(Dr. Stuart Grauer, Lale Labuko, John Rowe)
The Omo Valley is named for the river that runs down its center. The Valley contains people that continue many ancient practices, one of which is Mingi. By our standards these people, the Kara, live under primitive conditions. There is no electricity or cars. As Dr. Steven Wallace explains, “The people are semi-nomadic and live by raising crops, cattle, sheep and goats. They wear the hides of cattle and goats. The elders that run the tribe cannot read or write. They do not know their own ages and probably have not traveled fifty miles from their village their entire lives.”
For generations, tribal elders have determined if a child is Mingi. In general, children that are born to unwed mothers, children in which the upper teeth erupt before lower teeth, or twins are considered Mingi children. And for generations, these children have been put to death. Enter Grauer School alumni father John Rowe (Kelianne, class of 2011). John, a world-class photographer, created Omo Child Foundation, after meeting Lale Labuko, a young and charismatic Kara man who determined at a young age that Mingi must end. The Grauer School has supported the Foundation since its inception. You can see John’s brilliant, vibrant photographic images of Omo Valley people in our school Great Hall.
After teaming up with Lale for several years of significant risk, expense and very hard travels, the miracle at last occurred as John and Lale persuaded the elders end to these ancient practices. On July 14, with John and Lale present and marked by the ceremonial sacrifice, gutting, and roasting of of a local lamb organized by the elders, the practice of Mingi came to an end.
What John Rowe took on surely must have seemed to be an isolating and endless series of predicaments that would have tried the vision and resolution of almost anyone, yet he stuck with the vision. John is a hero and may live out his life knowing that he has saved future generations of children from death while still respecting what is positive about a traditional culture in Ethiopia. John continues to support thirty-seven children through the Omo Child Foundation orphanage, a worthy charity for us all, and he plans on saving more children of other tribes.
John’s perseverance, resourcefulness and compassion serve as inspirational role models of Grauer School core values. We honor alumni father John Rowe.
(If you would like to see more pictures about this, check the website of OMO CHILD at http://www.omochild.org/.)