An Easter Miracle — April 2020
The Very Best Easter Basket (yet)
The basket idea began with the desire of the Special Task Force (STF), a special interest group made up of members of the Rotary Club of East Colorado Springs, Robby Dale Nelson of the Rampart Range Rotary Club, and Peter Jeschofnig of the Glenwood Springs Sunset Rotary Club, of how to help internationally with a “hands-on” project. We loved helping with The Christmas Tree Project locally in Colorado Springs; how could this Service Above Self zeal be expanded?
Rotarian Tesfaye Legesse, a chicken farmer in Ethiopia, mentioned to the East Club that Easter is the most important holiday in Ethiopia, but that inflation and hardships made it difficult for those with less to celebrate. The special traditional dish, Duro Wot, eaten on Easter takes about twenty-four hours to cook. It’s heavy in onions and spicy red pepper but what makes the dish special is the way the chicken and eggs are boiled in the broth.
Tesfaye told the story about one man who waited outside Tesfaye’s chicken farm gate early one morning last year to purchase eggs. The man told him that he is not able to afford a chicken, but he managed to have enough funds to purchase five eggs last year, one for each of his children for Easter. The reason he was waiting so early? Last year he had purchased five eggs from another farm and three of them were rotten.
As the STF discussed the possibilities, the idea of gathering items for an Easter Egg Basket to raffle off was chosen. The funds raised would be used to purchase eggs for the indigent in Ethiopia. Little did we know what was about to explode.
As raffle ticket sales began to pour in, we realized that we were going to be able to distribute 21,700 eggs to1,446 families in the village of Dukem, Ethiopia. No family was expecting help. All were accepting that their family may not even have food for Easter. Can you imagine the surprise when Tesfaye began planning with the village leaders for an egg distribution?
The mayor’s office already had a list of 3,000 families that had been officially registered as “food scarcity.” The decision was made to divide the distribution up into four areas called Kebeles. The eggs were divided into groups of more than 5,000 eggs at each distribution center.
Next, another miracle manifested. A small army of volunteers came forward, headed by Kassahu, a young university graduate who now runs a construction company in Dukem. His passion to help the poor began early and he knows the name and the location of every family on the list of three thousand.
The “army” began their work early Monday morning. They bagged all 21,700 eggs in batches of fifteen. Then they spent the evening into the night going house to house letting people know that their prayers had been answered and to be ready to go to the assigned Kebele office at 9:00 am on Tuesday morning.
My day began early, as scheduled. I woke in my house in Addis Ababa and was on track to meet my driver a little before 8:00 to head out to Dukem to take part in the egg distribution. My morning was interrupted with the ring of my telephone. It was Tesfaye; the Kebele had just informed him that hundreds of families had been waiting in front of the gate for eggs since 6:00 am. They just couldn’t believe that there were enough eggs to go around. It just seemed too good to be true.
After a moment of wishing I had a helicopter to fly to see the reward of our love, I told the leaders to begin the distribution without me; “the people we are loving should not have to wait more.” Thus began the release of what Tesfaye called, “A new hope for the future.”
I arrived at the Kebele closest to the chicken farm a little before 9:00. Although there were still about twenty-some families waiting for the distribution, the smiles of joy on everyone’s faces were huge. It had been an Easter Miracle.
The time had now arrived for the distribution of eggs for the “even less fortunate”– those who were bedridden or shut-ins and had not been able to come to the Kebele.
All situations were touching, but I’ll just share a few:
Etemola was waiting for us just inside her small home made of mud and dung. She could only stand at a ninety-degree angle either propped with her walking stick or leaning against the wall. Her little kitten was always close to her; in fact, Etemola told us that her kitten was her child. Etemola grew up on a sustenance farm with two older brothers and said her memories of her childhood are bright. She said she loved being obedient and happy. But now she has no living relatives anywhere. She survived by cutting firewood in the now-deforested areas, but carrying more than her body weight everyday took its toll; she can no longer walk more than a few steps. Despite all these hardships, Etemola was a bright light full of love and laughter. We sat with her for some time on a small rustic bench. She was so grateful and blessed us again and again.
Tamarat was a farmer until he could no longer walk. It got worse and worse; he has spent the last two years on the same rock. His neighbors come daily to help him move to a small cot at night and then help him move back to his rock the next day. He thinks he became paralized one day by getting too cold. He is the lone surviving family member. He was so cheerful and kind. He blessed us again and again in gratitude..
Gabriel was thrashing on his cot in an iron-sheet home made by volunteers. Although his mind is sharp, he is completely unable to control his body movements. His big desire was to pronounce blessings on us and express his gratitude. We stayed together quite some time just exchanging love and goodwill.
One more touching story was about one who would not accept our eggs. Bizzou is what we call in Ethiopia, “attacked by an evil spirit.” When we arrived to leave her eggs, she started shouting at us and chasing us out. She asked us what was wrong with us that we couldn’t see that all her children were with her and that they were cooking together. The dark iron-sheet area was as empty as could be. I stayed and was able to look her in the eyes with love long enough to calm her down, but she remained convinced that she and all her children had things under control. The next day she was “back”, and the volunteers were able to deliver eggs to a grateful Bizzou.
Acknowledgements with gratitude:
As with any acknowledgements, the difficult part is the possibility of leaving anyone out. Thank you to everyone who helped in ANY way. Your part is invaluable. This was indeed a project where all the pieces came together in a magical way.
Special thanks to:
- Penny Kelly
- Erin Hickey
- The Rotary Club of East Colorado Springs
- The Rampart Range Rotary Club of Colorado Springs
- The Colorado Springs Rotary Club
- The mayor and staff of Dukem, Ethiopia
- The volunteer “army” of Dukem, Ethiopia
- Tesfaye Legesse and his chicken farm
- ALL those who donated with items for our drawing or bought raffle tickets.
We appreciate YOU!
Rotary Club of East Colorado Springs