Mission trip to Ethiopia was no spring break – La Crosse Tribune

by Zelalem

ONALASKA — When others are heading to Florida or the Bahamas, Kelly Barton was part of a Global Partners mission team to Ethiopia.

Barton, vice president of operations at Gundersen Health System, was a member of the first of two teams going to Yetebon, Ethiopia, in February.

“We provided medical care and training, working with medical staff to build sustainability,” the Onalaska woman said.

Global Partners, a program of Gundersen Health System, collaborates with Project Mercy, an Ethiopia-based nongovernmental organization. Team members consisted of professionals providing dental services, podiatry services, general surgery and nonmedical personnel working with the children at the school.

Yetebon, a rural village located about three hours from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, has a clinic, a hospital and a school operated by Project Mercy.

The trip to Ethiopia was a first for Barton. The Global Partners first team left for Ethiopia Feb. 4 and returned Feb. 22. The second team followed Team 1after the first group completed its tour.

Members of the team bonded while in Ethiopia, and that made an impression on Barton.

“The team became family,” Barton said. “Our team delivered babies, performed many other surgeries and dental procedures and treated a fair number of podiatry cases. The team paid the bill for a man who had a broken arm that developed gangrene, so his family wouldn’t have undue financial burden due to the bill.”

“We touched so many lives,” Barton said. “We provide medical care and training, and we work with medical staff to build sustainability.”

Before heading on the trip, teams undergo intensive orientation to learn about the country and the culture.

Located in eastern Africa and part of the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is the second most populous country in the continent and is about 420,000 square miles in size.

Barton and other members of the team had the opportunity to experience the country’s cultural aspects during a visit to a market. Some of the crafts were sold there by women infected with HIV and former prostitutes who made crafts from bullet shell casings.

“There were thousands of people selling food, crafts and animals,” said Barton. “Their fresh fruit is amazing, and Ethiopia is known for its coffee. Many times when visiting different places, the local people would have a coffee ceremony to welcome our group.”

The fresh produce and coffee were welcome additions to a fairly constant diet of lentils.

“It makes you appreciate what we have here,” said Barton.

During their visit, Barton and fellow team members went on safari, hiked a nearby mountain and toured a crater lake at a nearby town. Other cultural experiences included attending church with the residents and even an opportunity to see a wedding performed.

In addition to Ethiopia, Gundersen Health System Global Partners sends teams to Nicaragua in Central America and Pine Ridge, S.D.

“We provided medical care and training, working with medical staff to build sustainability.” Kelly Barton, Onalaska

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