Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Textbooks and Travelers

Last week Mr. Silly Pants and I scurried around to collect and send some textbooks to the student we are sponsoring in Addis. Richard had described to us the difficulty he was having supporting his college studies with adequate materials in microbiology, physiology, and anatomy. When we heard about his limited access to textbooks we quickly determined we could help him by sending some textbooks via a traveling friend. Mr. Silly Pants put out a request for a medical dictionary from colleagues and it was quickly answered. I did some scouting for a microbiology textbook and when nothing surfaced I found a used textbook at a local store. They cut their price from $40 to $20 to ease the overall cost. Mr. Silly Pants had an excellent anatomy textbook he willingly parted with on behalf of Richard's studies. We packed them up and shipped them overnight to our traveling friend. This request was followed up with another quick overnight of a pair of shoes and a collection of photos from our time with him in Lalibela (*note to self* always read the P.S. of e-mails or you might miss the inquiry about an additional need - like shoes!). Thanks to the good will of our traveling friend and her parents, the packages were delivered to a very happy young man. It took a little organizing, but the deed is done. A huge shout out to ML and her parents - for being our couriers and for being patient friends.

This is the first time I've asked someone to transport materials for Richard (or for the other kids we are helping). It was an interesting task for us, and for me in particular as I continue to navigate the cultural dynamics of giving and getting and the relationships of power and need in this endeavor. When I say "need", let me be clear, the need is mine to be a giver and to "do good" in the world. The need for Richard is for us to continue to support him throughout his education. His needs include, it seems, things like books and shoes.

To be honest, it is quite challenging. Richard and I must navigate communication only through e-mail, time differences, language limits, the dynamics of wealth and poverty, cultural interpretations of meeting Americans and receiving a delivery, and expressions of gratitude. The list could be much longer - but you get the idea.

The picture I am putting together is really an on the ground training for something bigger and more "formal" for another stage of my life. I'm wading my way through this with the help and encouragement of my generous and loving husband. Recently, a friend, inspired by our giving, threw her hat into the ring and has begun sponsoring a very lovely family who are in great need of help. Through her, help has been found. What is really riveting about this family is that they are a family of women only - as their father/husband died shortly after we left Ethiopia. Here is a chance to practice change through women (read my post on girls "The Girl Effect" to know what I mean!). I am so excited about this endeavor and my friend is the perfect woman to undertake this really special endeavor.

I will have the great pleasure of sending another care package to Ethiopia in a few months to Lalibela. There, AlemTsehaye will be the happy recipient of some gifts my traveling friends will deliver to her in Lalibela. The world is getting smaller, and I love it.


Mindy and Baldwin said...

That is so cool! We are preparing a care package of books (especially "Unbowed" by Wangari Mathaai...you know the first woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize for planting trees in Kenya?) and I gave my embassy shoes to her while we were in Lalibela as well. The recipient of our care package is the first woman guide in Lalibela...aka "The Queen of the Guides!" Shoes and books seem archetypal in a way. Those are the basic things for positive progression into the future. Good work. Let us know if you receive word that your friend receives them.

M and M said...

Ohhhhhhhh Mindy - the first woman guide! How marvelous! Will you send the package with a agency traveler?

shelli said...

I was in the travel group in Ethiopia with your friend and got to meet Richard. He seems like a nice and honest young man. I think it is great how you are helping him out!