In July 2019, Carol and Ken Kabel left for Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Not for vacation, but to stay for a year and fulfill their duty as Jews to repair the world. Their home of 26 years was sold, as was the business Ken owned. All their belongings were put into storage. They know they’ll be living in Cincinnati when they come back but aren’t worrying about their next step until then.
Tikkun Olam has always been a part of their married life, and a value they instilled in their children Grace (29) and Hope (27). Carol is a deeply committed, active volunteer with a 20-year history of leadership roles at Wise Temple, the childrens’ schools, and other organizations. In that spirit, Grace committed two years after college to the Peace Corps and was stationed in a small village in northern Ethiopia. Carol and Ken visited Grace while she was there. “We saw the impact it had on Grace, and that planted the seed to do something similar,” Carol explains.
Ken adds, “We wanted to make a real commitment to volunteer service – to be in a community and get to know the culture and way of life. We were familiar with Ethiopia, and it made sense to do it now, while we still have our health.”
Through the JDC (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee), Ken learned of an American Jew, Dr. Rick Hodes, the JDC’s medical director who operates a clinic in Addis Ababa and specializes in cancer, heart disease, and spinal conditions. Ken says, “Rick is literally healing the world one person at a time. He’s a remarkable man doing remarkable work.” Ken volunteers at the clinic, helping with budgeting, strategic planning, the website, and much-needed fundraising. “Dr. Rick and his staff are clinicians, so they’re glad to have someone with a business outlook work to improve initiatives like fundraising so they can focus on what they do best.” Ken won’t ever forget the day he was reduced to tears by both a young man who couldn’t be helped and by one who had been healed and given the opportunity for a normal life.
To obtain resident visas, one of them had to have a paying job. Ethiopia suffers high unemployment and visitors are only hired for jobs requiring specific skills that can’t be filled by native Ethiopians. Carol is contracted through June of 2020 to teach conversational English to kindergarten students. She’s the only American most of the teachers and children have ever met, and Ken says, “She’s too modest to say so, but she’s showing them what a good American is like.”
Addis Ababa does have third-world problems like unreliable electricity, a plethora of disabled beggars, and poverty. But Carol and Ken feel safe walking to and from work and exploring the city. Carol did insist on hot water, electricity and a toilet that wasn’t a hole in the ground. “We’re not roughing it,” she says. “We have everything we need. We haven’t met many people yet, but we have each other. It’s like we’re dating again!” The only thing they’ve found wanting is friends to share their adventure. Their apartment is comfortable, with room for visitors (hint, hint) – and the Kabels are ready to show their guests what an interesting place Africa is. The dry season (October – May) brings weather like southern California’s – sunny and dry during the day, cool at night. They’re excited to go hiking outside the city now that the rains have ended.
But the best part is fulfilling a major life goal. Ken notes, “We came here to do Tikkun Olam. We get to do what we’re supposed to do, and it’s a privilege and an honor to be in the position to do it.”
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