Thursday, November 17, 2011

Saturday in Addis Ababa at the feeding center

We had all decided when we went to Ethiopia that we wanted to be busy. Our group did not have a need for rest but wanted to be put to work and be busy all the time. That is exactly what we did.

Maste gave us an idea for an opportunity to serve on a Saturday...go volunteer at the Hope Enterprises feeding center in Addis. We really had no idea what we'd find when we got there other than a lot of hungry people, so we went. When we arrived we told the workers there that we were there to volunteer and they put us to work.

Above you can see Kevin beginning to fold the injera.

This was the result. They stacked plate/bowls 5 high and covered the table. At this point, I had no idea exactly why but we followed directions.

This center is open every day but Sunday, serving breakfast and lunch. (I think breakfast) People can pay 1 birr (about 5-6 cents) for a token, which they exchange for a meal. This place has things figured out perfectly and do an impressive job with organization. They feed 750 people at the site where we were (mostly to men and boys) and another 250 next door (mostly to women).

Blaine helping fold injera.

Counting to make sure there's enough.

The people are allowed in in groups of about 170 each. They get in line, hand the man their token, pick up their plate with injera, go over to the outdoor sink to wash their hands and proceed to the tables that sit under a large, covered roof. This process happens 3 times until all the people are fed and all the food is gone.

As I have said before, I will not exploit people. I don't try to be dramatic or take graphic pictures of people to shock Americans.

I do believe it is important, however to paint a picture of this day in a vivid way because it is the one and only day that I was shocked...shocked to the point where I had to take a step back, reabsorb the tears that had formed in my eyes and get back to work.

Most (I'm guessing all) of the people who visit this feeding center are homeless. There are many street kids, boys of about 10-14 years old who came through the line. They are always charming, giving you a wink. It's cute until you realize the reason they are so charming is because they know it gets them something. Cute, charming people earn more as beggars or sales people. It's for survival...and that's sad.

There were men who came through the line that I wondered how they'd be able to carry their plates, since they were walking on their hands. I'm not sure what happened to their legs...was it a birth defect or an injury? Whatever caused it, their legs were crippled and small. So they walk on their hands. Oh, their poor hands. The streets of Addis Ababa are filled with broken glass, gravel and other things you wouldn't want to walk on even with shoes. But these men have no choice. I offered to help those men but they had their own method. They either stuck the plate under their chin and carried it that way or had a friend who helped them.

A few women came through the line, one woman who stuck out to me in particular. She had a sweet baby on her back and was being led by her other daughter, a 3 or 4 year old girl. The mother was completely blind.

The one thing they all had in common was they were dirty and very hungry. It was nice that they had a place to wash their hands and they all did so eagerly.

After they took their plates of injera and sat down, Blaine, Katie, Kevin, Biruk and De went out with buckets filled with a lentil stew and a large ladle and began dishing out the "wat" or stew as it's called. I'm pretty sure Denise and I had the cleaner job as the others came back with their fronts covered with lentils!

As the first group finished their meals, they returned their plate to the counter and we were to dump whatever was left on the plate into a plastic pail on the counter and then put the plate into the blue tub to the right to be washed and readied for the next group of people coming through. When I say we dumped the remains of the plates in the bucket that's an inacurate statement. There was usually very little left or nothing on the plate so we actually hit the plate on the side of the bucket to get the plates cleaner for washing...or so I thought.

The bucket got about 1/3 of the way full of scraps. An old man walked up to the counter and opened up a little plastic shopping bag and looked at the man who was working with us. As I watched, the worker then took a plate and began mixing the scraps up. He then, using the plate as a scoop, gathered half of the 'scraps' and put it into the mans bag, which the man then tied up and walked away.

This almost did me in. I literally took a step back as my eyes filled with tears (as they are now again as I tell you this). After this man came with his bag, another did...then another. There were simply not enough scraps to go around for these people to have another meal that day.

I don't know how to hit you with this as hard as it hit me except to say...if you went to McDonald's and everyone dumped their leftovers into a bucket, then someone mixed it up and then gave it to those who wanted something for supper later...this was exactly the same thing. It seemed so dehumanizing at first but of course...these people NEED something for supper or maybe they bring it to someone who is sick. It would be MORE of a shame to waste it...I get that.

It just simply took me off guard and shocked me.

I got over it and went on but I will never, ever forget that.


It was a huge blessing to be there and get to serve that day. We all enjoyed the work and the people.

God showed us in a new way...the need is just huge.

We were told that on Saturday a sponsor pays for the entire day and 1000 people eat for free. They put the sponsors name up on the window to honor them.

And just how much does it cost to feed 1000 very hungry people the only meal they will have on Saturday?

About $60 USD. $60 to feed one thousand people!

It made me many dinners have we spent that much on ourselves or even a couple times, just on myself? Yes, we have done it.

I think I'll have to pass when I see that price next to a steak on the menu next time. I'll get the salad.


  1. I wanted to ask permission if it is ok that I post a link to your story on facebook. I really would like to share with people that it only costs $60 to feed a thousand people in Ethiopia. If you prefer that I not share it, I completely understand.

  2. Bryna...please feel free! The more help the better. It might be a nice family Christmas gift...who knows?

  3. If we wanted to know who to send the 60.00 to who would that be? What an awesome way to give, and what a HUGE impact! I will be asking you more about this as well. What an awesome opportunity, and humbling. Thank you for sharing your heart! Love you

  4. I googled hope Enterprises Ethiopia and found their website. There website wasn't super clear to me but I'm not the most computer savvy person. I'm sure there is a way to contact them on their website. Blessings and thanks for asking!

  5. Thank you thank you thank you for your words and your heart. We waste so much. We forget so much the rest of the world. Thanks for reminding me tonight.

  6. Thank you SO much for sharing this. I sponsor Compassion children, and I was just moved to tears by reading about the gathering of leftover scraps to feed other hungry people. We are SO blessed in America and so often take it all for granted. I, too, would like to be able to make a gift to this ministry---perhaps sponsor a Saturday meal as you described. Again, thank you so much for sharing this, and may God richly bless you! Only eternity will reveal the effect of what we do in this life for those less fortunate than us.