Abundantly Happy

Posted by cservaes on March 12, 2012 in Alumni, Arizona, Community Dera, Ethiopia, is a hot, dry and dusty flat land. Just months prior to the arrival of Kim McCrady ’11 AZ, the children of Dera stood in line for hours, dripping with sweat, waiting for just a tiny serving of water. They carried large, yellow jerry cans in their tiny hands – empty. Their parents spent all day out in the searing sun searching for water, making it impossible for them to hold jobs or earn an income for their family. It was unlike anything Kim McCrady had ever heard of or seen. The people of Dera face disease, war and hunger every single day. Young children forego education to help provide for younger brothers and sisters. Children whose parents die from HIV and AIDs are excluded and exiled out of fear and ignorance. Yet the people of Dera are hopeful and kind. Despite their difficult, callous life with little relief in sight, these are a kind of people who are abundantly happy no matter what hardships they face; no matter how dry it is. McCrady knows because she has spoken to these people. She has shared stories, food, help, and hope with these people. She has shared family. McCrady visited Dera in October 2011 — just months after graduation. A practicing dental hygienist, McCrady learned about Hope Arising, a not-for-profit aimed at helping the people of Ethiopia gain sustainable resources, during research for her Graduation Review course with Dr. Karen Bryson, assistant professor of psychology and human services. Graduation Review is the capstone course required of every adult student at Ottawa University to help them explore the liberal arts breadth areas they were exposed to throughout their degree in the context of globalization and cross-cultural concerns. “We were given the assignment to research and present something of global influence. I struggled to find a topic that really interested me,” said McCrady. “After having a conversation with my boss, Dr. Chet Jenkins, about his service and involvement with a local non-profit, I knew I had to do my project on Hope Arising and its efforts to bring reliable water and assistance to the people of Dera, Ethiopia.” After the course was over, McCrady realized her work with Hope Arising wasn’t. “I was so taken by what I learned during my research, I quickly decided I wanted to travel with Hope Arising and be a part of Dr. Chet Jenkins’ dental team on an upcoming trip,” said McCrady. Only months before McCrady visited Dera, Hope Arising installed a gravity pipeline that runs 20 miles from Achaba springs in the Chilalo Mountains to the 58,000 people in Dera and surrounding areas, shifting the focus of the organization from sustainable resources to hygiene and maintaining health. The people of Dera don’t use toothbrushes. They use sticks to clean their teeth. Rotten teeth fill their mouths. Their faces are often swollen from infections. McCrady’s group brought 23 suitcases with them on the trip, half of them filled with dental supplies, and they still ran out. They treated 400 dental patients in three days; others in the team worked to build a kitchen for two orphaned sisters, ages 10 and 14. And before their trip ended, the group was able to prepare, plant and install drip irrigation systems in five gardens for five families. “Taking this humanitarian trip with my daughter and the others in our group was a life-changing experience,” said McCrady. “I learned the power one person has to influence and make a positive change in the world around us.” The people of Dera have dirt floors. They sleep on potato sacks stuffed with whatever they can find. “I also learned how complicated we Americans tend to make our lives,” said McCrady. “The people of Dera have so very little but are abundantly happy, kind and grateful. They have love, hope and faith, which seem to be dwindling values in our society today.” And before McCrady left, the people of Dera kissed her hands. They hugged her. They thanked her. “Without a doubt, I will return to Dera. I am working on developing a program for mothers and children of Dera,” said McCrady. “I will teach oral health and prevention of dental disease in the home using the resources they have available.” McCrady’s work won’t end there, though. Her trip to Dera has changed the way she sees her own community of Gilbert, Arizona. “I hope to contribute to the positive change in Dera,” said McCrady. “Additionally, I will be working harder in my own community to be a change agent.” Who knew that a required course at Ottawa University could inspire such global action? Well, actually, we did – or at least we hoped it would, since that is a major goal of our liberal arts-based degrees.