Wednesday, March 26, 2008

At Nonnewaug Battle of the Bands Aids Denan Project


BETHLEHEM-WOODBURY - Students at Nonnewaug High School offered their third annual Battle of the Bands concert Friday, March 14, to benefit the Denan Project, a local group that built and maintains a free hospital in poverty-stricken
eastern Ethiopia.

Three student bands and the band of Steve Bunovsky, a history teacher at NHS, entertained an audience of nearly 200 students and some parents.

Members of the Denan group were present to express their appreciation and to show the award-winning video detailing the plight of the people of the Denan area.
The event raised more than $1,000 that will immediately go to help alleviate the escalating suffering and starvation brought on by a recent severe drought and its resulting crop failure.
Started four years ago in Woodbury, the Denan Project raised money to build and staff a small, free clinic to bring help to people in Denan suffering from drought, malnourishment and disease.
Almost since the beginning, teachers, students and administrators in NHS have pitched in to help, raising money with concerts, penny drives and auctions. The project's logo was designed at NHS by student Rachel Tobin in art class.
Through fundraising in Connecticut, New York City, Colorado and Florida, members of the Denan Project were eventually able to turn the clinic into a 29-room hospital with a staff of 30 people.
The only free hospital in Ogaden, a region of some 350,000 square kilometers with a population of more than 4 million, it has so far treated some 40,000 people for illnesses and injuries, saving many lives.
Donor funds have allowed the Denan Project to buy an ambulance and a pickup truck to bring the most gravely ill people to a bigger hospital 75 kilometers away, to ferry supplies and equipment to the Denan hospital and to pick up patients in outlying areas and bring them in for treatment.
Donations also help the project allay the worst of the malnourishment for mothers and babies by giving them a lifesaving supplemental meal especially formulated for African tastes and fortified with milk, minerals and vitamins.
To address the ravages of the ongoing drought, the group is completing a pipeline to bring precious, potable water from a source 12 kilometers away to the people of Denan for the first time in their history.
One of the 13 watering stations along the line was donated by Nonnewaug High School and features a plaque dedicated to NHS.
Other watering stations were donated by the Tribury, Watertown and Naugatuck Rotary Clubs.
The Denan Project raised money to buy a large water-tanker truck and fund the building of reservoirs to hold the water the tanker delivers periodically to the outlying villages that cannot be served by the pipeline.
Denan farmers were trained to use new methods of raising drought-resistant crops and donated funds bought a tractor that will soon help them prepare the soil and plant the seeds supplied by the project.
The Denan Project is also working with local residents to build cottage industries that will help them become self-sustaining: giving them a solar oven to bake 400 loaves of bread a day to feed the patients in the hospital and to sell to the community; and teaching them how to make cheese using goats' milk, also to feed to patients and to sell.
With help from the Ethiopian government, the Denan Project was able to widely distribute antimalarial sleeping nets. The group is also working with colleagues in the regional nonprofit Ogaden Welfare and Development Association and with the elders of Denan to bring an end to the terrible, age-old practice of female genital mutilation.
OWDA carefully monitors the situation in Denan and sends monthly reports. Denan Project volunteers also visit several times a year.
The political situation in Ethiopia and the countries around it is not good. Yet, despite conflicts between the government and some area groups, the Denan hospital and its people, the pipeline and all the project's ongoing operations have not been harmed.
The project hopes to expand the hospital and its treatment capabilities, supply more food and water and bring better education to the children.
Dick Young, president of the Denan Project, is in Ethiopia right now, bringing newly raised funds to help stem the crippling effects of the recent severe drought and crop failure.
According to Mr. Young, a documentary film-maker whose video launched the Denan Project and helped the project raise funds, the elders of Denan say they have seen other humanitarian groups but the Denan group is the only one that has asked the local people what they need.
"Though we are an all-volunteer group, we are determined and we believe in the power of these people," Mr. Young said. "The elders of Denan have told us, 'We have been living in the dark and you have brought us into the light.'
"One community reaching out to help another - we believe it's a model for improving the world."

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