Local man aids in humanitarian work

Making a child's life easier through reconstruction surgery

A beautiful personality and energetic spirit are amazing assets for anyone to have, but sometimes they just aren’t enough.

When a little girl, or anyone for that matter, is disfigured by some sort of genetic defect, life can be difficult and people can be cruel. Sami’s bright eyes and charming personality belie the pain she must feel when encountering the stares and fears of other children.

Four-year-old Samirawit “Sami” Hallemarian from Ethiopia was found by Sooke resident Eric “Hum” Anderson, ” in a remote village several days’ walk from the nearest hospital. She had a gross disfigurement on her face.

“I found this young girl two-and-a-half years ago in a little village in Southwest Ethiopia,” said Hum.

Hum volunteers with the International Children’s Outreach Network (ICON) because of his friendship with the organization’s founder Del Russell. Hum has been going to Ethiopia for the past 13 years ever since he saw a photograph of a little girl taken by Phil Borges, the photographer/author of Enduring Spirit.

At the time Hum was busy writing Home, Miss Moses: A Novel in the Time of Harriet Tubman, a novel about the American abolishionist Harriet Tubman. One of the photos reminded him of a slave girl. He was so struck by the photo that he contacted the photographer and eventually located the family of the girl. He has been giving them his support ever since.

“I just started to go over once a year for a couple of months,” said Hum. While there he travels across Ethiopia seeking out those little children who may benefit from his help.

Hum, who retired from a career in community health care, said he did similar work in India and the Middle East in the 1960s.

He came to Sooke because the name Sooke is similar to “souk” the name for an Arab bazaar.

“I knew nothing about Sooke, it was just a word,” he said. “I wanted to live as simply as I could.”

Over the past 40 years Hum has written 12 novels and has had one of them published.

Little Sami is now on a road to a much better life thanks to a team of doctors from Manhattan’s Roosevelt Hospital. The journey has been a long one for Sami. Her father is a poor peasant farmer and father and daughter travelled 1,200 miles to Israel. Sami was first seen by doctors in Tel Aviv, particularly by Dr. Alejandro Berenstein, the New York doctor who had taught them everything about treating her rare condition — known as venous malformation. Sami is living with foster parents in New Jersey until she can return home.

Hum said Sami’s father also had some malformation of his hands which were also treated.

“He’ll have two hands and she’ll have a new face,” said Hum.

International Children’s Outreach Network (ICON) is a non-profit, non-sectarian charitable organization dedicated to providing medical support and educational opportunities to deserving children.