We zoom through Addis Ababa in the Network’s Landcruiser, built for battle with the difficult road conditions. As we sweep past the sprawling American Embassy–another foreign outpost marked by a sprawling compound secluded behind massive walls, cameras at every right angle and a small army of guards– a dizzying array of people hawking goods and pedestrians on the move signals the entrance to a densely populated neighborhood. The vehicle lurches along the fairly well paved road as we descend down a steep hill.
Eucalyptus trees line the roadside in various sizes, from youthful mini-trees to gigantic adults, reaching for the sky. The vehicle comes to a stop and we move out on foot, due to the maze-like makeup of the neighborhood streets and the difficult inclines and declines for driving. After walking a few hundred meters we approach a makeshift aluminum gate that leads inside to a house and yard.
Inside the house we find the survivor, a young man with wide eyes and a humble, yet energetic demeanor. He sits in his chair, watching an American martial arts movie that looks fit for long bus rides on Bolivian and Peruvian mountain roads. As the conversation begins between the outreach worker and the survivor, I listen and observe intently, despite my clear limitations with Amharic. As lulls in the conversation take root, I begin to ask questions, which are then translated by Mr. Amanyehun, the Communications Assistant.
The survivor lost the use of his lower body when a random shooting occurred at his high school. The bullet penetrated deeply and lodged in his spine where it remains today. The Landmine Survivors Network Ethiopia has helped him recover by providing the crucial element of peer support. Through his involvement with LSN activities, this survivor detailed the change in his life, the change in his perspective and positive energy. As he spoke of these changes, one could observe the tears in his eyes.
Despite all of this support, major medical obstacles remain as the bullet continues its slow, gradual and excruciating advance. He explains that eventually it will near his lungs and impede his breathing, complicating his health even more. A surgical operation followed by medicine could change everything and reverse his disability, but this could only be performed in South Africa or the United States and Europe. Most embassies do not facilitate medical visas for the average Ethiopian citizen, even if they could come up with the large amount of financial capital needed for such operations. In the meantime this survivor will continue to take advantage of the LSN network and grow towards the ultimate goal, to become an advocate and a leader in his own community, to know his disability rights and press for more.
Clearly, the survivor field visits are one of the most essential elements of the Network’s programs and more of these stories will be posted in the future. Until then,
Salem from Addis Ababa….
Posted By Lucas Wolf
Posted Jul 9th, 2008