In January of 2013, the Community Presbyterian church in which the Van Puffelen family are members, voted to adopt the village of Sintaro in Ethiopia, Africa. A family friend, Mike had gone to Ethiopia and told Kindri Van Puffelen that ‘now I get it,’ having seen first hand, some of the need which she’d been addressing and learning about in Uganda for three years. He convinced Kindri to assist in the partnership with non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO): Hope Enterprises. The model for this work is entirely Ethiopian run. Hope Enterprises goes in to villages with NO resources. No government, not other organizations. No schools. And they primarily provide education and water, beginning with the launch of schools for 5-6 yr. olds and adding a new level of school for the next age bracket each year, with 50 students in each group level.
The vision is to install a well for the village, to give them clean drinking water. But Community Presbyterian sought more interaction as well. So, for Project Sintaro, the team is building a relationship with this village and creating a model that looks like family, rather than distant relative gifting from the wealthy Americans. They’re working in partnership with the village, receiving as much in learning as much as they give in resources. Says Kindri Van Puffelen, who will be leading the healthcare on the project, “We’re learning so much too. Understanding that joy doesn’t come from the resources we have. I’ve seen more joy in the poorest places than anywhere else in life. These people are literally living in the same way they did when Jesus walked here!”
Life not a whole lot different. They walk to the river to wash their clothes, bring water back to the village. They farm with donkeys. The educational effort is bringing fresh knowledge to the village, which is a huge upgrade. And the water helps with the health of the community. Most things that kill children in Ethiopia, are from the water. Having the well enormously improves the mortality rate of kids under five. We’re starting there but we’re in long term relationship with village Sintaro. But making it a partnership that teaches, educates, and helps them learn how to grow better vegetables, take care of their kids, providing micro financing for ventures that will evolve over time. So that when we step out of the picture, we’ll have enabled them to live better, improving the overall picture of life there.
People are going over now for education training. Teachers are training adults in the village to do arts and crafts and manage Vacation Bible School. Kindri will go in February with WASH – water, sanitation and hygiene instruction, in which she’ll talk with the villagers about the importance of defecating in a hole for example, versus on the ground; of wearing shoes, things we may think of as basics – the importance of washing hands even in dirty water after using the ‘bathroom.’ Statistics show that those simple things really improve the health and longevity of the village. In addition, the group hopes to train some women in the village to do some helpful outreach. The village is up in the hills over a valley and quite secluded, with no hospital, pharmacy, not a single doctor or health facility. They’ll be trying to educate citizens regarding pregnancy, and ensure that women in labor start walking to a location with help, teaching women to help others in labor, preventing problems that might ensue. They’ve already brought in the first doctors the community has ever seen. The OB-GYN, a father, conducted a powerful class with his high school-age daughter using glitter on their hands to convey how germs and bacteria are so easily conveyed from one person to another. They understood and now wash better.
In Ethiopia the national language is Amharic, a dialect of Arabic; in Sintaro they speak Sidama. Kindri and team are translated twice as they communicate these lessons and interact with the villagers: first from English to Amharic, then from Amharic to Sidama. In Uganda, a former British colony, children start learning English in the first grade.