Jennifer Carillo - General Care Projects in Ethiopia
My name is Jennifer Carrillo and I am from the beautiful country of Panama. I live in Tampa, Florida and I love it here. My cousin Ilka and I just turned thirty this year. We had been talking about how we wanted to celebrate our thirtieth birthday for over two years. We wanted to do something different and selfless. So we thought why not volunteer in an orphanage in a different country. We both love to travel so it would be perfect!
We had spoken that Africa would be our destination. Last year I received a phone call from Ilka and she said, “I know what country in Africa we can go to, let’s go to Ethiopia!” I thought “that’s perfect!” All we had to do was find an organisation to go with. I searched online and the first place I came across was Projects Abroad. I started reading about the organisation and how it came about. Then I saw that they had placements for an orphanage in Ethiopia. From there I thought, “This is meant to be.”
Arriving in Ethiopia
When we arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a staff member from Projects Abroad was waiting for us at the airport. She took us straight to our host family’s home where the whole family was waiting for us. Our host family greeted us with hugs and kisses. They really made us feel welcomed and loved.
When we woke up the next morning we were greeted with a coffee ceremony by our host family. The ceremony took a total of two hours. It consisted of them roasting the coffee beans, grinding them, brewing the coffee, and warming up the milk. The final product was delicious. Our host family mom owned a café and we had the privilege of tasting her delicious pastries. Our host family was very generous to teach us about their Ethiopian culture and agriculture. The Ethiopian culture is very rich.
I like that our host family was very sociable with us. They were really interested in our culture and what we like doing with our free time. Our host family was very attentive to us and always made sure we had enough to eat. We learned the word “baca” which means “enough”. We found ourselves saying “baca” because they were constantly trying to feed us. They also taught us how to dance and even showed us around town during their free time. Ilka and I loved our host family. They really made our trip an unforgettable one.
My Care Project in Ethiopia
Volunteering at the orphanage was a life changing experience for me. Ilka and I worked along with the infants and toddlers. What really made my day every day, was having the toddlers run up to us to give us a hug and a kiss. They always had a smile on their face. They were the sweetest kids with the most loving personalities. Our day with the toddlers consisted of teaching them shapes, colours, and alphabet in the English language. We also played with them during their free time. They loved playing football.
They were extra happy when they took baths because of having the opportunity to play in the water. I spent most of my time with the infants. They melted my heart. Rocking them to sleep was my favourite thing to do. The infants loved play time and to be held close. Being a mother myself, having a two year old, I understood the importance of giving all of my attention to these kids.
Working at the orphanage gave me the opportunity to give love to infants and toddlers who desperately desire to be loved. The vivid images of their loving and kind faces will forever remain with me for the rest of my life. The sisters and the workers at the orphanage were all so nice. They also made my experience an unforgettable one. They care for the kids as if they were their own. There was a lot of love being shared at the orphanage. The bond I had with some of the kids and infants brought great joy to my heart.
Volunteering with Projects Abroad in Ethiopia
Projects Abroad were always available for us if we had any concerns and questions. One of the staff took the time to take us sight-seeing and showed us the cultural side of Addis Ababa. She took us to a cultural dinner at a local restaurant. This restaurant had traditional food and dancing. We were able to experience the Ethiopian culture and get a taste of Ethiopia!
Going through the streets of Ethiopia I was awakened to a beautiful culture with vibrant colours and very peaceful lifestyles. Some of the things I saw were heart breaking, some were encouraging, and some reminded me and confirmed some of the powerful things I believe in my own personal life. I came back to the United States with new perspective, a rearranging of my priorities, and a new passion for my family and my friends. Projects Abroad made all of this possible. Everyone was so sweet to us which made being in a different country not so different.
This whole trip was life changing for me. It made me appreciate everything I have and most importantly to love at all times. Projects Abroad was instrumental in making this trip a possibility and provided excellent service in guiding me through the entire process. Even after our trip Projects Abroad made sure to follow up with us and check to make sure everything was good. I definitely plan on going on another trip through Projects Abroad in the near future.
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.