, courageous hearts and across strong backs and arms. May we who have gathered at this river for a brief but unforgettable visit join with many others back home to find ways to continue nourishing this people’s hope from afar.

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One Response to “A River Called Hope in Ethiopia”

  1. d ruckert Says:

    Hi…..Thanks for the article.

    Everytime I see something coming out of Africa I realize why people want to help.

    First, the need is so urgent.
    Secondly, Doing something for someone with no thought of reward.

    Only problem is, God’s little surprises.

    There is so much joy and gratitude we receive back.

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