Sunday, May 22

María Hernández, the aid worker murdered in Ethiopia: “She was an intelligent, courageous and cheerful leader”

The news of the murder in Ethiopia of the Spanish aid worker María Hernández Matas, mid-afternoon last Friday, suspended games of mus in the air and dominated in the only bar in Sanchotello (Salamanca). Its 225 inhabitants, soul up, soul down, picked up the green rugs to get closer to the screen and learn about the fate of their countrywoman. That afternoon, the people of the Serranía de Béjar had to prepare to get away from the masks a bit, think about the reopening of the pool and, above all, organize the arrival of visitors, many of them children of the town who, year after year at this time, they return with the beginning of the most anticipated season. «She was a very nice and friendly girl. He came every summer, at least for a few days. Her death was a very big blow, she was very loved, “lament the neighbors at the La Morera bar, the only one that remains open. In Sanchotello everyone knew Maria. To this small municipality he escaped whenever he could. The last time he was there was just a month ago, when he went to take his mother before leaving again for Ethiopia. There the mother received the news of the tragic death of her only daughter. Since then she has not been seen on the streets of the charming town, as she remains at home, accompanied by her family and trying to digest such a terrible loss. Although the 35-year-old aid worker was born in Madrid, she soon moved to Sanchotello, where she lived her childhood. There Maria kept her group of friends and her rock. Rebeca, one of her young friends from the town, remembers, unable to hold back her tears, that “she was a person full of life, happy and super-humble.” He left this small town, like many others, with the firm intention of training and helping those who need it most. “He could have it all but he chose to help others,” he says. The young aid worker never broke ties with the municipality, which has declared three days of official mourning that will last until Monday. “Thinking about how he died is terrible,” laments Rebeca. From a very young age, María Hernández Matas showed an enormous vocation for solidarity. He alternated his studies in International Trade and Economics (Carlos III University of Madrid) with volunteer stays, both inside and outside our borders, regardless of whether he had to work for others in the summer or during the course. She collaborated with the García Gil y Adisli Foundation, which helps people with intellectual disabilities, where she was a basketball coach. She was also a volunteer teacher at the Cañada Real (Madrid) and at the Regina Pacis School in Bombai (India). From Africa to Mexico When he finished his degree in 2009, he continued to work altruistically for others, teaching English and French – he also spent a year at the Pantheón-Sorbonne University in Paris – at the religious social center of Mary Immaculate. She also remained linked to Iroko, an NGO that helps disadvantaged populations through the sustainable management of natural resources. She was helping out with the project to supply the demand for drinking water in Togo. As soon as she could, Maria made her vocation of solidarity her profession. After working in a business consultancy and in the business area of ​​Fnac Paris, she joined Doctors Without Borders in 2015. With the phrase of Mahatma Gandhi as her maxim– «Be the change you want to see in the world» -, María went to Africa. Her first destination was the Central African Republic, specifically Bangui, where she worked as a financial coordinator. From there he moved to Yuba, capital of South Sudan, where he carried out the same work. In May, she settled in Yemen, first in Sana’a and then in Abs, where she made her debut as a project coordinator. “I am fully convinced of what I do and of the need to be here” In mid-2018, the young charra traveled to Mexico, where she again took over the NGO project as coordinator. There, says César Iván Valerdí, a former MSF Mexico collaborator, he gave himself up to get more resources with which to help the country’s immigrants. “In less than a year, the project expanded to the most important points,” he highlights. “One of the phrases that stuck with her the most was one that said: ‘To do nothing in the middle of a crisis is to be accomplices of the oppressors.’ Furthermore, she was a woman who enjoyed freedom. He rarely stayed in the office working because there was always something to do, “says the young man, who still remembers the celebration of his arrival, when he ‘showed’ him that Mexicans also know how to dance. “His bravery and intelligence is something I carry with me.” In 2019, she again felt the call of Africa, and was assigned to Pulka, Nigeria, where the organization managed a hospital where she was going to spend Christmas. “It is not the first time and surely it will not be the last,” he told RNE at the time. «I am fully convinced of what I do and of the need to be here. You put many things on the balance, especially people, family, friends. But at the end of the day, it’s worth it. He had been in Ethiopia for barely ten months when doom crossed his path. Also in that of his two companions, Yohannes Halefom Reda, a 31-year-old coordination assistant, and Tedros Gebremariam, a driver of the same age. His MSF colleagues, like his family, are broken. And they have decided to pass the duel in silence. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry continues working to “expedite” the repatriation of the corpse of the Spanish aid worker, confirm diplomatic sources, who hope to be able to announce news in the next few hours. The procedures are not easy, since Tigray, the area where they suffered the attack, is currently experiencing a turning point in the armed conflict that began in November 2020. “The Tigrinos are gaining ground. The best generals in the Ethiopian Army, those who are now organizing the resistance, were from the Tigray ”, explains Andreu Martínez d’Alòs-Moner, researcher at the Institute of Heritage Sciences of the CSIC and an expert on Ethiopia. “Those who have killed the aid workers have done it with a goal. You don’t touch a humanitarian organization without knowing the consequences. A few days ago, Martínez read statements by the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, which left him stunned. The president regretted that the humanitarian aid that had been received in the 1980s through Sudan – in that decade, Ethiopia suffered a terrible famine – had allowed the Tigrinos to seize power. “With what has happened, this reflection takes on a sinister dimension,” reasons the expert. “It cannot be said who has killed the aid workers, but the Ethiopian state does not favor humanitarian aid. Abiy considers the aid workers agents of the Tigrinos.