Tag Archives: ethiopia

Water Changes Everything


Meeting with the Minister of Water. -Photo by Lori Dorman

On our final day at the Aregash Lodge in Ethiopia, the owner came over and said, “God works in mysterious ways… The Water Minister of Ethiopia surprised me with a visit today. He came all the way from Addis Ababa.”


Water Demonstration. -Photo by Lori Dorman

We held an impromptu meeting at the lodge where the minister and his associates sat and watched a filter demonstration. This was the first time he had seen such technology and was in awe. He showed us the chlorine tablets they had been using and lamented about the issues he had with them.


Meeting with Minister of Water, Awassa. -Photo by Lori Dorman

He then connected us with the local minister of water for Awassa, where we came up with a solution for a village in the surrounding area that need clean water desperately.


Water Demonstration in Awassa. -Photo by Lori Dorman

This community was in the area we heard had airborne diseases, and there happened to be quite a severe sandstorm the day we arrived to implement the filters. The weather was extreme, it was a totally different feeling from the other implementations. The crowd looked on interested, but not very happy.


Rural Sidama. -Photo by Lori Dorman

This was probably the worst well we had seen. The water level had decreased a lot and the options were uncovered stagnant water in the dry sandy area. The people complained of the taste and how they were getting sick. This was the first time where we visited a location where the people looked hopeless. This was because they had reached such dire states, and the community had become somber.


-Photo by Lori Dorman

As soon as the water was filtered, we began handing it out to the children who were severely dehydrated. They all patiently waited their turn, but as soon as they were handed the water and reassured there was more where that came from, they became to drink with such fervor that clear drips of water were falling down their their faces as the women of the community looked on with intense satisfaction.


-Photo by Lori Dorman


-Photo by Lori Dorman

We were all surprised how quickly the mood changed. There were cheers, smiles and a swarm of people around the filters learning how to use and clean them properly.


-Photo by Lori Dorman


-Photo by Lori Dorman

The leader of the community left us with these words:

“This changes everything.”

Learn more about why water matters and how you can help by visiting WavesforWater.org

Breastfeeding Culture: Mursi Tribe


The Mursi tribe of Ethiopia’s Omo Valley is one of the oldest and most easily identifiable tribal cultures of Africa.

Most Mursi children nurse past toddler-hood, and clothing for women commonly leaves breasts exposed.

The breast area for the Mursi tribe is viewed as nourishment for children and signals to men peak nubility of the woman, based on shape and texture.

The Mursi people are at risk for displacement.

From Mursi Online:

Since the 1960s, the extension of government control over the Lower Omo Valley has been marked by  the ‘enclosure’ of large areas of communally held  land. In the 1960s and 1970s two national parks were set up which, it was hoped, would in due course make the lower Omo into one of Africa’s most popular tourist destinations. These hopes proved largely illusory, despite efforts to develop the parks with the help of EU funds in the 1990s and, more recently, through a public-private partnership agreement with a South African based conservation organisation. Today, spurred on by its ambitious aim to achieve middle-income country status within the next ten to fifteen years, the government’s plans for the lower Omo have shifted to large-scale commercial irrigation development, including a huge project now being implemented by the state-owned Ethiopian Sugar Corporation.  If these plans are realised, not only will the lower Omo become by far the largest irrigation complex in Ethiopia, but the resident population of agro-pastoralists is expected to be transformed into wage labourers and sedentary cultivators. This will involve a resettlement programme which, although described as ‘voluntary’, will  be forced, in the sense that those affected will have no reasonable alternative but to comply.

There is overwhelming evidence, from Africa and around the world, that a scheme of this kind, however well intentioned, will not benefit the affected population unless it is accompanied by a comprehensive programme of compensation, benefit sharing and livelihood reconstruction. If such a programme is not put in place for the people of the lower Omo, the future looks grim for the Mursi and  their neighbours.

Breastfeeding in Ethiopia


Breastfeeding mother with child in Awassa, Ethiopia

I had recently written about my experience speaking with people in South Africa about breastfeeding, and I realized I never have written about my own observations of breastfeeding in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia has an interesting history because it is one of the only African country never colonized. This makes for a very different atmosphere than many of the other African countries I have visited.


Billboard for maternal health in Ethiopia.





The rural areas of Ethiopia have a weaning age of anywhere from eight months to eight years old. To see a two-year-old breastfeeding in public is not an uncommon sight. It is not taboo to breastfeed a child older than two in public, but less frequent nursing makes public breastfeeding less frequent and less seen.


Billboard in a rural region in Southern Ethiopia.


“Lem Lem”, (pediatric oral rehydration packets). Check out step #5.

Another common occurrence in various rural communities of Ethiopia is communal/shared breastfeeding. It is common for lactating relatives to breastfeed each other’s children, as well as neighbors in the community. Various friends in Asia have explained to me about nursing as a ritual for children after school. However, an almost identical scenario has been found in Ethiopia. Children will come home from school and immediately go to their mothers to nurse. If the mother is not home, they will go to a neighbor’s house to breastfeed. One of our dearest friends from Ethiopia (now living in the states) told us stories of breastfeeding and cross-nursing as the norm growing up. Her husband cross-nursed like the above scenario and weaned at age nine years.  

In larger cities, like the capital, Addis Ababa, Western influence and aggressive formula marketing has lowered the average weaning age quite significantly. Children, on average, still seemed to breastfeed longer than the average for the US. However, it is a huge change from the other parts of the country. UNICEF and WHO are an active presence in Addis Ababa and are working hard to neutralize the damage of formula marketing companies in these areas. The breastfeeding rate in developing countries was on a serious decline due to aggressive formula marketing campaigns. However, due to the firm stance of Save the Children, Unicef, and WHO and their active role in educating women about the dangers of using formula with unclean water and the health benefits of breastfeeding to two years, the breastfeeding rate is helping combat the unhealthy marketing of formula and early weaning.


Rough Translation:
“Breastfeeding is your child’s life
Breastfeeding benefits the mom
When you feed the baby it creates more milk.”

What I think upsets me most about the industrialization and marketing in countries like Ethiopia, is not that it exists, but that there is absolutely no morality in a company like Nestle, which specifically targeting impoverished mothers with only access to contaminated water, yet still tries to sell their product to them without providing a solution for their contaminated water issues.


When I think of breastfeeding in Ethiopia, I have mixed feelings because I believe they are at a crossroads in the country in terms of development which could have a positive or negative effect on the health of the children and mothers in Ethiopia’s borders. I think it is really going to come down to global enlightenment of certain health issues and the continuation of normalizing breastfeeding in the Western World.

Love Liberates, Birth Mother Quotes and Inspiration


We are framing this photo for Samuel, taken by Kyle LaMere in Ethiopia, September 2012.  Under the photo will be Maya Angelou’s “Love Liberates” quote.

How beautifully she sums up the importance and love of the birth mother and family. How true love frees; it does not enslave.

Someone once said, “Children need two things: One is roots and the other is wings.” I know Samuel’s birth mother was strong enough to provide our son with wings. Now our prayer is that together we can provide him with roots.

Love Liberates, by Maya Angelou

“I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love, because that liberates.

Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold—that’s ego.

Love liberates. It doesn’t bind.

Love says, I love you. I love you if you’re in China. I love you if you’re across town. I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you.

I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go.’”

Houston, We Do Not Have a Problem- Clean Water Fundraiser


Kayla, Jack, me, and Jessica

Kayla, Jack, me, and Jessica

Thank you to everyone who attended the Houston Waves for Water Fundraiser to bring clean water to Ethiopia. It was a blast!


Kayla and Omar Dar of Baby’s Breastie and Fayye Foundation put the entire event together in six short weeks. Because of their dedication to the clean water project in Ethiopia, we were able to bring people of all walks of life together to raise $7000, which in turn will bring 7000 people clean water.


We called this event a “mash-up” of breastfeeding activists and clean water activists.


Jessica and her husband from the Leaky B@@B attended with Sugar Baby. Two breastfeeding babies were in attendance and breastfed openly. Kayla’s 15-year-old nephew created three original breastfeeding illustrations to be auctioned off at the event. One of the drawings was purchased by our friend Lola, who was a regular on our facebook page, along with her daughter Jemmarie- both were in attendance on Saturday. Getting to know them over the past few months and then meeting them in person was very special and one of the highlights of the event. Jack pointed out to all of us that through that connection of advocacy for normalizing breastfeeding, we are not only working towards tolerance and acceptance, but have now supplied water to hundreds of people. It’s amazing to see how celebrating causes that are important to us can bring people together to do great things.


Thank you again to Kayla, Omar, and Kendall- you guys deserve a standing ovation.


Our next trip to Ethiopia will bring water to thousands, as well as focus on maternal mortality reduction and  the start of our water project towards fistula prevention with the clinics in Ethiopia.

To donate or learn more visit: www.wavesforwater.org/project/project-ethiopia

The Real Mommy War

“The Brightest Light . . .”  Letter from Laura Farruggio 

about the Ethiopian birth mother of her adopted son, Max:

birth mother

In 2004 an Ethiopian teenage girl named Etenesh Ermias traveled from her neighborhood in Kalsho to Addis Ababa to find work. While there she became pregnant and returned home. In September 2005 a baby boy was born. His given name translates to mean“the brightest light at the break of day.” Unable to care for and feed her child, he was plagued by malnourishment and was always sick. Desperate to save him, and hoping he would have a chance, she and her family placed him with a local orphanage for adoption.

In January 2006, an American woman desperate to be a mother, received a phone call telling her that she had a son. He came home in May 2006. Just eight months old, he was weak and malnourished, but now safe in the arms of America. Seen by the best pediatricians, and provided with vitamins and nutrients . . . He grew strong.

While his parents in America raised him and loved him, we never forgot his birth mother –  so imagine the heartbreak when we were told by a friend that my son’s birth mother had died three months earlier from malnutrition and Amoebiasis, a condition caused by living in unsanitary conditions and drinking contaminated water. Ironically, this news was like cold water being thrown over me.

I had to sit down and share with my child that his first mother died from something that, not only is preventable, but should never happen in the 21st Century - to die from drinking contaminated water.

Our son is a 7 year old boy who eats half of what is on his plate and tosses the rest when I’m not looking. He pours a glass of water into an large glass and takes a sip before leaving it to grow warm. It is ultimately fed to the kitchen drain. He is American.

His birth mother did not have a minimum of what we routinely waste and she is now dead. She is Ethiopian.

Ethiopia demands a face to this crisis and I want the face to be Etenesh Ermias of Wolaita Sodo, birth mother to my only son and also to a 5 year old boy named Teddy who is still living in these horrific conditions, and is chronically malnourished as a result.

We cannot let this stand as the norm another day. We cannot watch a benefit concert, read the news and shake our head with an exclamation of “How sad….” We must do something. And we can.

This is not a personal goal. This is a global mission and it must start here for me. I will provide a clean water filtration system to the place where Etenesh Ermias died. I will see to it that not another person there dies from contaminated drinking water.
She will not die in vain.

And that is just the start because we will not rest until everyone has safe drinking water.
Because for as long as I draw breath I will never again pour a glass of water
into a cup and not think of a world of people without.

Please Help.

To donate to the water filtration system that will be set up in the area mentioned in Laura’s letter, as well as other projects in the southern region of Ethiopia, please visit: www.wavesforwater.org/project/project-ethiopia

You Have Given a Miracle This Christmas- Clean Water

We had the Waves for Awassa Event in Los Angeles on World AIDS Day. (December 1)

After water filter Demo- Which one would you rather drink?

Jack, from Waves for Water, gave a water demonstration and showed videos of what can happen to a community when it’s given what every human needs access to- clean water.

When he was done speaking, a couple who attended (fellow adoptive parents, but that is all I will say so that they can remain anonymous) asked us when we were planning on going.

“March at the latest.” I replied.

Jack jumped in to say, “We will go tomorrow if we raise the funds. It is like saying, ‘Help, my house is on fire!’ and you have the resources to put it out. You wouldn’t wait around to help your neighbor in peril.”

His response was met with, “Then, if you raise $5000 we will match it.”

It was met with an outpouring of applause. The woman replied with, “Well, it needs to be done.”

This was the first time I had met this couple, they came as guests of two of our best friends. What I found so moving about their giving was that it came through as genuine. Their giving wasn’t about themselves or the recognition; it was about meeting a need. They knew it had to be done and they were doing it. Nothing more, nothing less. And by matching the donation, it gave incentive for others to give.

Which brings me to…. I have great news for everyone!

Stocking Market and the donations that have come in from Fayye Foundation plus the matched funds by the couple have given us the enough funds to allow Jack to travel alone to deliver filters to Ethiopia on Wednesday! 

That means you all have stepped up to deliver life-saving water within a week of announcing it! YOU did this!

We will also be going back for a larger water mission in March, but this will (as Jack says it) “put out the fire” for the area of Argisa, where people are losing their lives to dirty water.

More good news:

Everyone who donated to Stocking Market should receive their gift from Ethiopia (God willing) BEFORE Christmas. Jack will be going to collect each handmade item during his filter mission. If you want to participate click here.

H2OPE For Ethiopia | Clean Water Project

As most of you know, we are working with Waves for Water on a clean water project to bring rural Argisa, Ethiopia much needed filters to create access to safe drinking water. We were recently updated on the severity of the water related diseases of the area. What we were told has made us realize that time is of the essence. We are now trying to bring 100 filters to the area as soon as possible to prevent any more senseless deaths from water borne illnesses. 

What we are doing: 

I wanted to give a huge thank you to Laura Greene of Likely Lola Designs for coming up with such a fun image to attach to this project.

Thank you to everyone on the I Am Not the Babysitter Facebook Page for collectively working on the name! I hope you all realize this has become a community project. Knowing we are not alone is keeping the momentum going. I hope you feel as connected with everything we are doing as I do, because we truly could not do this without all of your support and partnership.

Here is the image:


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