From Gondar to Yetebon

Friday, June 15, 2018 [Note: We were unable to access Wifi for 2 days, so am posting this late.]

Today was a travel day from Gondar in north Ethiopia to Yetebon in the south. We had a few places to see in the Gondar area before departing. After breakfast at 6 AM, we boarded our tour bus and headed toward Amba Ghiorghis. In 1968, Amba Ghiorghis was a small village of about 2000 people living and farming near the escarpment that separates the high elevations of the Ethiopia’s large central plateau from the western lowlands going toward the Sudan. Located about 15 miles north of Gondar, this village was where we supervised a student health team from the Public Health College every Friday. Our clinic was held in a small two-room health station between the village and the escarpment, close to a foot-trail coming up from the lowlands. Patients came to our clinic from the village as well as from the lowlands. We saw patients with a wide variety of tropical diseases ranging from malaria to typhus. It was good experience for our students, and patients were very appreciative of the college health teams coming out to see them.

Amba Ghiorghis is now a town of about 30,000 people, having grown enormously through the years like so many other Ethiopian towns and villages. We found a modern health facility near the place I remembered. A guard from this health facility took us to an old building that he said used to serve as a health clinic many years ago. It was a bit bigger than the old facility I remembered, perhaps being an intermediate stage from the primitive facility we used, to the modern clinic serving the area today.

The escarpment had not changed through the years, and the views were still magnificent. After taking a number of pictures, we climbed into the bus and headed back down to Gondar. On the way to the airport, we stopped at the gates of the modern medical school that replaced the old Public Health College. Now a major medical center in Ethiopia, it has left very few traces of the old college.

We made it to the airport in time in spite of a terrible traffic jam near the sports stadium where a big soccer match was scheduled. This was another reminder of the huge changes that have taken place in the small provincial town we knew 50 years ago. Our one-hour flight to Addis was uneventful. We were met by a Project Mercy bus and driver. Project Mercy is an amazing organization doing community development work in Ethiopia. It was initially founded as a refugee relief organization over 30 years ago by Marta and Déme, a remarkable Ethiopian couple who were refugees in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Randall, my oldest son, has been an integral part of Project Mercy, serving as Chief Operating Officer for six years until recently. We wanted to see what Project Mercy is doing before going back to the USA. The drive to Yetebon took about four hours. We were welcomed warmly when we got there. A good soup and salad supper was the perfect meal for us before we went to our rooms. Tomorrow we will learn more about the work of Project Mercy.