Diaspora Ethiopian Student Union brings aid to Africa

The organization works to complete their Ethiopian Rural Hospital Iniative
By Danaite Soquar 
Mar 16 2014

The Cavalier Daily

The Ethiopian Student Union has held various fundraisers to raise money for a phototherapy device, which they plan to donate to an Ethiopian hospital through their Ethiopian Rural Hospital Initiative.

After most students set off for Spring Break March 7, members of the Ethiopian Student Union stayed behind in Charlottesville to raise money for the Ethiopian Rural Hospital Initiative.

ESU is a cultural and service-oriented student group which aims to bring attention to health disparities in rural regions of Ethiopia and other developing nations.

“I think there is a definite shortage of health care and a great need to improve the access of care for many rural communities in Ethiopia,” second-year College student Jerusalem Mekonnen said. “Continued support is vital for progress concerning the issue.”

For their initiative, ESU executive members researched rural regions in Ethiopia and contacted prospective hospitals to form a partnership. Hiwot Fana Specialized University Hospital in the Harar region responded eagerly to ESU’s interest in purchasing a phototherapy unit for the hospital.

The initiative extends beyond the University community, partnering in their efforts with the chapter at Virginia Commonwealth University.

ESU President Dawit Ayalew, a fourth-year College student, stressed the importance of accomplishing more than just monetary goals.

“With this project, we aimed to not only raise money for a medical device but also solidarity, and [we wanted to] bring a global perspective [on] issues that pertain to health care to the larger University community,” Ayalew said.

Ethiopian Student Union plans to use the money from several fundraising events to fund a Draeger Photo-Therapy 4000 device to tackle neonatal jaundice, an illness developed by infants who cannot process red blood cells in their livers. The ultraviolet treatment prevents potential hearing loss, brain damage and infant mortality.

The initiative comes at a steep price — $7,300 to purchase and install. The ESU has raised roughly $3,500 in the past two years and hopes to meet their goal by the end of this academic year.

ESU has employed different strategies to raise the money — everything from selling football concessions to bar nights and co-sponsorships with other student organizations.

With graduation looming, Ayalew aims to create ensure ESU has a presence in the University for years to come.

“I hope ESU grows to become an organization that brings to light the amazing cultural diversity that exists on Grounds,” Ayalew said. “An organization — through collaborations and co-sponsorships — is able to break down cultural stigmas for a University culture that embraces cultural diversity and engagement in the discussion of social and political matters affecting our university and world alike.”

ESU Vice President Edel Tessema, a third-year College student, said ESU hopes to continue networking their mission outside Grounds and establish similar missions at other universities.

“ERHI was initially a pilot mission, so otherESUs at other schools can join,” Tessema said. “We hope it becomes a pattern other schools can catch onto.”

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