by Richard Robbins
A brief note about World Vision.
World Vision is the NGO in Ethiopia. Maybe because they have been here so long and maybe because they are a Christian organization in a predominantly Christian nation. I’m not sure, but over and over again, when we saw some sign of progress, it turned out that it was WV that was responsible. The WV main office planned a nearly perfect trip, and managed every detail flawlessly. Gebre, the head of the communications office made sure our every need was met, and our every question answered. We never had a moment of doubt that he was managing everything with care and professionalism.
In Bahir Dar we worked primarily with two young WV folks, Wondimu and Rediete. Both were the kind of caring, thoughtful, dedicated people we dream about connecting with. They instantly took to our mission for the film, and made it their own. Wondimu and I spent long hours debating religion – he with more good humor and persistence than I ever expected. He speaks fantastic English, and works specifically on gender issues.
Rediete (pronounced like “ready eight”) deserves some special explanation because she is truly a special woman. She was born in Ethiopia but moved to the US with her family when she was 3. She spent most of her childhood in Cedar Falls, Iowa. I can only imagine what life was like for an Ethiopian girl growing up in rural northern Iowa. Perhaps there is some kind of nice synchronicity between Midwestern values and Ethiopian values–kindness, openness, generosity.
A few years ago, Rediete’s parents moved back to Addis Ababa. When she finished college at Arizona State, she decided to come stay with them here for a bit. (She left her first post-college job working at Progressive Insurance). She had been to Ethiopia once before in 2006, but this was her first extended stay. Her father insisted that if she was going to stay more than a few weeks, she must get a job. So Rediete took an internship in the communications department at World Vision. Of course, internship is not really the right word, because her work there is clearly more intense, more vital, and more sophisticated than any regular American internship.
Her last day at World Vision was actually a few weeks ago, but they wisely asked her if she would stay on to host us. What a gift for us. To have someone who could easily relate to both our culture and Ethiopian culture was so truly invaluable that I can hardly imagine how different our trip might have been without her. She speaks Amharic, and of course good old American English.
But it wasn’t just her unique view that made her such a pleasure. She brought energy, joy, kindness, understanding. Oh, that all sounds so bland and generic. She was much better than that. She easily adapted to my sarcastic (ok, obnoxious), ironic, and fairly relentless style. Truthfully she reminded me so much of Martha – always having a good time regardless of circumstances. Warm with every living soul. Tough when required, but generous to one and all.
She hasn’t decided if she will stay on in Ethiopia a while longer, or come back to the States. I already told her that she has a very poorly paid job waiting for her in LA if she wants it (and if she reads this I hope she realizes I wasn’t joking).
Truly my biggest regret about leaving Ethiopia a day early is that we missed a chance to meet her parents. I wanted to tell them in person, what an exceptional young woman they raised.
We are so indebted to World Vision for everything they have done for 10×10 in Ethiopia. I only hope we can repay a fraction of it.