Today we visited the Korah Dump. Last night Kari and I met with Sumer, one of the directors at Korah. She told us we would be splitting into 2 groups. One group would go on home visits while the other team would go visit the dump. Before she left she told us that the group before us paid for 6 sheep and fed the Korah kids a great meal with meat. Kari and I decided that was a great idea! It would cost about 2500 birr (around $200) for 6 sheep. There are 30 in our group, so we had everyone put in 100 birr (less than $10) to feed all those kids. Kari and I didn’t tell the group what the “surprise” was that they were spending the 100 birr on.
When we left the Guest House, we told them to be ready for the surprise. We stopped on the side of the road and watched as 6 sheep (they looked like goats to me) were chosen, bartered over and tied, them placed (alive) in the storage space under the bus!! They actually moved our luggage on top of the bus so the sheep could be placed underneath!! Some of the girls freaked out over how inhumane it was!!
We drove to Korah and suddenly we realized the area looked very familiar. Kari said – this is where Zoie is from!! The paperwork at the clinic said Kore, but apparently they are the same place. Zoie would have lived in the Korah Dump had she not been adopted! Wow.
We arrived at Korah and the smell in the village was overwhelming. We were not in the dump yet, but in the village outside the dump. The people who live in the village are either outcasts, prostitutes, AIDS victims, or descendants of the leper colony who were banished there several generations ago.
Project 61 was started by a guy named Sammy who found Jesus through an American youth group who came to visit Korah Dump, where he lived. He now spends his life teaching others about Jesus, making great relationships with the kids and helping them find sponsors to help them attend school so they can get out of the dump. These kids were incredible. They have nothing but Jesus, and are so happy. They love Sammy and many of them told me that Sammy told them about Jesus and is helping them go to school and on some occasions he even pays rent for them to live in a house (shack) instead of living in the dump under a tarp.
Before starting our tours, we had the opportunity (?) to see our newly purchased sheep be slaughtered. I watched, just to say I had seen the process that happens to make a meal in ET. I will say it was a bit messy. Judson, one of the guys in our group, actually helped slaughter the 2nd sheep. The Ethiopian men held the sheep and showed him where to cut. He did it, but it took a bit longer than when the ET men did it – ha!!
I met three amazing boys at Korah. Benyam, Abanezer and another whose name I can’t quite figure out. They are all three teenagers and already have sponsors. They are 15 and 16 years old, but are only in the 7th and 8th grades because they are orphans and didn’t have anyone to pay for their schooling. Thanks to Sammy and Project 61, they leave for boarding school in a month to finish their education. These boys are so sweet (they wouldn’t even let me carry my water bottle, and when we were walking through town they were making sure I stayed on the dry parts – which were rare) and so smart. Benyam spoke fantastic English and will be an excellent student. If it wasn’t for Project 61 and Sammy, he would be forced to dig through trash for a living and would probably end up having kids who would have the same life. Now he has a future to look forward to. At boarding school, he will live, eat and attend school in a great Christian environment and will have amazing opportunities.
The tour of the dump itself was indescribable. The dump is miles wide and is literally a mountain of trash. There is grass and other plant life growing, but it is growing out of the generations of trash upon trash. 10,000 people live in the dump and 40,000 live in Korah – the village outside the dump. There were sad looking dogs, pigs and people living there. The women would collect plastic, metal and other recyclable materials to sell so they can buy food. Many just eat from the dump trucks. They know exactly where each truck comes from. They know which trucks are from the Embassy, which are from the airlines and so on. So, they know which ones will have good food. It is, again, completely indescribable how these people live every day. And again, the children and teenagers I met there were so friendly and would give you a smile and a wave if you only acknowledged that they existed and treated them like a human instead of more trash. Unbelievable.
After our tour we walked a few miles to the place where the kids play soccer. We walked through the village of the poorest of the poor, along a rocky, muddy and slippery path until we reached a valley. As we stepped out of the village the most beautiful valley appeared below us. There were huge trees that created a canopy above a well-worn dirt field where the kids could play football (soccer). It was a bit difficult to maneuver your soccer ball between the trees, but it was a great place. To the north of the soccer field was a river. Since it is the rainy season, the river was very full and running very fast. Unfortunately, 3 of our newly donated soccer balls ended up falling down the cliff into the river and disappearing. Hopefully some child downriver will find a present waiting for them in the water!!
Finally, we had to say our goodbyes. I will be praying for my 3 friends as they go to boarding school. Even if I do get to come back in February, they will be in boarding school, so not sure if or when I will get to see them again.
We came back to the Guest House (and removed our very muddy and very stinky shoes) and relaxed for a bit before dinner. Actually, the guest house offers one free massage per visit, so I had scheduled mine for 6pm. I will admit, after spending the day at the dump, I felt more than a little guilty being pampered when I knew that many of my new friends were curling up to sleep on a pile of trash or in a small tin house. I don’t think my perspective will ever be the same.
One of my favorite moments of the day was when we were handing out the food to the kids. I sat with my boys as they ate (we had eaten rice in the bus). Benyam turned to me and said “I’m sorry – you have no food – you eat” and he offered to share his food with me. I ate one bite of injera with Shiro, but told him I had already eaten and that he needed to eat his food himself. Can you imagine? Someone with nothing (and who knows how long it had been since he had eaten a full meal) offering his food to me. Amazing. We did find out later that they had prepared a large platter of Ethiopian food for us as well. I will admit, I really enjoyed eating Ethiopian food in a small concrete room, sitting on small stools, eating food with my hands that our team had purchased for these kids. Again, indescribable.
As we were eating another teenage boy told me that he thought “Forenge” people were blessed by God and he wished his skin was the color of mine. It about broke my heart. I told him that in America, people have a lot of money, cars, and things, but many times they are not happy. I told him that I love the Ethiopian people, because even though they may not have big houses, or lots of money, they are so happy because they have Jesus living in them and that is all they need.
Cynthia, one of my teammates, said she was walking with one of the boys through the village and was asking him about his life. He said he had no mother or father, but was one of the sponsored children at Project 61. She asked him where his home was and she pointed around to the different areas of the town. He shook his head no, and pointed up. He said my home is there, in Heaven. Wow.