It’s early in the New Year, and once again I find myself in Ethiopia. By the time you read this, I shall be deeply ensconced in the life of Buccama Clinic. As you may know, I made a supplementary visit in October, and it was a very different experience, because the rains had come. Crops were high in the field, flowers were blooming, cows had enough grass and so were able to give milk. Even the birds seemed brighter and more colourful. In short, the place, which is usually arid and dry, was beautiful.

The beauty can be distracting, because the problems are also plentiful. Buccama Clinic is still where it was, in deeply rural Southern Ethiopia. The people are still eeking out a living, with buying and selling small amounts at market- if you don’t work, you don’t get. Everyone has to be resourceful in order to survive.

Ethiopia Medical Project (EMP) also has to be resourceful, in order to keep the project current, effective, manageable and do-able.

Many of you will know that initially our main interest was women suffering form Uterine Prolapse. We have made great inroads into helping with this problem – education, hygiene, pants, exercises, pessaries and in some cases, medical intervention, have all gone a long way to alleviating the problem in our area.

We pay the salaries of the Clinic staff (£2000 per month for 20 people) so the staff is stable and fairly constant.

However, we have recently taken on the education and alleviation of the problem of Podoconiosis, which is a form of elephantiasis in the lower leg area, contracted from the soil and not from worms or mosquitoes. The care and cure is very simple. Simple, but not easy: soaking, soaping, massaging, socks and shoes. Simple if you have access to all those things, impossible if you don’t. The Clinic is now running outdoor clinics for this treatment. You don’t need doctors or nurses. You just need the basics, plus determination and a good deal of courage and empathy. Podoconiosis is not pretty, the affected feet and legs swell badly, it is incredibly debilitating and uncomfortable and the people are ashamed and disgusted. None of us would or could tolerate it for half a day.

 The phrase “ You have seen our shame and you haven’t been ashamed of us.”, was spoken once during a farewell speech. That sentence alone keeps us going.

None of what we do would be possible with out the help of the good people of Kinrosshire, so this article is really a letter of thanks to all you good souls out there who help The Ethiopia Medical Project (EMP), who support us, who give socks, pants, money, love and support . Especial thanks to our local Rotary Club –   the Inner Wheel ladies, Common Grounds, St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Loch Leven Laundry team for their superb shop window dispaly, “She’s No In She’s ‘Oot” ladies and the  many, many individually generous people who have contributed over the last few years.