A Vancouver businessman, Gary Segal, has teamed up with an American doctor to provide badly-needed surgery to people half a world away.
On a warm Wednesday afternoon in downtown Vancouver six men, all standing in a line, look out onto the harbor.
They’re leaning on the balcony outside Canada Place, comparing their view to the one they saw in Ethiopia’s capital city Addis Ababa.
However it’s not the African city that unites them, it’s the man standing in the middle; his name is Dr. Rick Hodes.
The American spine doctor lives and works in Ethiopia. He adopted many children there, including Dejene and Mesfin, both there with him in Vancouver.
“We don’t even know how to pay him back because it’s so much that he has done for us,” Mesfin Hodes said.
They were once his orphaned patients and are now his adopted sons.
“Serial adoption isn’t the answer so I met the top spine surgeon on the planet and I started working with him; now I’m the only spine doctor for all of Ethiopia. So I’m following about 3,000 patients,” Hodes said.
Hodes has changed the lives of many, including Vancouver businessman Gary Segal.
“I can’t imagine the last 10 years without having met Rick,” Gary Segal said.
In 2007, Segal and his son Justin were volunteering in Ethiopia. While there they met a boy named Tesfaye.
Segal says they learned that Tesfaye would sell items like chewing gum from a wagon to survive.
However, Tesfaye also had a deadly disease: tuberculosis of the spine.
Inspired by Dr. Hodes, the Segals flew Tesfaye to Vancouver for surgery.
He lived with the Segals for several months, returning to Ethiopia a changed man.
“We celebrated for three days in his village of this young man Tesfaye and Tesfaye means ‘my hope’ in his language,” Segal said.