Ethiopia: Day 1, Hour 6, Emotions 1,000,000

Six hours in Addis Ababa with ONE and already it’s mind-altering. (It might have been 11 hours by now had our flight not been so heinously delayed, but eh, I can’t complain about a day spent in Dulles with Christine Koh.)

arriving in addis


I just returned from an afternoon at Mary Joy Aid Through Development which felt a little something like this.

ONE Moms in Ethiopia

ONE Moms in Ethiopia

One Moms in Ethiopia

One Moms in Ethiopia

ONE Moms in Ethiopia

ONE moms in ethiopia

ONE Moms in Ethiopia

We were greeted by young girls handing us flowers. Teens singing. Mothers clapping. Boy performing circus arts. A traditional coffee service. Hugs, kisses, bows and warm handshakes. And finally, an hour sitting down with a sisterhood of mothers – an amazing group of women who support one another and take care of children when the parent is unable to, or gone altogether.

The statistics about orphans and AIDS rates that Mary Joy is supporting are staggering. But hearing statistics about orphans and HIV-positive children is nothing compared with actually knowing the gorgeous, exuberant, amazing children behind the numbers.

ONE moms in ethiopia

ONE moms in Ethiopia

ONE moms in ethiopia

ONE moms in ethiopia

ONE moms in ethiopia

ONE moms in ethiopia

ONE moms in ethiopia

I held it together while the kids sat on my lap, tickled my knees, stroked my hair, played with my camera, tried to say my name. I held it together while one boy taught me every dance move he knows. I held it together when the beautiful six year-old girl in a blue sweatshirt, with the same spirit as Thalia, kissed me so lovingly on the cheek I was sad when it was over.

When I got back on the bus, watching the kids run alongside of us waving and blowing kisses as we backed out from the dirt road through the gate and onto the street, I didn’t hold it together.

These are the times I’m happy to have my own sisterhood.


I’m currently visiting Ethiopia courtesy of ONE, a nonpartisan advocacy organization fighting extreme poverty and preventable disease, especially in Africa. The more people spread the word, the louder our voices, the more governments and foundations will keep the aid coming. If you can amplify our voices by tweeting, reposting, sharing our posts it’s more meaningful than you know.

Learn more at the ONEMoms blog and see the rest of the trip team’s blogs, and follow (and use!) the hashtag #ONEMoms on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram.

If you want to know more about Mary Joy sponsorships, about $1/day or $300/year takes care a child who really really needs it. It means food and healthcare, a home to live in, educational materials and teaching, clothing to wear, and the occasional fun. Which shouldn’t be occasional when you’re a kid.

[top photo c Karen Walrond, all others c Liz Gumbinner]










34 thoughts on “Ethiopia: Day 1, Hour 6, Emotions 1,000,000”

  1. What a lovely story. I could barely hold it together while reading it. 🙂 Looking forward to hearing more about Ethiopia.

  2. Beautiful. Just beautiful–the pics and the sentiment.

    My daughter is one of those statistics. It changes you forever when it is flesh and blood and just not a number.

    1. I get it Dawn. Being here, seeing these kids…I get it. You’re so lucky to have found each other.

  3. Oh, Lizzie (I’m allowed to call you that since you won’t answer to

    I knew you’d begin to write about Ethiopia such emotion, knowing how fortunate you are and knowing how much love still exists in the world-in spite of. Because of. When the human spirit shines, it lights us all. Please continue to let us know how you’re faring and what we can do to support your efforts.

    1. I know it generally sounds self-serving…but what you can do is like, tweet, link, use the hashtag, and help get the word out. The more governments hear the demand for support of at-risk people in great poverty, the more likely they are to keep up that support.

      You’ve come up a lot today by the way. It’s hard not to make so many comparisons to Sarajevo. Especially knowing we’re visiting women artisans and small fair trade businesses like this one. From what I can see already, these are not people who want handouts. They’re not afraid of hard work, and want a good future for their children. They just need someone to believe in them and invest in them.

      1. Liz, I wish you’d have been well enough to join us for the lunch at Sfoglia with TMS “Teddy” Ruge – you’d have been nodding along with me as he told us that Africans want to retain their own agency; they want trade, not aid.

  4. Liz thank you for sharing the photos and stories from part of your day today! I am sitting here next to Jeannine’s Brother as we look at the photos, choked up by your post, and happy to see the ONEMoms smiling faces in the pictures!

    1. Oh how great Elizabeth! Tell him he’s got a hell of a sister. And she’s not such a bad African dancer either.

  5. These photos are amazing. Everyone should have an experience like this, whether it is a trip to Ethipopia with ONE (and that truly sounds life-altering) to volunteering in the depths of Oakland, Ca for a school year. We all need a little perspective on how others live and how we can help. Have a great journey.

  6. Beautiful photos.

    I am a member of Britmums supporting Jen Howze and Michelle Pannel, give them a big hug from me.

    It’s amazing what you are doing, and its going to be so hard to say goodbye. I hope all of us on the ground can really get the word out about ONE and the difference international aid is making in countries like Ethiopia.

    Be safe and well, and keep telling these important stories.

  7. Hey, we’re scarf twins!

    Gorgeous photos. I can feel the love and happiness emanating from them. I look forward to learning more, as do my girls, who read your post and looked at your pictures from over my shoulder. (Especially CJ, who is still intent on sending a sample of her knitting to the women at FashionABLE.)

  8. Heart tuggingly beautiful!! Thank you so much for sharing your story, we’re following along with you

  9. I am loving following along with all of you as you share this journey with us. It’s so important. (And I barely held it together reading this!)

  10. I loved how ready you had me to give myself completely to the story you were telling. My heart and eyes sprang into action as you finally told us you didn’t hold it together. Doing what I can to carry the baton.

    Thank you for helping us not just see, but feel. It matters.

  11. I’ve heard Africa changes you…forever. Kristen, at We Are THAT Family, went with Compassion International and came back changed…so much so, she and her family opened a nonprofit home for pregnant women to get care before and after childbirth – Mercy House.

    I wish you a fantastic trip! Stay safe.

  12. I found it hard to hold it together just reading, seeing the faces of a people so deserving of betterment, of uplifting of our support.

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