My name is Achamyelesh Gebrewolde and I am 45 years old.
It is with great delight that I share my story of how and why I started helping out in a hospital called Yekatit 12 Hospital. The hospital has been established during the late King Haileselassie's time and has been serving the community for many years.. At the age of four, I was admitted for a first-degree burn caused by a boiling water splash accident. I was told by my parents repeatedly how lucky I was to survive such an accident that burnt most part my chest and arm. Although my parents want to put their horrible experience behind them, my
scars were a constant reminder.
Growing up, since it’s located on our way to school, I used to dream of visiting kids in the Burn Unit. However, the opportunity was never opened as I left my country at the age of 17.
Among many things, the Burn unit remained in me with my scars as a reminder.
When I and my family moved back to Ethiopia in 2007, one of the things I wanted to do on a regular basis was to give back to my community and Yekatit 12 hospital was on top my list. However, my dream was to give back to that hospital has a price I wasn’t prepared to pay. Seeing people suffer is one thing I couldn’t handle well and deep down, I was scared to carry such a burden.
As fate would have it, in September 2011, I saw a dream about the hospital which I knew it was a sign from God. It was time to face my fears and pursue my dream of taking part. I realized my pain need to be turned into purpose.
With the support of a kind friend, I started my courageous journey. For our first visit, we took items like cookies and candies to make the kids smile. And a boy I was supporting my own child accompanied us while helping us with the load.
Among other hospitals, Yekatit 12 is funded by the government to treat low-income families now. Although we had some expectations from this fact like the hospital being unclean, we had no idea what to expect from the burn unit itself and what kind of patients we will be visiting.
The burn unit is located on the second floor and has 10 rooms and each room has about 6-7 kids. To say it was an emotional experience is an understatement. It was in fact a rude awakening on how big the need is. From lack of hygiene to lack of materials to lack of enough accommodations; it was overwhelming. Our tears got the best of us and we were lost for words. There were many kids in so much pain. The first kid who struck my heart was a young boy of 12 years who had burned his right hand all the way to his stomach. He was getting his wound changed and the hospital has no pain killer to help him thru the agony. His brother was by the changing room crying waiting for him. It was such an emotional scene that left us sobbing out of breath! We protect our kids from not watching scary movies but there was a 14-year-old watching his own brother suffer.
We had to console each other to focus on the purpose of our visit and we finally asked the brother what has happened and where their parents were. To our surprise, we found out that the two brothers lived by themselves by selling homemade pastries. They get up very early in the morning before school to fry the pasties they sell for the day. On the day of the accident, while the younger brother was waiting for the oil to get hot, he fell asleep and his hand fell in the hot oil. What a touching story.
We then started going around asking everyone if we could help somehow. And everyone’s problem was different: some of them were holding on to prescriptions but had no money to buy the medicines. Some were even discharged but had no money to go home. We did everything we could that day but from then on, we made it our business to visit the unit every Sunday. We were taking food, clothing, medicine, and even sweets to cheer the kids up. It was such a rewarding experience and we looked forward to our visits. Just to see the kids smiling was all worth the effort we put into it. However, the extent of the problem was beyond our capabilities.