A letter from Marilyn Hansen in Ethiopia
Kidus buried his face in his mother’s shoulder. As Mentor Mother Yemserach asked his mother questions about her son’s health, his eyes slowly peeked out to look at me, a stranger in his home. This home visit that I participated in is part of the Community Outreach Practicum Project. The project is part of the new Master of Development Studies (MADS) program at the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology (EGST), where Rich and I both work. The primary purpose of the project is to monitor and improve the health of mothers and young children. The project also serves as a practical way that EGST students can learn about health issues facing mothers and children in some of the poorest areas of Addis.
Two areas have been selected for this pilot program: the area of Addis where EGST is located, and Holetta, about 25 km west of Addis. Within these areas, every pregnant woman and mother of children below the age of 5 is identified. If willing, these mothers and children receive regular home visits from Mentor Mothers. The Mentor Mothers, who are mothers themselves, have undergone rigorous training to learn how to build relationships with families, act as resources for health care, and evaluate health issues relating to children or pregnancy. All Mentor Mothers are members of a local church and see this as a ministry.
As we walked on rough dirt roads and paths visiting several different homes near EGST, I was struck by the obvious love that the mothers had for their children and by the poverty in which these children are being raised. Kidus and his mother live in a room with mud walls and a tin roof, a room large enough to hold a single bed, a small table and brazier for cooking, and one chair. In another compound we visited a toddler in the program played in the dirt, sharing the space with chickens running free. Sanitation is a huge problem because there is usually no indoor plumbing.
Pregnant mothers are encouraged to access free health care at local government health posts, use vaccinations and supplements, be tested for HIV/AIDS and if testing positive begin treatment to protect themselves and the baby’s health. With the help of Mentor Mothers, plans for delivery will include where to have the baby, financial issues, and education about exclusive breastfeeding, supplementary feeding, and common children’s illnesses. Without this discussion, many women would not plan ahead and would perhaps have the baby at home with little or no assistance. Infants are visited frequently by Mentor Mothers after birth.
Children under 5 are weighed and evaluated by the Mentor Mothers using a child growth monitoring chart, which categorizes children as: overweight, normal, lightly malnourished, mildly malnourished, and severely malnourished. Mothers of children in every category are given advice about nutrition, hygiene and sanitation. In both geographical areas children have been identified by Mentor Mothers as severely malnourished. Food to combat severe malnutrition is given without charge for three months.
EGST students have been and will continue to be involved in this project. Students with health backgrounds have trained the Mentor Mothers. Students will go on home visits with the Mentor Mothers and will be involved in counseling issues as they arise. EGST students will be able to study types and prevalence of health problems, effectiveness of intervention techniques, and whether other interventions might be required. All Development Studies students take theology courses as part of their degree program, including a basic theology class that Rich teaches. Integrating faith and biblical values with development issues and strategies is an important part of the practicum.
Kidus is fortunate. He has a mother who loves him and who wants to make sure he grows up to be healthy and strong. He has someone else, a Mentor Mother who feels called as a Christian and as a mother herself to offer support and care for him and his mother. And he has EGST students who are learning how to effectively weld their faith and their work so that children in Ethiopia can develop to the fullness of the potential that God has for them.
Thank you for your support of our ministry here in Ethiopia. Through your giving, Rich is able to influence students in the Development Studies program as they seek to improve the health of children. Through your prayers for the children of Ethiopia, God will continue to raise up Christians who desire to make a difference. Through your communication and encouragement, both Rich and I are able to minister more effectively here.
Serving with you,
Rich and Marilyn Hansen
Please pray for:
- Children in Ethiopia who are at risk for malnutrition and other treatable health problems
- EGST students in all degree programs who grapple with integrating their faith and their work
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 107
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