Two studets from Tullamore Colleges, Alana Dillon & Emily Deverell, along with their teacher Fiona Graham, recently returned from a trip to Ethiopia. They are studying Development Education as part of their TY course. This is the stroy of their trip in their own words.
Alanna and Emily here.
We were very lucky to travel with Gorta Self Help Africa on a school study trip to Ethiopia during the February midterm. Gorta Self Help Africa works with small holder farmers, tackling hunger and poverty through food production and rural enterprise. The main focus of the organisation is production of good quality seeds and the shared use of farm machinery in the form of Co-Operations among communities, with the long term goal of making families self -sufficient in the long run. The ethos of the organisation is “helping people to help themselves” and to move towards sustainable living, thus reducing the need for food aid from other countries.
Accompanied by Miss Graham, we travelled to Dublin airport on February 14. where we met up with the rest of the Irish contingent. The flight to Frankfurt was pleasant and smooth. Next stop Addis Ababa. We arrived in Addis at about 7am after an eight hour flight.
In the afternoon, we went to visit the Ethiopian National History Museum where we got our bearings and learned about our host country.
Next morning we travelled to a town called Gohatsion, four or five hours from Addis. We saw the new and old Blue Nile bridges. The scenery in that area was breathtaking. That evening we dined on local fare such as injera, firfyre bread and enjoyed a traditional coffee ceremony. We stayed in the Blue Nile Bridge hotel, which was an experience in itself. Check it out online.
On Tuesday we visited three schools in the Gohatsion area. First up was Gohatsion High School, which accommodates nearly 2,000 students from the age of 12-18, with 50 teachers heading it up. We got a warm welcome from the school, and were shown traditional Ethiopian dancing. In turn two of our girls showed them some Irish dancing with recorder and tin whistle accompanying. We gave school supplies such as copies, chalk, crayons, pens and pencils to the teachers to be used in the school and then made our way to the Vocational School. We got the same welcome there and we conversed with some of the students. Our gifts were very well received.
The minute we alighted from the bus at the Elementary School hundreds of schoolchildren ran out to greet us. In the classrooms, songs and rhymes were performed for us by the younger children, while the older ones showed us the games and tricks they play. We spent time talking to the students and showing them pictures of our homes and families. Their English was surprisingly good and they were all very mannerly. We left gifts, resources and supplies with the teachers and made our way back to the bus to travel back to Addis.
On Wednesday we drove to Mojo, a town about two hours outside of Addis where we visited an elderly farming couple who are members of the RusACCO Union. The RusACCO Union comprises a group of farmers working with Gorta Self Help Africa. The elderly couple had previously gotten a loan from the organisation and used this money to build a cookhouse with a chimney, something that is rare to have. It was very interesting to meet these people, it really gave us an insight into what life is like for them and to hear their story.
A little sightseeing then to see Zway Lake, which has an island in the middle. Home to a monastery. On Thursday we drove to a town called Welenchiti, where we met with the Wereda agriculture office staff. Here we learned all about their work in the area and the farmers that they work with. We had plenty of questions and we learned a lot during the short time we had there. We visited a family whom Self Help Africa helps with crop production. They talked about how Self Help Africa has benefitted their farming community. They were only too happy to demonstrate their new machinery for us.
On Friday we travelled to Sodere Hot Springs where there was bathing, swimming and a nature watch of monkeys and apes. Later we returned to Central Addis for lunch and afterwards headed on to the markets. We learned how to barter and bought many beautiful presents for family and friends. Our trip was coming to an end, no better way to finish it off than to experience an Ethiopian cultural night of food, dancing and singing. Everyone enjoyed it. When the time came to leave, we didn’t want to go. We said our goodbyes to the Self Help Africa director. We were presented with an Ethiopian t-shirt from the director of the charity as a souvenir. We left for the airport, where we said our goodbyes to our driver Johannas and to Endale, a Self Help Africa worker who had assisted us throughout the week. On our long journey back to Ireland we slept and dreamed of the amazing adventure we’d just had..
A huge thank you goes out to everyone who helped us along the way. Those who helped with all of the fundraising activities we planned in the months prior to the trip and to those who donated so generously. We saw first hand how every single cent is spent and the life changing effect such generosity has on the lives of the families the organisation are working with. Without your help this valuable work could not continue. It was an honour to be chosen for this opportunity and we will continue to spread the word of Gorta Self- Help Africa’s amazing work. Finally, many thanks to Miss Graham for organising the trip.
Alana Dillon and Emily Deverell