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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Ethiopia and Abbotsford: To Dream is a Privilege

With the annual Run for Water coming up in less than two months, and an Abbotsford-based UNION team having just traveled to Ethiopia’s Bonke region, consciousness of Ethiopian families at the crossroads remains high in Abbotsford, BC.

A rather remarkable relationship has formed between this first world community and the developing world districts that are notable for having the most dreadful clean water access rates around (only around 11% in Bonke when we first started our work there). Ethiopian families working with HOPE International Development Agency have the opportunity to changes things for good in their villages. The changes are so profound they amaze even our staff in Ethiopia, who are long accustomed to seeing the poor go a long way with only a little assistance - 80% drops in disease rates, children attending school rather than spending all day searching for water, women becoming leaders in their water system maintenance committees. All developments which were unimaginable before the clean water came.

The potential for transformation in Ethiopia is inspiring the people of Abbotsford. Since the Run for Water started up three years ago, a groundswell of support for clean water in Ethiopia has been growing in British Columbia’s fifth largest city. The Run for Water is a powerfully uniting event, and more than a one-day event, it’s a movement for advocacy and education. Their work in spreading knowledge of the situation of Ethiopian families is particularly prominent in Abbotsford’s school system.

An entire volunteer team was assembled from Yale Secondary School. They traveled to Bonke last month and brought back incredible stories and insights. Local media outlets have also chronicled their trip extensively - an indicator of just how much interest there is in this issue. The stories are worth reading.

Before their trip, they were featured on CTV News, and in the Abbotsford Times. Since their return, they were in the newspaper again.

In the words of one student, “I have hundreds and thousands of hopes and dreams. It is a part of life in Canada. I didn't know it was a privilege and a gift to have hopes and dreams.” These are words that cut to the quick. She is right. It is encouraging to see so many people use their capacity to dream to raise the standard of living for chronically poor families. This is exactly what Abbotsford’s relationship with Bonke district represents.

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