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Style Magazine

Drawn from Water

Jun 30, 2010 05:00PM ● By Style

Photo courtesy of Drawn from Water

Culturally mandated infanticide – the killing of children based on entrenched tribal beliefs – is an act as foreign in the United States as the countries in which it is rampantly practiced.

One of these countries is the East African nation of Ethiopia, where the organization Drawn From Water works to rescue and save children considered Mingi, or “cursed,” from a fate that would be unimaginable were it not absolutely true.

Named for the river in which Mingi children (whose mere presence is thought to curse their tribes) are drown, Drawn From Water operates under The Rock of Roseville – a local non-profit that raises funds for the South Omo Zone Pastoralists Organization to Stop Harmful Tribal Practices, an Ethiopian Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) – and is supported by teams based in both Ethiopia and the U.S. One hundred percent of funds raised on behalf of Drawn From Water are utilized in Ethiopia to further its mission: “To bring an end to the Mingi Tradition in the Kara, Hamar and Benna Tribes through culturally respectful means.”

“Tribe elders have the authority to demand that rules be obeyed,” says Micah Baginski, who, together with wife Emily and friends and former Folsom “green” real estate development business partners, Levi and Jessie Benkert, makes up the Ethiopian support team, while Rich and Melissa Lester provide U.S. support. “The weight of the majority of the tribe is behind the elders, and their decisions are carried out by everyone.” Despite the cultural sanctioning and acceptance of infanticide, and the insufficiency of its reasoning among most Westerners, the practice is likely to continue, making the efforts of Drawn From Water not only admirable, but somewhat unfathomable given the limitations that intolerance often breeds.

Although the gap of understanding between Western and tribal culture is considerable, Drawn From Water has fostered the rescue of 21 Mingi children since its establishment in 2009, by sensitively and deferentially working with tribal leaders in Ethiopia’s southern Omo River Valley. These efforts have allowed Drawn From Water to actively process a number of adoptions for abandoned children for whom parental reconciliation is impossible. Until they are placed in a loving home, NGO Director Lale Labuko (an educated tribal man), 15 local employees, and Western missionaries care for Mingi children at two Drawn From Water-operated orphanages – where they are encouraged to attend school and are taught about the cultures and traditions of their respective tribes.

Although infanticide is an issue that exists far outside our imaginations and our nation’s borders, it is relevant to the human experience and raises important ethical questions. “Every society has their own Mingi,” Baginski explains. “We need to ask ourselves if children and pregnancy, planned or unplanned, is a blessing or a burden. Children are no doubt an enormous responsibility, but do we have a moral interest as a society to protect those who cannot protect themselves? Are lives on the other side of the planet any less valuable than our own?”

Although there are no simple answers to these complex questions, there is Drawn From Water, comprised of a couple local families who have relocated to Africa, giving unwanted children what every human being deserves – an opportunity at life.

To learn more or to get involved, visit