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We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Terrance Waggoner to talk with him about his recent trip to Ethiopia. He shared his heart for the vulnerable, gave us an update on how the kids there are doing, shared the current needs in country, and told us a little bit about how we could help out. This is what he had to say…
Orphan Nutrition Sponsorship : You recently returned from a trip to Ethiopia – was it your first time there?
Dr. Waggoner : No – I think this was my 7th time.
ONS : What first gave you a passion or a concern for the people of Ethiopia?
Dr. Waggoner : My wife and I combined had 5 kids and we felt the Lord calling us to adopt. Through God’s direction, we adopted our daughter, Anna Tihun, from Ethiopia. While we were there, a lady from the orphanage said something pretty profound to us – we’re helping this little girl and she needs parents, but we’re not helping Ethiopia. If we wanted to help her homeland, which has become our second homeland, we needed to help with poverty, education, and food. Now we travel back each year with Lifesong for Orphans and we help advocate for the orphans and vulnerable children there.
ONS : What was the main purpose of your most recent trip?
Dr. Waggoner : We haven’t been there for a little while because of some unrest in Ethiopia so this trip was to reconnect with administration, the teachers, and the children. Lifesong also started a pilot program with Orphan Nutrition Sponsorship, providing Encompass Nutrient’s Complete Kids product to all 140 of their nursery school students. Nursery kids are often the ones that come in with the big bellies, malnourished, with skin lesions, and discolored hair, so it was exciting to see that program get started.
ONS : What changes have you seen since first starting this yearly trip to Ethiopia?
Dr. Waggoner : The biggest difference I saw initially was in myself. I went on a mission trip to a third world country and thought I was going to be a rescuer. I realized when you walk one of these children home from school that they are content. These kids own one pair of shorts, maybe no shoes, a t-shirt, they sleep on a bed with their whole family (like 6 people on a queen size bed), but that’s all the child knows. He doesn’t know any differently so he thinks thats normal. These kids are happy, full of life, full of joy, really appreciate education and the food that they get. The best thing that I’ve learned is not to try to Americanize them. When you go back each year, you can see them mature, grow in their health and mind through education, and also see their spiritual growth. It’s just neat to have that connection with these kids.
ONS : If Lifesong didn’t have a school there, how different would life be for these kids?
Dr. Waggoner : There are basically two options. There are public schools which are overcrowded with sometimes up to a 100 kids in one classroom with 1 teacher, or no school at all. Some parents have to make a choice – do I feed my child or do I pay the fee to send my kid to school? In that case, children are often hungry, have to work, some girls are forced into prostitution, so their outlook is very bleak. Lifesong takes the poorest of the poor there and brings them in and gives them hope and joy and purpose.
ONS : What needs do you see that still need met?
Dr. Waggoner : The kids that are in the school are doing pretty well, but the problem is that some of them, the meals that they eat at school each week might be the only food that they are getting. When they leave school Friday afternoon, they might not eat again until Monday morning. The other issue is that in Ziway, we only have capacity for up to 8th grade and in Adami Tulu, it only goes to 4th. Land has been purchased for the high school at Ziway, but we need to raise the funds to build, then we also need to build the 5th – 8th grade classrooms at Adami Tulu.
ONS : We touched on this earlier, but you delivered something to the younger aged kids on this trip. Can you tell us more about that?
Dr. Waggoner : Yeah – it’s exciting. We took our Complete Kids chewable – it’s not a multi-vitamin only, it’s a whole food nutritional product with 28 ingredients. It includes Omega 3 which these kids desperately need – it’s a brain food and it helps with inflammation. It has probiotic which builds up the intestinal flora. When kids come in with big stomachs, their bodies aren’t absorbing the nutrients they get because of parasites. Probiotics help take care of that. It has super greens which helps with growth and sustains normal bowel movements. Then it also has 19 vitamins and minerals in there. The kids really love taking it and we are excited to see them reap the benefits from it.
ONS : What is the long term goal for providing these nutrients to these kids?
Dr. Waggoner : I personally think that it would benefit all 1200 kids that are currently in Lifesong’s schools in Ethiopia, but we are focusing on the most desperate need first because of funding. It’s not just the nursery school kids where you see the yellow eyes or the skin lesions or the discolored hair, you see that all the way through. My long term goal would be to get it to all 1200 kids and then to branch out to all of the other schools in Ethiopia and have a whole country impact by providing these nutrients. It’s a key piece to the puzzle that’s missing. They need clean water and a good meal, but these nutrients fill in the cracks in their diet and really help them get healthy.
ONS : The problem of malnutrition reaches beyond the borders of Ethiopia. Can you share a little about that?
Dr. Waggoner : Every 4 seconds in the world, a child dies of malnutrition. I read that statistic a month ago and it just shocked me. That’s 21,000 children in a day that are dying of malnutrition, and in our world today, that should not be happening. Doing a government program through dropping in food and water to sustain a person for a week is not going to correct the problem. It creates false hope when what they need is sustainability. There are so many organizations out there doing a great job, but most of these nonprofits are lacking funding. We are relying on governments when I believe this is a task for the followers of Jesus – the Church. We spend all of our money on making our sanctuaries look really cool, focusing on laser lights and performances. I think we should be taking the money that the Lord provides us and live out James 1:27 which says to care for widows, the orphans, and the vulnerable. 1 child is dying in our world today every 4 seconds. I think we are allocating our money to the wrong areas and I don’t think God is pleased with that.
ONS : What is the biggest hurdle in providing better nutrition to those who need it?
Dr. Waggoner : Priorities in spending. People will spend $5 – $7 for a single cappuccino, but they won’t spend $7.42 a month to help a child in need. Right now on our waiting list, we have over 5,000 children in organizations who are requesting this product. If we could get 5,000 people just in the state of Indiana to step up to the plate, we could save the lives of many children. If we could get everybody to buy into that idea, think of the difference we could make.
If you’d like to help provide nutrition to one or more of the 5,000+ kids waiting to receive it, click here!