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Social work professor reflects on year-long trip to Ethiopia


Margaret Adamek recently returned from a yearlong stay in Ethiopia, a country she had visited briefly several times.

Adamek, the director of the Ph.D. program at the Indiana University School of Social Work, had forged a strong relationship with Addis Ababa University and its Ph.D. social work students during those previous trips.

With a Fulbright Fellowship, Adamek was able to build on those relationships during a year spent in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city.

Some of her impressions of Ethiopia include:

     – Being awakened by the sound of roosters crowing, even in a city of over 3 million inhabitants.

     – Sunny, hot weather is the norm from October through June. Electrical power goes off randomly without notice (that is, if you are fortunate enough to have electrical power).

     – If you look out your window, you might see an ox being slaughtered in your yard for an upcoming wedding celebration. Meals are eaten with your hands, while freshly slaughtered animals are strung up in unrefrigerated butcher shops.

     – Street children are begging (and sometimes going into your pockets) for money whenever you go out.

     – Urban traffic can be held up by a herd of goats, while goat herders connect with their customers by cell phone.

     – Men hold hands as a sign of friendship, while federal police with rifles patrol on a daily basis.

     – Laundry is done by hand.

     – Young men hang out of vans (“line taxis”) yelling out their destination in search of passengers. 

Adamek was accompanied on her trip by her family: husband Eddie Johnson; sons Jeremy, 16, and Joey, 14; and daughter Ja-nia, 2.

The focus of Adamek’s work in Ethiopia was to support the scholarly writing of the Ph.D. students at the Addis Ababa University School of Social Work. She mentored Ph.D. students on their dissertation research and Master of Social Work students on their thesis studies, serving on a number of dissertation committees. She also served as an internal or external reviewer for doctoral portfolios, dissertation proposals and completed dissertations.

Students’ topics were diverse and represented a range of social issues in contemporary Ethiopia, including human trafficking; positive youth development; the return of Ethiopian migrants from the Middle East; community policing; community-based child protection service; trafficking of street children for sexual exploitation (more than half of the 1.2 million children trafficked each year are from Africa); and the resilience of women abused by their husbands (culturally, a husband beating his wife is considered normal and expected).

Adamek also gave workshops on scholarly writing at other universities in Ethiopia including Bahir Dar University, University of Gondar and Jimma University.