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Moringa – the wonder food


Thousands of morgina trees await a 12 hour nighttime journey to their planting site

Moringa, moringa, and more moringa! Several years ago, Lori discovered the nutritional value of moringa (moringa stenopetala Bak.f.) and started to add it to her morning oatmeal and tea. Her white hair is already turning brown (just kidding!). Seriously, during the past few years, the moringa plant has gained global recognition as a wonder plant—used as a highly nutritious food source, for water purification, to replenish fragile environments, and even as a traditional medicine. The moringa leaflets and roots are commonly believed to reduce bacterial growth, blood pressure, and cholesterol. The moringa tree is drought tolerant, easy to cultivate and harvest, and is indigenous to Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.

Thanks to our partners the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Center & Network (HoA-RECN) and the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), 40,000 moringa trees have been delivered to the most vulnerable Hamar and Dasenech families—another 95,000 moringa trees will be delivered this summer. Not an easy task in South Omo Zone, when you have to deal with flooding, rain, and transporting fragile seedlings in hot temperatures over difficult roads. It is a complicated process to find the right number of moringa trees at the right age that are healthy exactly when you need them. We can only plant during the very short rainy season or where there is adequate irrigation.

More than 27,000 vulnerable people, members of the Hamar and the Dasenech tribes, are learning to plant, grow, eat, and sell moringa. They are enthusiastic and want to learn everything about the plant—how to cook it, how to use it to purify their water, how to help them feel better, and how to cultivate and harvest it. And, because moringa is very fast-growing, some enterprising new farmers are already earning money by selling their excess in the market.

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Marti MartindaleMoringa – the wonder food

Hamar women visit Minnesota

Rotary District 5580 Conference in Duluth

Our wonderful Duluth 25 Rotary friends helped two of our star Hamar women, Dobi Oyita and Gulo Bola, travel to Minnesota be surprise guest speakers at the District 5580 Duluth Conference in May. Gulo and Dobi shared stories of their lives and thanked the Rotarians for refurbishing five water wells in BenaTsemay and for supporting the orphans currently under GTLI’s care.

Lori Pappas looks on proudly as translator Yehualashet helps Gulo and Dobi tell their story to the Rotarians at the District 5580 Conference in May


The Rotarians enjoyed hearing from Gulo and Dobi how projects they supported have helped the communities

Meeting With Old Friends…

It was a special treat for Gulo and Dobi to meet GTLI’s Minnesota and Wisconsin supporters. We had a lovely gathering at Lori Pappas’ house where the women shared their reflections on the things they had observed during their U.S. travels. They now truly understand the importance of learning and have pledged to become Ambassadors of Education. Dobi amazed the group of friends when she stated, “Before I met you, I only felt responsible for my family and community. Now, I realize that you also are my community, and I return home holding your well-being in my thoughts and in my heart!


Dobi and Gulo were delighted to meet GTLI supporters

…And New Friends

Minnesota women, eager to learn how to support women on the other side of the world in their quest to feed their families and help their communities, gathered at the Kitchen in the Market in Minneapolis to meet Gulo and Dobe, Hamar women in transition to leadership. Gulo described the determination to learn of the members of the Minogelti Women’s Cooperative and how that has enabled them to sustainably operate their grinding mill and operate their rural trading center.

Gulo reported that, “because we now are the ones who are making life easier for our entire kebele of 4,000 people, the men respect us. I am often asked to participate in decision-making that affects everyone. Previously, no women was ever asked for her opinion.”

Gulo speaking with Minnesota women at Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis

Dakota County Technical College

Gulo and Dobi were invited to speak with students and faculty of Dakota County Technical College, hosted by the Multicultural Student Leadership Association. As the women shared their experiences and talked about  the GTLI literacy initiatives, the students realized how similar Gulo and Dobi’s goals are to their own despite the differences in their respective environments. Gulo and Dobi shared how learning Amharic, the national language, and gaining basic arithmetic skills instantly elevates the status of a woman. A Hamar woman able to communicate in Amharic and perform basic record-keeping earns the respect of her community.

Lori shared that GTLI initiatives are successful because we pay very close attention to the way people think and the influences of their culture. We make sure that our programming reinforces the desires of the people. During February – April, 2015, 154 adults (83 women and 71 men) graduated from our Integrated Functional Vocational Literacy schools, conducted in eight communities, exceeding expectations.

The sentiment expressed frequently by female IFVL participants: “We are gaining confidence now that we are equal to men because in the former time, men and women never sit together but in the IFVL class, we are all treated as equals. This is making it much easier for us to participate as equals in other community meetings. Plus, we have increased knowledge of different things, which gives us more respect.

Dakota County Technical College students and faculty with Dobi and Gulo


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Marti MartindaleHamar women visit Minnesota

Innovation…with donkeys?

One of our latest innovations is creating a lot of buzz: donkey ambulances! These “donkulances” (so named by GTLI friend and supporter Dr. William Himango) are specially constructed metal carts designed to transport pregnant mothers. They are outfitted with a canvas top, removable litter and mattress, and animal-friendly harasses. Slow and unconventional? Yes, but they are community-owned and community-operated and are always available. Previously a pregnant mother would either have to be carried by litter or walk one or two days to the nearest health facility.

GTLI Donkey Ambulance

GTLI Donkey Ambulance


We first introduced donkey ambulances in Dasenech, and after a few months the results are encouraging.

  • A trip made by a donkey ambulance can turn a multiple day walk into a six hour ride.
  • Within the first two weeks, pregnant Dasenech used the donkey ambulances seven times.
  • Patients pay what they can for the service, usually 5¢ to 20¢, which is used for donkey care.

Community acceptance of the donkey ambulances has been even better than expected. The Dasenech communities love the freedom and ease of transportation the donkey ambulances provide, allowing them far easier access to government health facilities.

As a community member states:

We like the donkey ambulance, which is why we constructed and prepared the village roads by hand. Before the donkey ambulance, we had to pay more than 2,000 birr in cows and goats to transport a patient or pregnant women to the health center. Now our community has decided each transported person must pay 50 birr. Thank you, GTLI (and APC) for saving our life and money.


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Marti MartindaleInnovation…with donkeys?

JSI blog features GTLI

In a recent blog post, JSI describes our work to empower communities to create their own healthy futures, supported by USAID’s Advancing Partners & Communities project.

There are many reasons that the communities of southwest Ethiopia do not have access to and use family planning and reproductive health services. We are working with our implementing partner JSI to address both the supply and demand sides of this issue with our project Increasing Pastoralist Resilience through Healthy Timing & Spacing of Births.

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Marti MartindaleJSI blog features GTLI

Star Girls Music Video

Still one of our favorites, the Star Girls Music Video was created at Carleton College for GTLI by students at the Weitz Center for Creativity. It shows scenes of real life in the classroom, and new pumps with clean water, and new livelihood activities. The music and lyrics perfectly capture why we are inspired to do the work that we do.

Thanks so much to Neal and Leandra for their song. Find out more about them on their website or their Facebook page

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Marti MartindaleStar Girls Music Video

Ethiopia: Water is Life

The USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) has put together a wonderful video of the stories of people whose lives have been changed with help from the American people. The first 3 minutes of this video feature a story about GTLI’s work with the Hamar tribe and how access to clean water has changed the life of Dobi Oyita, a Hamar woman.

Water is one of the most critical resources in Ethiopia. When it is scare, women and girls pay the price.  A partnership of USAID/OFDA, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and Global Team for Local Initiatives has helped women gain better access to clean water and also find their voice.

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Marti MartindaleEthiopia: Water is Life

OFDA Celebrates 50 Years of Humanitarian Assistance

We were delighted to help the USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) celebrate its 50th anniversary in October 2014. For more than a half century OFDA and its partners have responded to disasters and saving lives. At the 3:45 minute mark you can see GTLI’s Executive Director Lori Pappas give an anniversary shout out to OFDA.

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BizzyWeb AdminOFDA Celebrates 50 Years of Humanitarian Assistance