Over a year ago, before COVID-19 turned the world upside down, Dr. Rick's mom turned 95. When asked about birthday gifts, mom replied “I don’t need anything. But I want to raise money for a patient.”
Rick chose Kofera. Kofera came from a small area in Ethiopia called Konso. She was sent to FOCOS Hospital in Ghana for traction and surgery because of sever spinal curvature.. Kofera had successful surgery, and got 4 rods and 15 screws implanted to stretch and fix her spine.
However, Kofera also has bilateral retinal detachments. In fact, Kofera is nearly blind. This problem is far outside the scope of Dr. Rick's spine program. Dr. Rick contacted Making the Grade to see if we would partner with him in sending Kofera. Rick's mom put out the word, and her supporters donated well over $7000. Then Covid hit, and put the plans on hold for over a year.
Today, April 4, 2021, Rick's son Dejene and Kofera are flying to the renowned LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, India for evaluation and surgery. Dejene will serve as guide and translator.
Several weeks ago, Dr. Gullapalli N Rao, the institute’s founder, was awarded the Greenberg Prize for Outstanding Achievement to End Blindness. Kofera is in the best of hands.
Thank you Betts for giving sight to the blind!
Thank You Betts!
Aschalew manages our project at the LIgaba Bayene Primary School and those that
have proceeded to high school by supporting these students with natural supports and
mentorship . Aschalew just announced that he is getting married November 28! A big
congratulations! We are so happy for him. Aschalew writes-My current project with
Making the Grade is supporting visually impaired students in Ligaba Beyene primary
school that are from a poor families. Making the Grade has helped me by paying my
undergraduate cost charing payment so I could attend graduate school where I received
my Master’s Degree in Aquatic Engineering. They also clothed me and encouraged me
to move forward in my life. I have accomplished things in my area by participating in
designing offices, meeting halls, culvert and road design from pre-planning to
completion of these projects. I am now working as a custodian at the Ligaba Beyene
primary school in Soddo, Wolaita and as a volunteer for Making the Grade.
My hope for the future is that we can develop strong communities who can understand
the need for sustainable support for visually impaired students. The students at my
school are from rural areas and have nobody who honestly cares about them. They are
not attending class regularly and go to street to beg. My hope is that we can minimize
students from going to streets.
Congratulations to Aschalew and Dibora on their new son, Nathan Aschalew! We are
glad to say that the entire family is doing well.
[translation] The Ethiopian government thanks MTG for our work in Lalibela.
The date is recorded in Ethiopian calendar years and translates to
the year 2015 in the Western calendar.
This award thanks MTG for your kind work towards children in making their lives better through
education, food, clothing and housing.
MTG partnered with MCN BUILD to build the Shum Shiha school and library in Lalibela Ethiopia. Whereas MTG had a very small role, we are thrilled that the representatives of MCN Build put their time and energy into nearing completion of this project. MTG was able to provide computers for this school as well as financial support. We are very excited to announce that the building is almost completed thanks to the hard work of MCN Build and a fantastic team of local construction workers. ((update: Building was completed in 2016)
Everyone loves a success story; This one begins with a chance meeting, involves life-saving surgery, and ends with a wedding. No, it’s not the plot to a movie — it’s the real story of what can happen when organizations work together to help people in need.
In Ethiopia, Hanan was a 13-year old orphan with a fatal heart condition. Surgery could save her, but money for travel and surgery was well beyond anything she or her family could muster. Over seven thousand miles away, Shelly Dollar was gathering supplies to ship to Ethiopia to support Making the Grade’s student houses. There she happened to meet Hirwet a Goodwill tralier, who told her about her cousin Hanan.
Making the Grade reached out to Dr. Rick Hodes, and together with the JDC Hanan’s story ends with a smiles all around, including her own.
But what about the wedding that ends the story? In a true example of “coming full circle”, Hirwet — the woman Shelly met gathering supplies to send to Ethiopia — is getting married this (2014) December, in Ethiopia. And is bringing supplies for Making the Grade with her.
Azmera was born in a small village near Gondar and comes from a family of five. Her parents made their daily living by farming. When Asmera was young, she started having pain in her back- she was not able to play and enjoy her childhood like her friends. Azmera’s father took her to different doctors and hospitals, but no one could figure out what was wrong with her. With each visit, they were told there was nothing that could be done.
Azmera’s pain and weakness increased, and reached a point where she was unable to walk, instead she crawled on her arms and knees. Her father lost all hope. Neighbors advised her dad to bring her to the teaching hospital in Gondar. The doctors there started her on TB medication. Her strength improved, and she regained the ability to walk upright. However, the doctors were not able to do anything about the huge V-shaped deformity in her back.
We recently interviewed Azmera. Let me allow Azmera to take over, in her own words:
My father decided to abandon me in the hospital. Being related to me stigmatized him – my case was rare and very uncommon. I lived in the hospital for three years. All the doctors and nurses were so friendly and loving. We all waited for my father to come and take me home, but he never showed up. In the hospital, I assisted the nurses and carefully watched them work. I pushed their tray containing bandages, cotton balls and alcohol when they did rounds.
Someone came up to me one day and said, “I know someone who can help you with your back.” He took my address. To be honest, being able to walk upright now was the greatest gift. I never even considered I had an option of having my back operated on. The guy that I met told me that he would introduce me to Dr. Rick, and that he would help me.
After some weeks, Dr. Rick came to the hospital and visited me. He spoke with the head of the hospital and told him that he wanted to cover all my medical costs and get me treated. However, they rejected his request, because they didn’t want to take the risk if my father was to come back and ask for me. After many tries, they allowed him to get me treated. Dr. Rick flew me to Addis Ababa and I stayed at Mother Teresa’s Home for Sick and Dying Destitutes for a year while processing my travel to get my surgery.
I flew to Ghana with 5 other patients in November, 2006 through the JDC Spine Program. Dr. Boachie and his team at FOCOS did an all-day operation at Korle-Bu HospitalAfter I got back from Ghana, Dr. Rick introduced me to Shelly Dollar who runs Making the Grade. I call her “mom” because she is like a mother to me. I moved to her house in Addis Ababa 8 years ago, and I am still living there. She has played a great role forming the person I am today. She took me in, fed me and helped me a lot with my education. She got me to private school and after I was done with high school, she counseled and guided me through college and helped me into pursuing my dreams of becoming a nurse. I call myself lucky to have her in my life. I truly consider Dr. Rick as an angel sent from heaven for me. I thought life would be just existing in the hospital, until I could maybe become a housemaid. After years of hard work and effort, I have my life back. I have made my true dream- to become a health practitioner, come true. I am now a nurse in one of the biggest, most respected hospitals in Addis, Ababa. If anyone told me 11 years ago that I would be here today, I wouldn’t have believed it. My life is so much better, I can never forget all the people who helped me get here.
The Baby and the Heart
Chrstuyan (Christian) was a 7 month old baby girl in Ethiopia with Down syndrome and a hole in her heart. She needed heart surgery immediately and her family needed help to save her life.
Helen Wolday was a 37-year old pharmacist in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Originally from Ethiopia, she had lived in America for many years.
Several weeks ago, Helen had a dream. It was highly vivid, “There was no need to connect the dots,” she said, “Really,” she explained, “it was more than a dream - it was a vision.”
“Here is my story” she told Dr. Rick Hodes., a US trained doctor living and helping medical patients in Ethiopia. “There is a well-known actress in Ethiopia named Meseret. In my dream, Meseret came to me. She said ‘there is a baby with a heart problem. And YOU can save her.’
I replied: “I’m a pharmacist, not a heart surgeon. There is nothing I can do.”
Meseret answered: “No, YOU can save her.”
“In my dream, she brought me the baby. I took her to a doctor. Standing up, just in front of me, the doctor was operating on the baby. Then the baby got up and sat down on the bed. And Meseret said to me ‘Oh my God, you saved this baby.’
“I replied: ‘It wasn’t me, the surgeon saved the baby.’”
“Meseret replied ‘But if you were not there, the baby would not be alive.’”
“I picked up the baby with great love. And then I woke up.”
Helen says, “I knew one thing –I needed to find Meseret in Ethiopia. This had never happened to me before. I know a person who knows her; she works with my brother. I contacted my brother and got her phone number. I phoned Meseret from America. I said, 'I don’t know why, but I need to phone and tell you this.’ I told her the whole story. “
Meseret was astounded.
Meseret had her own story: A few days before, she was leaving an event. A mother showed up and was crying. She asked me to sit with her. We sat, the mom was crying, and her baby was crying. The mother said, ‘My child has a serious heart problem. It cannot be helped in Ethiopia. She needs to go abroad. There is nobody to help.’”
Meseret explained: “The mom could not give me specific information. She only knew the child was sick. She did not mention that the baby had Down syndrome.”
Meseret gave Helen the phone number of the mom, and sent a photo of the baby..
“I phoned and told them all: ‘Clearly, God wants me to do something, so let me know what I can do.’ I felt like I got an order from God. I don’t have a lot of money. I had never had a vivid dream,
I am a spiritual person and knew this was a real message from above. They did not know what to think.”
Helen promised, “I will get the surgery done."
Helen spoke with the mom of the baby. The next day she got a call from Atlanta, from Dr. Merid, a friend of her cousin. Dr. Merid is one of the presidents of Making the Grade: Hope for African Youth and she and her co-president, Shelly, planned to sponsor this life saving surgery through their non profit.
After consulting with Dr. Rick Hodes, Making the Grade chose AIMS Amrita Hospital in Cochin, southwest India- a hospital we used before for a similar patient.
Dr. Rick related, “there is something very unique about Down syndrome. People with Down syndrome might be thought of as angels in disguise. A great rabbi, the Chazon Ish, would stand in respect when he saw a person with Down syndrome. He believed that people with Down syndrome had souls of holy people. They came to earth in this form so their soul could have a minor correction, and they would not sin.
Making the Grade had started social media fundraising and raised $3500,. They needed $6500 more and Helen said “You have it, from me.”
Shelly’s team communicated with AIMS Amrita Hospital. Two days later, they went to the Indian Embassy in Addis Ababa and got their visa. A couple of weeks ago, in the middle of the Indian COVID pandemic, they flew off to India.
The baby had successful surgery.
Helen concluded: “I am beyond blessed that God chose me to be part of her journey.”
All of us who were part of this are amazed and humbled.
Our thanks to the Almighty, the ultimate orchestra conductor, and to numerous important players, including Shelly Dollar, Dr. Obsinet Merid, Kaleab Tadesse - Rick’s assistant, Alemayew Meskele - the baby’s cousin, Making The Grade-Hope for African Youth in Atlanta, Chosen Generation in Ethiopia, Dr Krishna Kumar and his fine team at Amrita Institute of Medical Science in Cochin. A great nursing student named Rabbi took leave from nursing school to travel to India and translate. Helen is now on the advisory board of Making the Grade!