Jessica Dougherty - Care & Community in Ethiopia
I was very lucky to undertake a voluntary project abroad in the country of my choice. After a lot of hard work and dedication, it was hard to believe seven other girls and I were finally on our way to Ethiopia to spend two weeks working at Kidane Mehret Children’s Home, an orphanage with many adorable and lovable children of various ages!
I was extremely nervous whilst we were on the plane as I didn’t know what to expect or how to react. We arrived in Ethiopia at 4:30am on Friday 15th July so there weren’t many people to be seen! On our way to the orphanage where we would be staying we were shocked as we saw people lying on the streets, wrapped up and sleeping. This atmosphere was absolutely breathtaking as everything was completely different; the smells, noises, dogs barking everywhere and the conditions some people were sleeping in. It was extremely hard to hold our tears in!
My Care placement
The children were all so friendly and loveable, I couldn’t believe it. Despite what was going on around them they couldn’t help but smile. The first day we arrived the children all ran up to us asking us the same questions ‘What’s your name?’, ‘Where are you from?’ and ‘What age are you?’ they were so interested in us and they were amazed by my blonde hair!
From that day onwards the children amazingly remembered our names and every time they saw us they’d shout to us to come and play with them. As there were eight of us, two of us went to work with the babies, two to work with the toddlers and the other four was spread out within different classrooms.
I personally enjoyed spending time with the babies the most and I grew very attached to one in particular, Marcellete, a baby girl. I found it extremely difficult to say goodbye to her when we were leaving although I was happy to hear that she had been adopted by an Irish family so it’s a reassurance knowing she’s safe and getting looked after!
Living in Addis Ababa
On the very first day we met Projects Abroad staff members Tami and Sammi who took us on a tour of Addis Ababa. It was unbelievable how friendly everyone was; everyone said ‘Hello’ when we walked past them.
At the same time it was extremely sad to see so many children begging for money, food and clothes along the streets. Very often we came across a disabled person and in this case it was impossible for us not give them money. For me, seeing all these people in so much need was hard and it truly was heart-breaking.
Tami and Sammi took us to the two five star hotels which made the dissimilarity between the rich and the poor very clear. What made it even more unusual was that outside these fancy hotels were homeless people lying on the grass, face down, sleeping.
Free time in Ethiopia
I made so many memories in Ethiopia that I will, without a doubt, never forget! I brought home a lot of souvenirs as I wanted to remember this experience for the rest of my life. We went to a traditional restaurant within the first few days of our trip which all the other volunteers attended as well so we could meet each other.
I loved watching the traditional dancing as it was so unique and it looked extremely fun! We went to Hawassa at the weekend with the Projects Abroad staff, we were taken to see the Hippos in the Lake Awasa in the Great Rift Valley which was so much fun. This filled us with adrenaline as we had never been so close to an animal like this unless we were in a zoo!
Without the Projects Abroad staff our trip to Ethiopia definitely would have been a lot harder as they made it that bit easier to get through the day. Whenever someone was sick or was feeling down, they were always there to help and make us laugh. I would most certainly recommend Ethiopia if you are thinking about doing something like this. I will, without a doubt, be going back sometime soon as I absolutely loved it!
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.