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Making a Difference in Ethiopia, By Doris Lemcke, doris@swspotlight.com

Reprinted with Permission from Spotlight Magazines, January 2015

The article appeared in both Estero Spotlight and Southwest Spotlight Magazines


Carly Gallo is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia

Twenty-six year old Estero raised Carly Gallo describes herself as a, “Humanitarian at heart and an architect by trade.” Since graduating from Florida International University in 2010 she’s followed her strategic plan to combine her degree in architecture with her mission of helping people live better lives.

After a year with the Americorps City Year program in Washington D.C., she joined “Rebuilding Together” to coordinate construction for Maryland’s elderly, disabled and low- income residents. Her next step was the Peace Corps, something she’d considered in college. “I felt that to improve things, I needed to see the hardships and experience things I never have.”

Carly Gallo is assigned to Maksegnit, Ethiopia, a farming community.


Carly confirmed her willingness to be challenged by accepting a 27 month assignment coordinating HIV and AIDS prevention and education to residents of Maksegnit, Ethiopia. “I had no experience in health care,” she says, “but it’s all about being flexible.”

Her first international trip took her to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. The neon-lighted palm trees reminded her of Miami, but when she saw construction scaffolding made of bamboo she says, “I realized I had to throw out what I think. It works for them.”

One of 60 health and agriculture volunteers, she was the first to arrive in Maksegnit, a one hour flight from Addis Ababa. She was also the first, ferengi (foreigner) in the rural town of 4,500 people and is happy to be staying with a local family. “The children loved me when they first saw me,” she smiles. “They wanted to play.”

Carly smiles about nearly everything in the little town she now considers her second home including “bucket baths,” dirt floors, sporadic internet and limited water deliveries; acknowledging that her attitude of acceptance and commitment to learning the local Amharic dialect has helped her become accepted and respected.

Still, the stigma of being a foreigner has presented its challenges, from “foreigner pricing” in the market, to her work with people living with and at risk of AIDS, promoting pre-and-postnatal heath care, and in counseling young women struggling with abuse and gender inequality. “While the Ethiopian culture is beautiful,” she explains, “they are very proud.” So she works closely with an Ethiopian partner, local teachers and midwives to promote education and new healthcare practices.

After less than a year, Carly notes that the young women she counsels are, “Seeing the divide,” in gender inequality and becoming stronger. She’s also changed some misconceptions that America is perfect. “When I mention the homeless problem in the U.S., they’re stunned,” she says. “In Ethiopia, homes are always open to those in need.”

She credits her own commitment to helping others to her parents, Rick and Barb Gallo, small business owners and active Southwest Florida volunteers, saying, “I knew I could make a difference.”

Now home for her mid-assignment break, she says the transition was easy because she’s more understanding and has a broader perspective. The experience is everything she’d hoped for: challenging, valuable and personally rewarding, as well as creating a foundation for a master’s degree and a life and career devoted to building better communities.

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