ethiopia + podoconiosis

a trip to wolaita zone, soddo

to the country of ethiopia to taste, see and embrace the beauty, suffering and simple love of the ethiopian people and thier countryside.

In the spring of march two-thousand and ten gavin studer traveled


addis ababa

upon arrival I stayed at addis kadan, a cordial baptist guesthouse in addis ababa. this is where I met alayu as well as jeff and chris who I would be traveling butajira with for the next 6 days.
hosaena route [9]



shasamane route
areka (clinic site)

boditi + shanto (clinic sites)

20mi 20km


the next day we drove the 4 hours south to soddo, stopping only in butajira for lunch. 8 days in the field...

day 1 - arba minch

setting out at five in the morning in a special darkness, a void without electricity we picked up Mebrat on our way south to the town of arba minch. The drive was stunning after first light the sun rose over a glimmering lake abaya. my first african sunrise! It was a small village along the way that was our first & main destination. we were to attend our first african christian church service, pastor Zewdie was going to preach.

what seemed to be a youth choir, amazing voices

typical street scenes

for lunch we had coffee and tea in a beautiful shaded courtyard in the city of arba minch. finishing our machiatto’s continued on to the crocodile farm where along the way we encountered a wild boar bathing in the muddy road and a couple of baboons (one was a baby porched on a fence, so cute!) leaving the farm I was stopped by a group of teenagers who wanted to all take pictures with me! It was funny to have guys pushing girls out of the way to pose with me.

So today’s journey was totally epic, sitting in the front seat of the landcruiser with the window down and my head sticking out to soak in the clouds, the huts, and the lake as they rolled by. our first day trip blew my world to shreds! An african church service with singing, dancing and even wailing! innumerable children gathered around to see the for-rengies! As we pulled away from the village, getting to know the people I was to spend the coming week with was so amazing!

areka gununo

boditi + shanto



day 2 - gununo & widows

gasuba goya

the morning brought us to the current mossy foot headquarters to see shoemaking & barber training. After playing with Hode (Hoe-day), a young boy who’s mother works as a shoemaker we were off to Zewdie’s presentation to about 40 church leaders about mossy foot and the very villagers it afflicts near to them. we handed out suckers to children and men as we headed to the clinic. there is a need for a enhanced presentation (video?) in amharic that would be shown about the work mossy foot project does and their current needs, which could be addressed by local ethiopian churches. also, a battery operated projector would be of immense help (cutting out the 100 pound generator for electricity)

a row of beautiful homes in the village of gununo

Gununo is fabulous, green pastures and huts ranging in all different shapes and sizes with corrugated gable roofs and even some with front porches! Later in the day we met up with a gospel agent who would be showing us to the rural areas where widows needed house renovations, or new housing all together. These decrepit houses needed rebuilding for around $250 dollars (for the typical grasshut and mud). It was within these rural plots that the leaning homes of the abandon women and widows were found.

there are currently 12 shoemakers and 3 sewing machies which produce about 400 shoes a month.

gununo clinic

potters village on the way to a widow’s hut

day 3 - gasuba presentation & home-cooked dinner

the people here in Ethiopia are so friendly & inviting! Zewdie gave another presentation here in the tree-lined village of gasuba. afterwards I stumbled upon a primary school and decided to go hang out with the bunch of kids that were following me anyways. we then headed back to soddo to go to Zewdie’s house for dinner. we took a bajaj there and back which was fun and pretty comedic to have 3 of us tall americans stuffed into the back seats of one of these tiny things. the food was great! I love eating popcorn with my un-filtered coffeeSharon arrived at his house on a motorcycle with kebede, a young Ethiopian nurse in training at Soddo Christian hospital, we met and immediately made plans to hang out this coming weekend.


loading shoes for clinic distribution

tree-lined streets

inside of a bajaj

dinner at pastor zewdies

day 4 - goya & coffee ceremony

this morning at the headquarters I met the new employee, Daniel. he just so happens to be good friends with Kebede (small town I guess). I showed some of the staff who had extra time on their hands how to play hacky sack (they all got it immediately). after seeing the young boy Alameyu (a teen who suffered a bad bone infection and gash in his leg, who’s sister Abanesh is a mossy foot patient) I asked if he had a jacket since he looked cold, he said no so I gave him my sweatshirt. after seeing the hairdressing vocational training, we traveled headed out to two clinic sites. mossy foot project has served over 150,000 patients - many of which recover and become vocationally trained. they then go back to thier home villages and help take care of others as well as guide them to clinic sites.

a patient sucking his candy

Jeff and I (Christ stayed at home to prepare his sermon) shook all of the patients hands (most have been outcast from their villages or shunned because of their foot condition) so it was great to see them light up. We also passed dum-dums, this brought an even more anxious/excited look to their faces! To break the silence and bring laughs Jeff would take pictures of the patients and then show them their own pictures, almost every time they would laugh and show their friends sitting next to them. The last of the candy went to health workers and children gathered outside the building.

There was a very sad story at this clinic in Goya, a young woman of 17 named Kedebush had a pretty bad case of ongoing mossy foot. This beautiful girl was alone, an orphan of parents who had passed away. She collected wood from the lowlands for survival, burning to and selling it at charcoal in the soddo market, that’s about 30km of walking a day just to sustain herself! This was an incredible injustice. When we arrived back into town Mebrat had a coffee ceremony waiting for us, it was some strong/good coffee! and popcorn on the side.

a widow with her 3-year old

day 5 - shanto + boditi clinics

it was great to see all of the staff at morning chapel this morning, I had a chance to thank them for my time here and share my thoughts on how the mossy foot project is doing amazing work. The group of people assembled in the room with me created a great family that has the ability to reach so many people here in Ethiopia. I told them I would keep them all in my prayers, that it had been my honor and pleasure meeting and getting to know even just some of them. This morning I got a kiss on the hand from Abanesh and Alameyu who I had given my sweatshirt to the day before (not to mention a few kisses on the hand from patients at clinics)

a man badly affected by mossy foot began to wash his own feet in the ditch next to the shanto clinic

It seems that everywhere we go there is at least one young boy around the age of 6 to 9 who sticks to me like I was going to take him home

botiti clinic
After two health clinic sites, we visited a mossy foot patient who had recovered and started her own hairdressing shop in a nearby village. It is beginning to be very saddening to see so many Ethiopian people along the roads we travel who hold their hands out for food and money, gesturing their hands from their stomachs to their mouths. It is hard to sit back and just watch.

day 6 - terepeza & the building site

we walked around the terepeza (meaning table) church compound today with a few ethiopian friends that we had met up with at breakfast. they also took us to the building site so we could take some crude measurements. after lunch we visited the site for a second time with Gary. this time (since we were all white) kids started gathering from surrounding houses and farms to watch us walk around the site. It would be of great assistance if there were an American correspondent/building supervisor here to oversee all operations full-time. Gary seriously hinted to me that It would be great if someone young like me could be down here in Soddo keeping everything running smoothly, that would be amazing I said!

the first Mossy Foot Project office, on the Kale Hewot Compound

current Mossy Foot Project staff

the west end of the site, looking west across soddo

the mossy foot project has raised over $30,000 to begin construction of thier permanent headquarters overlooking soddo. They will be looking to raise over $100,000 more dollars to over the next few years.

day 7 - soddo town

it was foggy and rainy (for the first time since I had arrived) so Kebede and I cancelled our plans hike Mt. Damota. instead we visited the local museum and tried on traditional dress, took a mini-bus to wolaita soddo university where I met Ulrich Klocke, we also walked through the local stadium (watched some soccer and volleyball). finally, we visited some doctors that are living on the Soddo Christian Hospital compound and the sterilization room where Kebede works.

mt. damota

tona complex hotel market public school private school bus stop current headquarters power station


soddo hospital

wolaita soddo university

building site

.6mi 1km

north soddo towards mt. damota

south soddo towards lake abaya

at the market I purchased some gifts, afterwards I met up with Jim and Sharon for lunch at Dawit’s, yet another local Ethiopians home. the food here is so tasty! gotta love the coffee and popcorn for desert!

cobblestone program with GTZ & UCBP

day 8 - bolsa onca church

Daniel came to pick Sharon, Zebewos and I at the hotel in a larger than normal bajaj. we were headed to church in Otona (up the hill to the east near terepeza), the 3 hour service was filled with a very expressive pastor, beautiful song, kneeling prayer and even dancing by an older man down the center of the church! after church we met Ababich who was Sharon’s father’s housekeeper, we walked a bit, had lunch at Bobete’s (Bob-Bi-Tey’s) house, walked past the place where Sharon grew up and finally down the hill and back into town via dirt roads. I plopped down on the steps in front of the hotel with a sprite and people watched the people staring at me while I rested.

bobete’s kitchen

bobete’s living room & dining room

Later on in the night I asked Hasabu, a good friend of Kebede’s if he could show me how to ride a motorcycle, so he called up a friend and we jumped on one and made our way to the stadium. it was a wonderful last night in Soddo, riding around the dirt track as lightning flashed in the distance while my new friends cheered me on. I will miss this place! So much life & growth and love here, I have made an extended family in Southern Ethiopia! ... on the way out of Ethiopia we stopped by both the SIM (Serving in Missions)and IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities) headquarters to meet with friends, relax and just exhale.

interesting things

if children were thought to have an eye infection they would heat up the tip of a stick and burn the flesh of the temple of the affected eye it is rude to point, but seemingly okay to snap for service the red soil sparkles as if it has glitter in it (it is actually the volcanic silica) “esprice” means half tea + half coffee soda is delievered in crates to homes and returned for recycling

end words

after covering my own travel funds, $150 was raised in addition for The Mossy Foot Project, that is huge, I can truly say they are thankful! and ofcourse there is still a huge amount of outreach that needs to be fulfilled in the coming years in Ethiopia, some of which I have stated in the previous pages. I would also ask that you please pray for the 5 new clinic sites this year that will be built for mossy foot patients in rural areas. a huge thank you, God bless (and hug next time I see you) to all who have supported me and continue to in thier prayers! I have been incredibly grateful for everything the Lord has blessed me with. Including you!

people index

jim & sharon daly founders and directors of The Mossy Foot Project USA alayu supervisor of the baptist guesthouse in addis ababa, also a pastor jeff & chris pastors from Koinonia Christian Fellowship Church in Hanford, California gail davey a british researcher who has been studing podoconiosis in Ethiopia mebrat the mossy foot project hostess, and a great person to be around! hailye & dawit our drivers during our stay meskele zewdie pastor at the mossy foot project bobete a friend of Sharon’s kebede works in the sterelization room at soddo christian hospital, he wants to be a nurse ulrich klocke of gtz, project architect & manager over Woilaita Soddo University daniel planning officer and computer tech at the mossy foot project hasabu a sugeon’s nurse, and a good friend of kebede’s

gavin alfred studer 480.251.8590

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