Ethiopia 2007 

As an informal group of friends with different backgrounds, but with the common aim of attempting to leave the world in a slightly better state than how we found it, we headed for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to spend just over a month with the sisters of Mother Teresa.

In the heart of African urban life the sisters run a huge complex which houses a bustling community of men, women and children, some with health problems and others who are simply homeless or orphaned. Most of these people hail from some of the poorest parts of rural Africa descending on the city in the hope of finding a way to make a living. Only a few are successful in this, many of the rest suffering the consequences of a primitive infrastructure and a non-existent welfare state in terms of  lack of access to shelter and medical care, with only the lucky ones ending up forming the long daily queues outside the sisters’ complex.


The doctors amongst us were soon overwhelmed with work in the wards of TB and HIV patients who besides medical help certainly craved some care and attention and possibly someone to listen to their story. Inspired by the sisters’ example, we also got busy improving the general living conditions of the members of this community, washing patients, giving haircuts and organising some fun and games for the children. 

We felt a particular bond with a group of kids living with cerebral palsy. The lack of resources in the complex meant that these children spent most of their time lying in old cots, only enjoying a few hours of respite a day while being wheeled around in oversized inadequate wheelchairs. We therefore decided that a good part of the funds we raised through a car wash and an art exhibition would go towards funding a number of mobile chairs to be custom built by an international prosthetics factory located in Addis Ababa. This was a great example of how close contact with the local people helps one identify and tackle effectively their greatest and most pressing need and thus maximise the benefit obtained from the charitable donations collected.

Even when visiting other areas of Ethiopia we experienced a truly rich and diverse culture and a country of unique unspoiled beauty. Though the most memorable part of this experience will remain the heart-warming smiles of the children we worked with, these were simply one example of the immense gratitude expressed by all we met in Addis. Hence, we left knowing that we gained so much more than we gave during our time there.