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Ohio State University Visited Mary Joy

Ohio State University delegates unveiled their interest to partnership: The Ohio State University (OSU) delegates visited Mary Joy Development Association on December 9, 2012. The delegates encompass OSU’s professors, Deans and researchers. The visit was aimed to establish partnership between MJDA and OSU on community health outreach program, volunteer mobilization and in-service training programs. The delegates visited the MJDA medical center’s activities and integrated community development programs as well as discussion has been held among the team members and MJDA’s management on the focus of the partnership and sustainability of MJDA’s health programs. The visitors were accompanied by Professor Tirusew Tefera (Dean, College of Education and Behavioral Studies, Addis Ababa University) and Dr. Mekasha Kassaye (Assistant Professor in English Language Pedagogy and Higher Education Policy and Management) and Ethiopian Medical Student Association’s Executives.

Volunteers Recognition

On the 4th of February 2012, MJDA organized a Volunteers Recognition Event to publically recognize the contribution of 200 volunteers who have been actively participating during the last 5 years to achieve the organization’s objectives.

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An Inspiring Volunteer

The Story of Sintayehu Endale: One Woman’s Struggle to Improve her Community Mary Joy Development Association .

“I might be financially poor but I have a heart, energy and time that can reach and touch the lives of many”

For 35 year old Sintayehu Endale, her full-time occupation is improving the well being of people living with HIV/AIDS, destitute children and senior citizens living in her neighborhood.

Sintayehu, married with five children, was born in the city of Dire Dawa in 1968. She and her family live in a two-room house in the Addis Ababa neighborhood of Lomimeda, a small hilly village in Woreda 13 and home to many poor families. The majority of Lomimeda's inhabitants have constructed illegal houses, known as chereka bet without the authorization of the municipality. The neighborhood lacks infrastructure such as paved roads and water lines, the latter causing most people to use a communal water ditch as a bathroom.

Sintayehu was not fortunate enough to experience the love of a father, who died in the war while her mother was pregnant with her. Alone, her mother struggled to feed and nurture Sintayehu and her two older brothers. She moved the family to Addis Ababa when Sintayehu was less than one year old. Sintayehu's mother managed a decent living after opening a small hotel in the same house they lived in. One day the house burned down and the family's hope for survival was shattered, not to mention all their belongings turned to ashes. As a result, Sintayehu dropped out of the ninth grade and worked as a daily laborer to support her family. The challenging life experience, which essentially took her childhood away from her, ignited her compassion for people who face such challenges.

In 2000, Sintayehu got a chance to show her compassion and care for her community when Mary Joy Development Association (MJA) came to her neighborhood and offered home-based care (HBC) services for PLWHA. At that time the awareness of the community about HIV/AIDS was very low and most people were unwilling to work with such care providers, but Sintayehu always welcomed MJA staff and showed them the way to the bed-ridden patients.

Sintayehu, through MJA's Children Participation Enhancement project, funded by Save the Children Denmark in 2006, was able to explore her abilities as a volunteer and decided to dedicate her time to volunteering. Being part of the team, she won a chance to learn more about HIV/AIDS care and support, stigma and discrimination, as well as about child survival and rights.

Sintayehu become a chair person of a peer mother group called Ehitmamachoch , meaning “ Sisters Peer Mothers ” in 2007, which consists of 28 female members. The women's group organizes coffee ceremony programs at the homes of PLWHA and invites other community members to join the discussion about HIV/AIDS, stigma and discrimination, reproductive health and child rights.

“It was difficult when we started this work. When we invited the neighbors to drink coffee with us, they thought we were crazy because nobody would ever drink coffee with people living with HIV/AIDS,” she explains.

She also inspires and empowers children in her neighborhood to participate on their issues. In 2009, Sintayehu with the financial and technical support of MJA established a child-to-child club with 33 children dedicated to working on child rights and protection. The members of the club are tasked with reporting child abuse cases and supported by MJA. The club provides tutorial support, educates parents about child rights and organizes events for families in the village.

“There are cases of girls sexually abused by their father, relatives or by the individual who brought them from the rural areas. When we face such cases we report to the police and follow up the case until court,” she says.

Sintayehu always has one eye on the poor and could not ignore the needs of the elderly people in her neighborhood. In 2010 she organized both the peer mother groups and the child-to-child club members to mobilize resources for support. Today, they are a total of five elders under their care. They clean their homes, wash their clothes, prepare their food, take them to hospitals when they get sick and allow them to participate in coffee ceremonies.

At first there were people who did not accept her philanthropic foot soldiers, and many believed they were doing this for their own benefits. “Most people think that we do this because we are paid. Nobody believes we do this to help our community,” she says.

Her supportive husband has been the engine moving her towards what she believes.

“My husband always motivates me and encourages me to proceed. He is very understanding and even encourages me when I face difficulties and get fed up. My children also understand me. There are times that I left my children waiting for a meal while I was busy with community work. I have left my duties of baking injera (Ethiopian flatbread) when the children come report a case of child abuse,” she explains.

The improvements in the neighbors and the community as a whole also help her keep faith in her efforts.

“Nothing makes me happier than seeing a bed ridden HIV patient recover and start working, or see a child go to school because we convinced the family to send the child to school, or see justice served to the abuser of poor girls,” she says proudly. “I believe God wants us to fight for the needy children and those who have no support.”

Sintayehu says volunteering brings for her high levels of personal satisfaction, love, compassion, and feelings of responsibility.

“As the cost of living increases, it would be reasonable if I invested my time more in supporting my family, but the reward of volunteering is really encouraging. People in our area now understand our role and when they have difficulties they come to us. This makes me and my groups very proud.”

Sintayehu dreams to see a completely independent community where the people try their best to support each other. Her peer mother group and the child-to-child club hope to build a library in the neighborhood.

Her resilient nature, commitment and positive attitude have helped her become successful in helping other humans. In addition, Sintayehu is an example for the community at large, especially for women that want to take leadership roles in mobilizing social capital for community welfare.

This inspiring woman for her next big plan, there is no doubt that she needs the hearts, hands, pockets and minds of many volunteers.