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East African Elders Create  Community Health Progr...

East African Elders Create  Community Health Program

A woman performs a traditional coffee ceremony of Eritrea and Ethiopia at Meaddi Club’s one year anniversary. Older adults from throughout Alameda County  gather to celebrate their culture, socialize and learn about health topics.

By Lisa LaMagna

Communities of color have long been marginalized when it comes to receiving patient-centered, culturally sensitive health care.

In Alameda County, a new initiative, called the Meaddi Club, has made inroads. The club honors the beliefs, practices, culture, and linguistic needs of Eritrean and Ethiopian elders who emigrated from Eritrea or Ethiopia in the 1980s. At Meaddi Club, they  celebrate their culture, socialize, and learn about health topics. The club meets every two weeks and is attended by 45-50 Eritrean and Ethiopian elders, plus friends and family.

In June 2017, the Meaddi Club was born out of sheer will and zero budget. It was co-founded by Hagos, Hailemichael, and Merhawit Woldu. The club gives Ethiopian and Ertitrean seniors a way to support each other and socialize. Meaddi is a Tigrignan word for a meal where elders share wisdom and the younger generations share events.

“When you miss your country, it is so important to duplicate what we used to do in Eritrea and Ethiopia,” says Philipos Hailemichael, a Meaddi Club co-founder. “At the end of the day, we are telling them ‘Your culture matters. You matter.’ ”

“It is very comforting for my mother and the other Meaddi Club members to participate in some of our holidays and festivals,” he added.

Each meeting begins with a traditional coffee ceremony with ambasha bread and with exercise. A conversation about health, social issues, or nutrition follows. A health professional from Highland Hospital checks vital signs and answers questions.

Semret Ghebremichael, 77, participates regularly at the Meaddi Club.

“The club is good. We meet the senior Eritrean people living here. We exchange ideas,” said  Ghebremichael.  “We (the seniors) organized the one-year anniversary event. We had our traditional food­—injera (a sour-dough risen flat bread) and vegetables.”

The Meaddi Club is an all-volunteer effort. The Eritrean and Ethiopian leadership works with DayBreak Adult Care Centers staff to create each meeting.

Through the Meaddi Club, elders have built a community, look after each other, and improve their health. There are no age limits to creativity and caring. Partnerships between

organizations like Highland Hospital, the City of Oakland, and DayBreak can create solutions for underserved communities and bring joy to people’s lives.

The elders seek donors to fund The Meaddi Club’s transportation and meals. To support or join The Meaddi Club, contact Ofra Paz at DayBreak, which serves elders in Alameda County and parts of Contra Costa county at 510-834-8314 or go to www.daybreakcenters.org –


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