Seven friends of ECA as well as my husband, Kebret, and son, Azaria, traveled to Ethiopia to help with this year’s delivery in January. They came from around the globe: The Czech Republic, South Africa, Switzerland, and the United States. We worked at a frenetic pace to buy all the goods locally and to install solar power at the Melka Oba school. In addition to inaugurating two new classrooms, we delivered a total of 6,000 notebooks and other school supplies and Christmas treats to over 900 children.
Special thanks as always to Adnew for overseeing the construction of yet two more buildings and for working relentlessly with calm and patience to make sure that the work was carried out efficiently and on time. This required him to often travel on public transportation on a really treacherous road, then by foot under a scorching sun to the two rural schools to deliver the supplies and to bring in water for the construction by donkeys. Without his perseverance and dedication, none of our projects would be realized.
Owing to adequate rains and a good harvest, it was not necessary to make any food deliveries this year. Instead we purchased school supplies, installed solar power in the teachers’ quarters, and inaugurated two new buildings. Special thanks to Didier for his generous contribution, as well as to Ann Low and her family and to Rob and Edie Wells. Edie’s poster designs and our new logo have been greatly appreciated as well.
Following discussions with school officials and local farmers, we decided to set up an organic vegetable garden at the schools to enable the children to grow their own food and to share it with their families. In so doing, we aim to collaborate closely with the local farmers on identifying their challenges and priorities and adopting new farming techniques such as drip irrigation.
I recently spent almost three months in Ethiopia on the first part of the sabbatical I was awarded by the UN to undertake a study on food security and organic farming. While there I worked closely with the Institute for Sustainable Development, which is based in Addis Ababa and headed by the venerable and indefatigable Sue Edwards. The Institute’s main mission is to alleviate hunger and poverty and to support and improve the livelihoods of farmers, youth, women and children through environmentally sustainable practices.
This dovetails perfectly with the goals of the ECA and thus I am benefitting immensely from the expertise and knowledge of Sue and her team on organic agriculture. In fact, Sue and her colleagues are now helping ECA to set up the organic farm at the school and to build compost toilets.
While on sabbatical, I was also able to help the health clinic located right next to the Melka Oba school. I made several trips to the area to meet with community leaders, local farmers and the nurses responsible for the clinic. I was informed about their pressing needs, which led me to install solar power at the clinic. They now have not only light but also electricity for a fridge to keep much-needed vaccinations cold. In addition, we are in the process of renovating the clinic to improve its hygiene.
Projects planned for the future include providing solar power to the community center so we can set up a computer lab for training students and young adults. We would also like to establish scholarships to support vocational training for older students.
As has become tradition over the past eight years, we spent Ethiopian Christmas with the 16 youths living at the Artist for Charity home for children with HIV. Earlier we took them shopping for their Christmas presents and enjoyed a wonderful lunch together with the visitors from abroad. However, Christmas still held lots of surprises for the kids. My friend Beth and her husband, Tim, helped me with some of the gifts that are hard to find gifts in Ethiopia by shopping on Amazon and personally bringing the gifts to Addis. There were requests for the “Twilight “book series and the latest music, but I am happy to say there were also many requests for dictionaries, calculators, and SAT and Toeffel preparation guides. Alas, my kids are growing up and worrying about their futures and college entrance requirements. One daughter requested that we forego the usual material gifts she receives and instead put some money in her college fund! I am happy to report that we were able to do both.
There were requests for the “Twilight “book series and the latest music, but I am happy to say there were also many requests for dictionaries, calculators, and SAT and Toeffel preparation guides. Alas, my kids are growing up and worrying about their futures and college entrance requirements. One daughter requested that we forego the usual material gifts she receives and instead put some money in her college fund! I am happy to report that we were able to do both.
In fact, as of September 2012, the Fotis foundation has decided to support the secondary education of the ten girls living in the house until they graduate. This is great news since the girls will now be able to attend private schools.
As usual, the children put on a two-hour show for us with original drama, dance, and songs. We were more than twenty visitors in attendance at the performance.
Of those accompanying me to Ethiopia this year, two decided to move in with the kids for a while to help them with their English, French, homework and college preparations. Steve, a Swiss/Senegalese law student, spent his entire 3-weeks stay in Ethiopia at the home. After he left, my son, Azaria, took over and stayed five more days.
I wish to thank all of you for your continued and unflinching support of the activities of the Ethiopian Children’s Appeal. Special thanks to the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Mr. Abdullai Janneh, who each year provides ECA with a truck and a bus in which to make the deliveries. Thanks also to Mai-Ellen and Max Jarrett, our treasurers.
Jo Elizabeth Butler, Founder, Ethiopian Children’s Appeal