Strong Hearts Hospice Program located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia helps people who have HIV or cancer. The program helps with managing medication, going to medical appointments, counseling, and assisting with the daily cost of living when needed. The program is run by a medical staff which includes a pharmacist and trained nurses as well as a range of volunteers with different medical backgrounds.

I am an American student taking pre-med courses who has decided to volunteer with the hospice program over the summer. These past few weeks I have had the privilege to work with this team visiting the patients in their homes, and it has been a remarkable experience.

One patient I was particularly moved to meet was Emawayish, she is 35 years old with a 7 year old daughter who she named Dasasha which she explained translates as her everything. She is widowed, and her daughter is extremely precious. Emawayish is HIV positive and has cervical cancer and is in continual pain. Her only source of income is begging as she has no other family to help. Despite that she was initially reluctant to accept money for medication, but is now being helped by Strong Hearts with medication and food for her and her daughter. I found Dasasha and Emawayish to be friendly, and she wished blessing on the team visiting her. I was touched by her courage and optimism. With the medication and food being provided the outlook for both her and her daughter looks more positive.

We are also helping 27-year-old Meaza, who was working as a housemaid before she was tragically raped, as a result of which she contracted HIV. Her parents had already passed away and when she went back to her village she was rejected. She then moved to Addis Ababa and got married, however, when her daughter was born her husband left her. She bakes as a source of income to help support herself and her daughter, and Strong Hearts are able to support her work by assisting with pain medication to help her. I felt deeply affected by visiting her and her efforts to overcome the adversities life has thrown at her, and to remain positive and keep faith to provide her and her daughter with the best life possible.

I find it amazing to see the Ethiopian team, with assistance from other volunteers, enter the peoples’ homes, spend time listening to them, working to understand them, praying with them, helping with managing their medication, and bringing pain relief as far is as possible, and food and rent when needed. I think its great that they are taking the time and effort to care about these people who could easily be forgotten and left alone in their homes with just their pain and suffering.

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