Dispatch from Ethiopia: Prometheus Redux

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Mike Gesker expresses his thanks to members of a community he visited in Kersa Woreda in eastern Ethiopia for the hospitality they showed him during his visit. Standing next to Mike, wearing the white hat, is Zemede Abebe of the Hararghe Catholic Secretariat, a key CRS partner. Photo by Matt McCann/CRS.

During a recent two-week trip to Ethiopia, a fresh revelation about the abundance of our blessings in the United States flashed down from the heavens like a thunderbolt thrust down by the sinewy arm of Zeus. This is not the time or place to speculate on the millions that formidable Greek god would be making if he were a southpaw. George Steinbrenner would have him under contract before you could say Mount Olympus.

We were roaming the landscape around Dire Dawa and visiting water projects that are having a profound effect on the lives of poor farmers in the region. Thanks to the efforts of Catholic Relief Services and our Ethiopian partner, the Hararghe Catholic Secretariat, people now have food supplies that last longer than half a year. Incomes are rising. And the future looks brighter for many of the people we met. Hardworking farmers there can now enjoy three meals a day and send their children to school.

The weather was hotter than the blazes, but the wonderful staff of the Hararghe Catholic Secretariat kept us well within reach of water with all the zeal of Gunga Din. We stopped along the rugged, rocky road for a noontime meal and our lunches and cold water were packed in ice.

The top of my bald pate had been sun-scorched for days so I took advantage of the situation and grabbed one of the chunks of ice which were wrapped in plastic bags. The sensation of rubbing the mini-iceberg over my head was a treat fit for the gods.

We started driving again and I kept the handy chunk of the North Pole on my scalp as we continued to bounce along to our next destination. Our outstanding video crew stopped ahead to take footage of another CRS success story. As we paused, a group of children and their mother walked by, looking at us curiously.

It was obvious they had been walking some distance and were enduring the same overwhelming heat we were. The difference, of course, was that within minutes we could hop into our Toyota Land Cruisers and they would still be walking the rough terrain of rural and mountainous Ethiopia.

By now the piece of ice had been reduced from the size of a large Polish sausage to that of a small pickle. I took it out of the plastic bag and presented it to the children. Much to my amazement they were afraid of it (or me). It dawned on me that they had never seen ice before. After some coaxing and some translation by one of the HCS staff, the mother finally grasped the ice in her hands and smiled quite beautifully. She shared the chill with her children.

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Mike with a calf at a water source for livestock. Photo by Matt McCann/CRS.

I would never be so bold as to compare myself to Prometheus. Those darn Greek gods and their chiseled features leave me far behind. I was the one taught the lesson about taking things for granted. Everyone in the world can’t run down to the local 7-11 for a bag of ice, a Slurpee or a chili dog. For too many millions of people in the poorest corners of the globe, clean water is a luxury. Too many impoverished women and children travel far too far for basic necessities that we take for granted. For them as for us, water is life. Ice is the stuff of myth.

Mike Gesker, a CRS writer in Direct Response Fundraising, recently traveled to Ethiopia to write video scripts for Charles Osgood and the CRS Capital Campaign.

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2 Responses to “Dispatch from Ethiopia: Prometheus Redux”

  1. Matt McCann Says:

    This trip truly shed light on the good work of CRS and our partners in Ethiopia. It was my first trip to Africa, and my first hands-on experience of the work that CRS does “in the field.” Thanks Mr. Gesker for sharing this touching piece of a wonderful story.

  2. Barbara Brunialti Says:

    Nice to hear/observe something good and of course, interest……..well done, and thank you Mr. Gesker for bringing this to our attention……

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