BY KASSAHUN ADDIS
New York (TADIAS) — Last week in Berkeley, California, Berhane Daba made history as the first woman and the first disabled person to win the prestigious Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award by the American Peace Corps alumni organization, National Peace Corps Association.
The story of Berhane is one that would make a great inspiring novel. She was born to a poor rural farming family in Holeta town, some 50 miles from Addis Ababa. In 1968, polio stricken by age two, she was left along a dusty roadside by her father in the hopes that a very important person visiting the town would feel pity and help.
“I was put by my father on the road that King Haile Selassie was passing by as he was visiting our town. My father was hoping the king could take me to Addis Ababa where they already established an orphanage for the sick and abandoned. The stars were aligned that day. The king saw a baby with two disabled legs and with no adults around, inquired about me and told his men to take me in and put me in Addis Ababa for treatment,” Berhane remembers.
Once in Addis, she was placed at St. Paulos Hospital for treatment. A few weeks into her stay at the hospital, a young American nurse, Mary Myers-Bruckenstein, came and started providing therapy for the chronically damaged nerves and tissues caused by crawling. In the words of Berhane, who spoke to Tadias Magazine following the award ceremony, “meeting Mary was one of the defining moments” that profoundly changed her life. Mary had arrived as a member of the newly launched U.S. Peace Corps program. At the age of 22 she had joined the mission after graduating with a nursing degree.