ATLANTA — It was five years ago at Christmastime that one of the most remarkable Help Desk stories 11Alive News has ever done came to a dramatic ending. Atlanta resident Sebri Omer built a hospital in his hometown of Harar, Ethiopia, but he needed an ambulance. After a lot of work we found him one, and you won’t believe how we got it over there.
We wanted to update you on the story because much has changed. And the monumental effort of the Atlanta community to help Sebri continues. This past fall, 11Alive photojournalist Stephen Boissy traveled with Sebri to get this story. It’s the story of how hope can overcome any obstacle and make for the perfect Christmas miracle.
Harar, Ethiopia is a place with really only two kinds of people. Those who make $1, maybe $2…and those with nothing at all. There’s no safety net.
But they’re also a proud people with a rich culture and history dating back thousands of years. And they look out for each other. Maybe the best example of that is Sebri Omer. In 2004 he opened the 53 bed Yemage Medical Center. Yemage means hope, a perfect name for a place that means so much to its community and Sebri’s hometown. Each day, some 80 people come seeking treatment, and of those, 20 are admitted for the night.
“They deserve better even though they didn’t get chance to come to the United States and get the same opportunity that I got,” Sebri said. “At least I can share that with them.”
The hospital’s mission is simple: provide first class medical care that the people can afford. Here if you need an aspirin, you can get 10 for 57 cents. A simple lab test for the same price. But if you need a blood test, hold on to your wallets, because it’s going to cost a $1.14. And there are surgeries. Mohammed Youseff came in with a cyst inside the cord carrying nerve endings to his spine. It’s delicate work.
You see a lot of equipment from Atlanta in this hospital. Most of it is donated by the Atlanta charity MedShare. Sebri had everything he needed except one thing.
He didn’t have an ambulance, until the 11Alive’s Help Desk got involved.
After four months of work and with Metro Atlanta Ambulance Service’s generous donation, Sebri got his ambulance. There was just one major problem: getting it there! But then the stars aligned for the perfect Christmas miracle.
Atlanta-based World Airlines had just signed a contract for flying cargo in and out of Ethiopia. Without hesitation, they agreed to fly it for free. So just a few days after Christmas 2006, under the lights of Hartsfield-Jackson, the ambulance left for the people of Harar, Ethiopia. A few months later World Airlines would be bought by another company. Read More on 11Alice.com