Project Mercy: Mar. 5-Kids are kids everywhere - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Project Mercy: Mar. 5-Kids are kids everywhere

WXOW's Amy DuPont and Mark Bronson followed a group of volunteers from Gundersen Health System as they provided medical care to people around the Project Mercy camp in Ethiopia in early March.

Besides Amy's observations of the trip, photographer Mark Bronson also shared his thoughts on the children of Project Mercy.


Amy and I started the day with a list of video and interviews to do starting with the kindergarten about a quarter mile up the road. As we walked the bumpy, rocky quarter mile to the school we started to gather some followers. The fifteen to twenty little children with smiles and laughs were a pleasant change from the older more phrased oriented “one camera” kids. I tried teaching words like right foot, left foot, stop and go, but the giggles and smiles kept them moving forward as we walked together.

As we reached the school we heard the sounds of children singing the alphabet. The court yard was full of children lined in rows for their classes. They start the day with singing songs like “The wheels on the bus” and “Itsy-bitsy Spider” and few other classics. We stayed to watch them eat their breakfast and wash their own bowls and prepare for classes. With a few shots of classroom video and what we called in the business a standup on camera we started back on “the road.” I will certainly look at gravel roads back home as one of construction’s wonders of rural life.

After reaching the hospital we heard the great news of a baby girl born by C-section by Doctor Tsigonis and Doctor “F.” It was nice to hear the cry of newborn in the hospital, and it certainly was the talk of all of us as we shared the day’s stories. Amy and I finished our interviews and some more video of Dr. Gundersen and Dr. Tsigonis. We changed and headed down to the compound, stopping along the way for a picture or two and some more video; yes I have become attached to my tripod with a love hate relationship, but all in all I still can’t do my job without her, him, it—whatever.

Amy has been doing a great job keeping us on track and keeping our water bottles full. Her list seems to forever grow; like today we needed shots of our in-house kids Bechernet and Tigist, two young adults who will graduate this year and both want to continue in medicine. After some more classroom video, we checked in with Cheryl, who has been working with two women to get the two sewing machines working. Her project was to try to complete one hundred plus curtains for the classrooms. As of last count she was up to fifty-two and the machines and house mothers were feverishly working when we left them.

The day is slowly closing and I can hear Jeff in the dinner room with closing comments. I’m reminded of an old gentleman I once saw one day on the road. He didn’t make eye contact and just nodded in passing. Today we met again but with a tip of his hat and smile and a nod hello from me, his smile grew. I would like to think with each passing day, we meet people and become friends and with each passing day our smile and hearts grow a little wider…to friends I have met this week, I stop and tip my hat and smile.

Mark Bronson


There are 250 children enrolled in the Kindergarten here. Mark and I had the chance to walk to school with about 30 of them. Every child here can say at least one phrase in English; “one camera”. It means take my picture. Mark has the biggest camera here, making him the most popular guy here! The walk to school was so much fun; singing and laughing with the kids. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world; kids are kids.

It was at the KG (kindergarten center) that I noticed how little these kids have. They wear the same outfit to school everyday; it’s the only outfit they have. Many kids wear dirty and ripped clothing; others don’t have shoes. The kids eat both breakfast and lunch at school; their 2 meals for the day. Still; they smile and sing and are happy for what they do have. They also understand getting an education is the only way to get out of poverty. They are eager to learn and do well in school. American children could learn a lot from these kids.

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