At the end of January I decided to stop my studies. I started to search for some volunteering organisation. I found the website of Projects Abroad and everything looked beautiful. I made an appointment with Projects Abroad in Dordrecht (Holland) and after 2 minutes we agreed that Ethiopia was the best option for me.
After I made my decision and filled in all the forms the Projects Abroad staff in Ethiopia started to get in contact with me. The contact was very good and I could ask all the questions I had. They even called me a few times!
My host family
For those 9 weeks it really felt like my own family. I got my little sisters to play with; I had my older sisters to talk to, share clothes, go out with and meet new people. Especially in my first weeks! Then there was the lovely mother, who really takes good care of all the volunteers. You never ate too little, actually always too much. It is a big, busy family and almost everyday I saw new people coming to the house. During my first few weeks I spent a lot of time with the daughters of the family. My first Sunday I went to church with the oldest daughter of the family. It was a protestant church and I loved the worship there!
The work I was doing in Ethiopia was amazing. In the morning I started at Safe House, a day care centre where the children are given breakfast and sent to private school with lunch. They will return to eat dinner at Safe House. Every morning when I passed the gate of Safe House all the kids ran to me and gave me a kiss or a hug. I took my time over it because I really loved them. It is maybe the smallest thing you can do to make them happy.
I had really good relationships with the staff in Safe House. Every morning I helped the teachers preparing lessons or with activities for the small kids. Sometimes I gave the lessons myself. I taught or played games with the little ones, who are too young to go to school. In holiday time all the kids were at Safe House, a big difference but great! I also talked and had fun with the teenagers. We did some sports like volleyball, basketball, football, gymnastic or ‘acrobatics’. Sometimes some teenagers came with amazing life stories. Also there was a boy Mickey, who was too old to get a sponsor in Safe House. I will write another article about how I met him and why I am going to sponsor him in the future.
After lunch in Safe House I finished my working day at Kidane Mihet, an orphanage. I only worked there with the babies. Amazing! I love them all, every single baby. The sisters are doing all they can in the orphanage but they really don’t have time to hold the babies and just give them some love. Without volunteers the babies might lie 24 hours a day in bed. They only get out of bed for a change or a bath a few times a week.
Sometimes they lie on big mattresses in the baby room, where they can play. It is hard to see how many babies have wounds on their back and neck from lying down all the time. They also have wounds on their buttocks because they often end up wearing wet nappies for a long time. They really need and appreciate the help from volunteers. Despite the sadness I sometimes felt, it was so beautiful to hold the babies, give them their bottle and sing some songs till they fell asleep in my arms. I had a great time and not only with the babies. The staff and the nuns were amazing and so sweet. They made my day, every single day!
My free time
I love meeting new people so that’s what I started to do from my first Saturday. We had a very nice social meeting with all the volunteers. We went out for dinner and learned some traditional dances.
In Addis there are a lot of nice things to do. I didn’t have time enough to visit all of the sites. But one day I want to the exhibition hall, and there was a big British Council event. It was like a talent show. A lot of young Ethiopian dancers, rappers, artists and designers had come together and put on a big show. I went to some studios, and it was very interesting to see how musicians work here in Addis. I also went to some very interesting museums, and the famous Lion Zoo. I think there are a lot more things to do and see… So, maybe next time!
And then it is time to say goodbye. I thought I could say goodbye to all the kids after a big ‘bye-bye party’. The party happened but ‘bye-bye’ not. Just before my flight I went back to my placement to say goodbye again. It is hard to say goodbye. But I know that I will come back one day.
I made some real friends in Ethiopia; they all took me to the airport.
At Christmas I want to go back to see how everything is going, especially with Mickey and Yohannes. From now I want to raise money to come back every year and - if it is possible - more than once a year.
Ethiopia with its people and culture stole my heart and it will never be ‘goodbye’ forever.