Since 1933, the IRC has provided hope and humanitarian aid to refugees and other victims of oppression and violent conflict around the world.
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VOICES FROM THE FIELDTHE IRC BLOG
Making a difference in Ethiopia
July 25, 2008
|Photo: The IRC|
|International Rescue Committee communications officer Emily Holland and IRC intern and Princeton University student Daniella Raveh are visiting Ethiopia where they will be blogging about the lives and struggles of refugees and young girls and women. You can read all their posts here. Daniella: I just got the OK today. It’s final: I am traveling to Ethiopia to document the lives of refugees and the local population. Emily just finished giving me her “Africa 101” lesson: what to bring, what to wear, what new foods we’ll be trying, and most importantly, the important IRC projects that we’ll be visiting. Generating expectations is far from easy, however. This is my first time in Africa, and I don’t know what to expect. Since I live in the Middle East, people assume that I might have a better understanding of what a country that has endured conflict might be like. To be honest, I don’t know if my life has prepared me for this mission. When I tell people I’m going to Ethiopia, they seem puzzled: “Ethiopia? Why, what’s happening there?” I quickly recite a long list of problems: Famine, disease, child labor, and poverty, not to mention the horrible violence against women and continuous border disputes. But these horrors are rarely mentioned in the media. With war and conflict happening all over the world, suffering becomes relative. Compared to what’s happening in Darfur or Congo, Ethiopia is a small story. So I’m going to document what people don’t know or have forgotten about Ethiopia. I’m going to see with my own eyes sights that excited or shocked me in movies and pictures. Never in my life have I looked forward to seeing such sights, but in a weird way, I am excited and can’t wait to land in Addis Ababa. Emily: As for me, I’m thrilled to be able to introduce someone to the field for the first time. Daniella has done a stellar job working for the IRC this summer, and I can’t wait to see what she makes of life in one of the many countries where we work. As Daniella says, we’ve certainly got our work cut out for us. People know Ethiopia, if they know it at all, as a place where periodic famines break out and the AIDS pandemic soars. As humanitarian workers, we propose to do something different---to tell a new story. First, we’ll be investigating one of the most basic aspects of aid: water. We will chart the many (and sometimes unexpected) benefits building a well can brings to a small village. And we will look at how the IRC is using sophisticated satellite imaging technology to locate new water sources. Next, we will meet young girls and boys who are working as gold miners in Ethiopia’s remote desert regions. Extreme poverty has forced thousands of children to take up this dangerous work. How is the IRC working to combat this and other forms of child labor? We’ll find out. Finally, we will document the lives of refugee women and girls living in Ethiopia. Women and girls are the key to development in Africa. Until they are able to take their full place in society, it will be difficult for Africa to reach its full potential. Daniella and I will participate in education awareness campaigns that the IRC is conducting to encourage girls to stay in school. We’ll learn how distributing feminine products contributes to helping them to stay in school. We’ll also participate in “coffee sessions”: dynamic meetings where IRC staff champion concepts like gender equality among women and men. It’s sure to be a rich and rewarding trip. In closing, I often talk about “Africa eyes.” It refers to a vision people visiting the African continent develop: new insights into what’s important and how they should lead their lives. I’m excited to be there when Daniella’s Africa eyes open.|