Working with CARE Ethiopia: One Woman's Story

One CARE worker talks about what it’s like to do her job under grueling circumstances.

By Dara Pettinelli

All About AbbyAbby Maxman, 40, will start as country director for CARE Ethiopia this month. She has been with CARE for 11 years, most recently as country director for CARE Haiti, where she led relief efforts after a tropical storm killed thousands and left hundreds of people homeless. Her work has also taken her to Rwanda, Somalia, North and South Sudan, West Bank and Gaza, Burundi, and Eritrea. Her husband Charlie (also with CARE) and her son Michaux, age 4, will join Abby in Ethiopia this summer.Abby was born in Philadelphia and grew up in the suburban town of Mt. Airy. After graduating from Colorado College, where she met Charlie, she worked with the Peace Corps in the African nation of Lesotho. Abby SaysI arrived in Haiti several weeks before the floods from tropical storm Jeanne in 2004. It basically hammered Gonaives and the northwest, one of CARE’s largest areas of operation. Going to the communities after the floods was very intense. The flooded areas were like cesspools so the smell was overwhelming and we were trying to clear places to make them safe and dry for the very first immediate distributions of basic food and clean water and other goods until we transitioned into the rehabilitation and reconstruction activities. Just seeing the strength, the dignity, and the suffering all wrapped into one was very powerful. We went from household to household, trying to deliver relief to as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. All you could see is so much destruction and suffering — babies clinging to their mom’s breast and a dirty plate of recently cooked beans that that little family is trying to eat and the house where no matter how much bucketing they’re doing, the water keeps seeping in, and people living in very small, shanty-like conditions. It’s just a very hard thing to witness even when we’re trying to do our best to get to the next stage to help people recover, to help people get on. ...I feel grateful that my job is my cause and vice versa. I don’t have a traditional job, but it’s so rewarding. I get to say to my son that I am getting to help and to contribute to making the world a better place. At CARE, we focus on applying our standards and values both to ourselves and to the people we serve, and that I find very enriching. ...I’m both humble and proud of the team I’ve been able to work with in CARE Haiti. I was very new to the country office when the storm hit and yet, I think our response to the emergency and the reconstruction has been viewed as excellent. We worked to ensure that a population of 180,000 had timely access to food, clean water, over 3,000 homes rehabilitated, several dozen schools and medical facilities immediately cleaned up and made functional again. We coordinate with the local government, local communities, and civil society, to empower others and better advocate for their needs, for longterm impact. We had voter education activities in the lead-up to the recent elections, we’re developing and investing through our education programs in youth parliament. We also have important work in HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria prevention, and care of orphans. When you go to the places we work you can see that we’re making a difference....Data over time shows that if you empower women and give them the resources to make the decisions that affect the livelihoods of their family — families being the heart and the makeup of a community — that’s how you can have a wider impact over time. I think there’s a feeling that one can relate to what a woman is facing that transcends culture....I think starting a Giving Circle is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate that everyone has the power to make a difference. These women have the power to change the world and we have the power to help them do it. Originally published on MORE.com, July 2006.

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