Kids Helping Kids Heal

with Betu Gelgelu

Meet Betu Gelgelu, 10 years old

Betu is a 5th grader from Portland. For her summer vacation, Betu decided to do something remarkable. She took it upon herself to make our hospital’s pediatrics rooms more appealing, more comfortable, and more welcoming for our most vulnerable patients: the kids of rural Negele Arsi. “When I came here last year, I noticed that all the rooms looked the same,” she says. “But as a kid, I know that hospital rooms can be scary and uncomfortable. So I wanted the kids to feel as relaxed as possible and make them less scared during their stay.”

Betu says she had “pretty solid idea” about how she wanted the rooms to look and the experience she wanted to evoke. “I wanted the kids to feel like they were coming to visit a welcoming play area to take their minds off whatever is making them uncomfortable enough to come to the hospital and stay here for a day or more,” says Betu. “For the surgical recovery room, we chose a calm and relaxing view of water because my mom loves the beach; and for the patient rooms upstairs we have brighter colors and playful, happy characters to brighten their stay.”

As a kid, I know that hospital rooms can be scary and uncomfortable. So I wanted the kids to feel as relaxed as possible and make them less scared during their stay.

Evidenced-Based Initiatives

It may seem like a “juvenile” idea to some, but there is real scientific support for Betu’s sentiments. Pediatrician and Dean of Negele Arsi Medical College, Dr. Belay Leta, confirms this. “Here in Ethiopia, children’s psychological needs are often overlooked because we are more concerned about their physical health needs.”

According to Dr. Belay,  outcomes improve when children are relaxed and comfortable. “In a caring environment such as this, our most vulnerable patients are more likely to take medication, it will be easier to undergo procedures — from the simplest procedures such as checking vital signs to more complex procedures like administering vaccines and the like.” He praises Betu’s vision saying, “Child-centered care, especially in a Pediatrics Unit, is not only attractive, welcoming and beautiful, it is the Gold Standard in patient-centered care.”

When Baby Steps Are Giant Steps

There are two pediatric surgical rooms as well as age-specific rooms dedicated to pediatrics patients at Negele Arsi General Hospital. In raising the funds for her project, Betu approached her family and friends for help. Her mom, Dureti, who is an OB nurse in Portland, Oregeon, USA, was caught by surprise when a relative gave her a check made out to Betu. “It was a pleasant surprise because Betu approached her aunts and uncles without telling me!” says Dureti. “She’s only 10, but sometimes, I wonder how old she really is. Many adults wouldn’t even think about doing what Betu decided to do on her own.” To their credit, Betu’s parents, Dureti and Wagari are themselves dedicated health providers and EHA medical mission volunteers. Both volunteer on a regular basis, providing free health care services in rural Ethiopia for months at a time.

She’s only 10, but sometimes, I wonder how old she really is. Many adults wouldn’t even think about doing what Betu decided to do on her own.

The Next Generation of H.O.P.E. Builders

Dr. Gudata Hinika, founder of Ethiopia Health Aid is extremely grateful and proud that the next generation is stepping up for each other. “It is inspiring to see so many young volunteers stepping up to serve a purpose larger than themselves,” he says. “Betu’s work is phenomenal in that she not only showed so much compassion, she did it with so much joy and zeal.”

Dr. Hinika says that this summer saw so much authentic and proactive engagement from EHA’S Next Generation of Hope Builders. “From UCLA college students heading hospital equipment donation drives, to Jake Futterman and EHA Robotics, the STEM program launched in the hinterlands of rural Ethiopia, and now having Betu, our youngest volunteer, provide this wonderful enhancement of our Pediatrics Unit, we are truly blessed to have H.O.P.E. — Health, Opportunity, Progress, Education — coming alive in this community where care is scarce.”

It is inspiring to see so many young volunteers stepping up to serve a purpose larger than themselves

— Dr. Gudata Hinika

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