Megan Keyes - General Care Projects in Ethiopia
In previous years Drumragh Integrated College sixth form students volunteered in Tanzania, Ghana and Ethiopia. For the second year Ethiopia with Projects Abroad was our destination of choice. Seven other girls and I managed to fundraise over our target of £16,000 to £17,000 so with the rest of this money we sponsored three children from the ‘safe house’, and gave donations to the homeless and to Kidane Mehret Orphanage.
First impression of Addis
We arrived at the Kidane Mehret Orphanage at 4.30am on Friday morning. On the first morning we met with our Leaders, Tami and Sammi, to begin our orientation of the city. As we walked through the streets of Addis Ababa we were all in shock at the devastating scenes of homeless men, women and children.
Every step we took people fell at our feet begging for food and money – it was one of the hardest experiences we have ever encountered. On that day we also visited the two top hotels in the city which made us realise the contrast between the rich and the poor people of Ethiopia. We found it really hard; people were lying on the roads with no food or water, just on the edge of the hotel grounds.
My Care placement
The next day we started our placement; two of us spent the day in the baby room, two with the toddlers and four teaching. This would alternate every day. I absolutely loved every minute of it. All the kids were so inspirational and loving I just wanted to take them all home.
I loved spending my time with the young babies, feeding and cuddling them. I fell in love with one baby girl called Malcolm; she was just adorable and I’d do anything to see her again, she was always smiling and I just wanted to take her home.
The older girls and boys loved playing football and all the girls enjoyed braiding our hair and hearing stories about what we did at home. One boy, Tezazu, who was about 11, clung to me the whole time; he always wanted me to take pictures with him. He was always drawing pictures for me and I miss him dearly. The saddest part for me was being unable to say goodbye to him as he was out the day we were leaving. You will find you get so attached to the children so quickly and it’s really hard to say goodbye.
My time in Ethiopia
I had so many memorable times in Ethiopia. We had a weekend trip to Hawassa which is a city on the shores of Lake Awasa in the Great Rift Valley. We went on a tour of the lake on a Reed Boat. Other volunteers came with us and it was such a great experience; I loved every minute. We also spent an evening at the traditional restaurant with different volunteers. It was such a good night where we were able to see and try traditional food and also take part in the dancing.
Our leaders are two of the many people who I miss and will never forget. Tami and Sammi were always there for us when we were either down or happy. They made the experience so much easier. I was always laughing when I was with them; they used to laugh and say I was like an Ethiopian girl because I never stopped laughing and smiling. I can’t put into words how much I miss them and I really hope to return some day and meet them again. Without them I don’t know how I would have coped, they just made my experience that much more special.
We met an Irish couple, Henry and Nessa, who also stayed at the orphanage and were adopting a six month old baby boy named Adoin’ah. They cared for us and supported us throughout our time in Ethiopia which was great as some of us missed home a lot.
I cannot begin to explain how amazing and life changing this trip was. Experiencing real poverty throughout the two weeks in Addis Ababa made me realise how lucky we are. Going to Ethiopia was the best thing I’ve ever done and it is a journey we will never, ever forget! I will definitely be returning one day and would advise anyone thinking about going to do it! It was most definitely the best experience of my life.
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.