Local nurse, area students lend a helping hand in Homacho

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The children of Homacho are educated in crowded classrooms with no books, electricity, or running water, but they learn three languages, sing and laugh freely, and often care for their younger siblings. (Photo submitted)

By Molly Moser

According to the World Health organization, 60 women and girls die during childbirth every single day in Ethiopia. A group of local Confirmation students were called to action for these women, packing 120 birthing kits for mothers in Homacho, Ethiopia.

“Service is one of the big components of getting confirmed,” said confirmation teacher Sue Bahls. She made contact with RN Mary Eulberg, who was scheduled to spend 17 days in Homacho in late May. Twenty-two freshmen and sophomores from St. Joseph in Garnavillo, Immaculate Conception in North Buena Vista, and St. Mary in Guttenberg assembled packages of drop cloths, gloves, scissors, iodine swabs, neonatal eye ointment and swaddle blankets to send along.

“I don’t think they were aware of what conditions are and how hard it is giving birth for people in third world countries,” said Bahls. “I think it made them aware of the basic things we need, and that those people don’t have them.”

The kits traveled to Homacho with members of the Friends of Homacho on a medical mission trip focusing on pregnant women and childbirth. Eulberg, a Guttenberg resident, took her first mission trip with the group. 

“I became involved with Friends of Homacho several years ago through my sister, Pat Kolker. At our family Christmas she suggested we use the proceeds from our Christmas auction to help bring water to the village of Homacho,” Eulberg explained. “Our family was in favor of the benefit because 100 percent of donations go directly to help the people of Homacho.”

Medical care in Homacho is a challenge because of the lack of supplies, water and electricity. “Most people are unable to get to the larger medical centers to be properly diagnosed and treated. The government does provide free immunization and treatment for such diseases as AIDS and Leprosy, but the people need to be able to get to the medical center,” Eulberg told The Press. “The village of Homacho has 150 births a month, and of those only 60 mothers go to the medical center to have their babies.”

Though the focus of the mission was medical, Eulberg and others also oversaw an increase in water supply to other areas and construction of concrete floors for nine classrooms. They provided a variety of vegetable seeds for farmers to enhance food variety, and delivered 26 suitcases of much-needed shoes and clothing.

“There were many experiences during my journey that impressed me. Mostly, what a wonder group of people they are,” said Eulberg. “The children are grateful and eager to learn. They have so little. The clothes on their back and (if they’re lucky) the shoes on their feet are their only possessions. They learn in crowed dark classrooms on stick benches with a teacher at the blackboard – no books, paper or pencils, no electricity, water or bathrooms. No lunch program, and many had no breakfast. Besides learning in their local dialect, they learn Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, and English. The children sing and laugh freely with so little. They are often seen caring for younger siblings.”

The birthing kits assembled by Confirmation students will be used by midwives to provide a cleaner birthing experience. Eulberg plans to return to the Confirmation students in the fall to tell them about her experience and show photos of how the birthing kits have been put to use.

For more information about the Friends of Homacho, visit www.friendsofhomacho.org or call 563-580-8547.

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