Meet Dessie. His real name is Desalegn Birhanie. He is in his early 20’s and his home town is Gondar, Ethiopia. I met Dessie in October of 2012. I flew to Gondar to visit a young girl named Adiss. Adiss and I had meet the year before when I was visiting the city of Gondar as a Rotarian. We were there to participate in a NID. NID stands for National Immunization Day. We were walking hut to hut in the remote villages and administering drops of polio vaccine to help eradicate this terrible disease. I met Adiss on the day I was leaving Gondar and heading back to the capital city, Addis Ababa. She was helpful as we looked for a shop or two to buy some souvenirs for loved ones before departing this beautiful city. I started communicating with her once I returned to the US. I learned that she misses school many times to sell gum and candy on the street to help her family survive. Her father is a wounded soldier and receives a $9 US stipend from the Ethiopian government. Their family cannot survive on $9 per month, so Adiss sells on the street and misses a valuable education on many occasions.
I quickly worked a deal with her. I would pay her NOT to work so that she could stay in school full time and get her education. She also wanted to attend a private school, so my family and I agreed that we would support her in that choice. For about $30 per month Adiss attends a private school AND she does not miss school to supplement her father’s measly wage from the government. She has been attending school AND getting medical help for 2 school years now! She is doing great. It’s such joy to communicate with her and learn how well she is doing and how much improvement has been made since being able to attend full time.
Adiss is how I met Dessie.
Dessie looked after Adiss and Adem (and others) on the street. He worked at an internet cafe and kept a close eye on them to make sure nothing bad happened to them. When I arranged to visit Adiss and her family and bring them some items from America, Dessie was there to help us with that meeting. His English is wonderful and Adiss’ is still developing. We shared a soda and then visited Adiss’ home where I met her mom, auntie, two sisters and little brother. Dessie interpreted for me the whole time. We then went back to my hotel and I had Dessie and Adiss as my guest for dinner. That night we walked about the beautiful city of Gondar and Dessie even allowed me to see his home.
This is where I really learned about who Dessie is. His father died when he was 3 or 4 years old. His mother cared for him and his brother until she died. Dessie was about 7 or 8 at that time. He was then homeless. That’s the reason he looks after Adiss when she was selling on the street. He knows the dangers. He was taken in by a man who treated him like a son. But, after a little while, that man died in a trucking accident. Again Dessie was on the street. He was helped by a Christian organization. Here he learned about God and was given some food and guidance. He continued to attend school and held a job after school so he could care for himself. His grades were high enough that he was granted admittance into University. In Ethiopia, if your grades are good enough, your University is paid for and then when you graduate and start working, you repay it. He tested high in the field of Chemistry. He didn’t like that field, but that’s where he tested well in, and that’s where he received his degree. He went to work for a factory in the capital city of Addiss. But he soon had such health concerns (bloody nose and such), that the doctor told him that if it continued to work in the conditions he was working in, it would kill him. He quit that job and went back to Gondar. He was a tour guide and although I never had the opportunity to go on one of his tours, I know he is one of the best.
Everywhere we walked, Dessie brightened the street. Many knew him and smiled as we passed by them. When he showed me his humble home, I learned even more about this incredible man. As we approached this small 1 room home, Dessie went in first. A man came out and then Adiss and I went in to visit. I asked Dessie if that man was his roommate. He replied, “No, he his homeless. I figure that if I have a roof over my head and room to sleep, that I don’t care if we sleep 5 or 6 in here.” That’s the kind of man he is! Kindhearted and full of compassion for others. Dessie’s home was very humble. 4 walls, about 10 feet by 10 feet and a room. 2 small twin thin mattresses covered part of the floor and a tarp was on one of the walls because when it rained (Ethiopia has a rainy season), the was was collapsing. So the tarp was there to help prevent them from getting wet. Later Dessie told me that his home did collapse, but that’s a story for another time…
I need to cut to the chase!
Dessie has been diagnosed with Acute Leukemia and he needs our help. Currently he is in Bangkok, Thailand and has undergone his first round of chemotherapy. A kind and generous sponsor paid for that and a dear friend of mine paid for his airfare to get him there. It was a very LONG and difficult process getting him the necessary visas, paperwork and funding to travel to Bangkok. He is responding very well to the treatment. But the kind and generous sponsor who paid for his beginning treatment is unable to continue funding Dessie. If we don’t find another source (or multiple sources), Dessie will be forced to return to Ethiopia where there are not equipped to treat this terrible disease. That’s the reason for my blog. Never done a blog or been interested in learning about writing a blog before, but my friend needs help. I will set up an account that people can contribute to. Even small amounts will help, but think about who you can share this information with who might be willing to contribute. I have much more of Dessie’s story to tell, but in interest of time, I want to start with this. Please help me spread the word! I’m open to speaking to groups in support of help, helping with fundraisers, and any additional ideas you may have. Please pray for Dessie. Pray that he continues to get better. Pray that the funds will be raised so that he can stay in Bangkok and receive the additional treatments necessary for him to survive. God has BIG plans for this young man. Right now we need your help. Please donate, whatever you can, and I promise that is will go to the treatment of Desalegn Birhanie – to my friend Dessie. And one day you will realize how lucky the world is to have someone like Dessie still in it – helping others. Thank you for reading!