Maya's Trip to Ethiopia, Part I: Finding My Way to the Famine Victims

By: Maya Haile

As many of you know, I just recently returned from my charity trip to Ethiopia. The main goal for my trip was to distribute relief to the numerous famine victims affected by the worst drought that has hit Africa in more than 60 years. With the collected funds from Marcus' and my Brunch for the Horn, I traveled back to my homeland and with the help of kind Ethiopia people, I was able to pass out our donations in the form of much-needed food. It was good trip, although a bit risky since Marcus wasn't with me. But at the same time I had a lot of good energy with me from all of your support and the support of our staff and I took the good energy with me to Africa.

I had an amazing experience during my trip. I started here and took American Airlines to London and from London I took Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. The trip was long and a little nerve-wrecking. I had a goal, the donation money, and an idea but I definitely needed guidance to ensure our help reached the most affected in the region.

Ethiopia gladly welcomed me with open arms and good people and friends helped me and showed me where to go to help the famine victims. My guides showed me on a map which regions were controlled by the Ethiopian government and were safe to travel in to reach those affected by the drought; other regions were not welcoming of outsiders or were being controlled by rebel groups and those areas were to be avoided. We followed those guidelines and registered with the Ethiopian government so we got permission to go to these certain areas.

From Addis, we went to Jijiga which is near the border of Somalia, and a two-hour flight from Addis. When we arrived at Jijiga, we bought the food and supplies that we were going to donate, such as rice, corn, and lentils. We took all of those materials and then drove 3 hours closer to the Somali border to the village of Togojalya. This area is considered "Somali land," where they speak only Somali but it is within the Ethiopian border; they are basically the good neighbors of Ethiopia, but needed help in order to survive so they crossed over into Ethiopia from Somalia.

Everyone I met in Togojalya was amazing. They are all very rich mentally but they very poor materially and work very hard to survive each and every day. They are poor of the basic things we use everyday like water, food, and establishments like clinics and schools. They do get occasional clothes from the help of UNICEF. But even the help they get is not steady; even along our journey we had to ask as we traveled how we could reach this area and people directed us where to go and that is how it is for all visitors and aid trying to find its way to them. They mentioned to me that UNICEF is the main organization that is helping them at the moment, which I was thrilled to see since they are one of the nonprofits that Marcus and I support the most as well.

Stay tuned to Part II of my journey for more details on how I helped the famine victims in the Horn of Africa.  In Part II, I will discuss our donations to the people of Togojalya and my interaction with them.

Photos: Abraham Wolde of Balageru Records

A big thank you goes out to all of those that helped me in my journey, including the photographer and videographer Abraham Wolde, and all others who helped me bring aid to the most affected in Ethiopia. Thank you!

To continue reading about Maya's journey to Ethiopia, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)