Anxiety and fear would describe my feelings about my upcoming trip to Ethiopia, and I had never been scared to travel before. For my post-2010 Haiti-Earthquake medical relief trip, I was traveling with a close friend and could rely on someone for emotional support, but I didn’t have that here.
I was going with no one I knew, and had little knowledge of the country or what I would expect to see. I was told that I will come back a changed person, but I usually don’t take that literally because of my extensive travels in the less “popular” parts of the world. I have seen poverty, homelessness, beggars, slums, and tent communities, which was life changing. I had felt a fear of returning from some of these previous trips. Going from a world of nothing to a world of abundance can be difficult, given that many of the people we interact with do not realize how fortunate of a situation we were born into.
For Ethiopia, it was two and a half weeks of selflessness and helping as many people as you possibly can in the short amount of time we have. There is joy from helping those you can reach, along with guilt knowing about the people that you can't.
A typical day for us: The morning was spent in the makeshift clinic with a near constant crowd of people desperately waiting to get in. This was mostly for triage and treating patients in the clinic facility. In the afternoon, we traveled out towards the villages outside of the main city of Assosa (About 675 km west of the capital, Addis Ababa, and a 20 minute drive from the South Sudanese border). In these villages, we installed water filtration systems, and instructed the villagers in their use and importance. We also provided medical care for a range of symptoms, limited by the resources at hand. The diagnosis ranged from simple joint pains, urinary tract infections, parasites, and heart burn to more severe things like open wounds, HIV, worms in the ear canal, and progressed diabetic symptoms of the extremities. Each patient brought a unique condition and challenge.
Anyone that really knows me knows that I am an emotional and sensitive person. I think sometimes those words have a bad connotation, but I am glad that I am that way. It allows me to feel others pain and joy. The best way to know how someone feels is to jump into their situation and see their world. To walk in their shoes, but without any bias or judgement and with putting your own thoughts, beliefs, and morals aside, you can know that person’s experience. Everyone has a story and their story is their life. We are all unique which makes meeting new people so fascinating...you learn. So start learning!
Jaimie Sheth has completed medical mission trips in Haiti and Ethiopia, built schools in developing countries, built a water well in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and started a non profit foundation for the education of children around the world, the Andrew Pepper Foundation (link)
Her book, My Life is Not My Own, describes her extensive volunteer work and will be available November 2015. Like the Facebook page to receive the latest updates.