Monday, 16 March 2009

Ethiopia 20 years later

Several years ago, I read an article in World Vision's magazine on the 20th anniversary of the famine in Ethiopia. Although I was already a WV child sponsor for a couple of years back then, it was only until I read this article that I became fully convinced and committed to the program.

Whether you are a Christian or not, that is irrelevant here. It is enough to know that our effort and money have helped and will continue to help someone. Perhaps, for many of them, their stories will never be made known to the world. But I believe, that they are out there, those whose lives changed, because we care!

This article touches my heart, I hope it does the same to you.

Summer 2005

It was the children who broke our hearts. Their pain reached through TV screens and photographs and compelled us to care. What happened to these small victims of the Ethiopia famine?

World Vision magazine tried to find out. We searched for specific children who had received care at World Vision feeding centers, their plight captured by visiting journalists. As a general rule, tracing people in relief situations is difficult because families congregate at aid centers far from their homes, and after they receive help, they disperse.

Finding the children of the Ethiopia famine was even more complicated. The Marxist government's resettlement policy - designed to quell rebellion - uprooted many families. Fighting in the north displaced others. Twenty years later, locating such transient targets seemed nearly impossible, especially in communities without official citizens records.

Miraculously, our local staff found one. In Antsokia Valley we met Yohannes Taye, 22, a young man with a winning smile. Though short and slight, he's strong enough to support eight members of his family by farming sorghum in a hillside community. He has his eye on a girl he'd like to marry.

When Yohannes was 18 months old, his father brought him to World Vision's feeding centre. The frail, sick child seemed likely to follow his mother to the grave. "Even those who were treating him thought he wouldn't recover," recalls his father, Taye Shawl. Thanks to intravenous feeding and the close attention of a British doctor, the boy survived. After such a dramatic beginning, he has settled into an ordinary life - but one he knows is blessed.

"I praise God in the highest," says Yohannes, a Christian. "It is through God that people stretched out their hands to save my life."

Finding the children of the famine proved largely fruitless. But Yohannes' story - just one of thousands - confirms that the act of helping a suffering child never is.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

My garden

If one is to apply Darwin's theory on the origin of species with strict obedience, then what I have been doing for the past weeks will seem foolish and redundant. The theory of "evolution" through "natural selection" implies that the fittest life forms will surive, and those not will evolve or die.

To pave way for my herb garden, I have been propagating seeds, nourishing young plants, transplanting plants from pot to pot and reviving those infested with pests and fungi. Here are the results.

Mint, Lavender, Thai Basil, Sweet Basil


Not too bad for someone with little experience in horticulture and is still grappling on trial and error basis. Of course I did my homework diligently. Learning about soil, garden pests, conditions of growth suitable for each type of herb and even watching video on how to water plants... the information is overwhelming! It is an area specialisation that could lead to a Ph.D.

There is a Chinese saying, "人非草木", which means that man is not unfeeling as grass and trees (plants). Whoever said that must have misunderstood nature. What I have seen for myself is that the plants are extremely sensitive of their environment. They react to changes in environmental conditions amazingly quick: if they have enough water, enough sun or if there are pests aggression, they tell it all in moments. Just by looking at their colours and vibrance for example, I would know if the day has been bright and sunny or gloomy and wet, even though I have been out of the house all day. I don't reckon my mood swings are quite as fast when being provoked.

The part that has been most difficult but at the same time exciting is growing parsley from seeds. I did not know that germinating parsley seeds is tricky and irratic. I have only considered that it is the herb I consumed the most and therefore would like to have them in my garden. Fortuantely, my efforts paid off (so far so good), though the casualty rate is extremely high.

Signs of new life, after 3 weeks. Soon, they will need to leave their safe haven (my kitchen) and be introduced to the "treacherous" nature where there are dangers of mealybugs, aphides and spiders... sweat.

The insatiable craving for light causes the young sprouts to bend and stretch towards the light source.

So, if I listen to Darwin, I should have left my plants to live and die on their own? Ha, I am just misinterpreting. His evolution theory relates to an entire specie and the bigger environment, not to leaves and sprouts in my tiny little flower pots. But if I were to do nothing, my plants will also "evolve"... from fresh to dry (die)... and maybe even gone. Beware of a dog!

Cowboy messing around with the young seedlings.

A garden is never complete without insects and pests. Dead grasshopper (I didn't kill it). Handicapped, only 4 legged.