Rachel Edwards - General Care Projects in Ethiopia
It didn’t really sink in what I was going to do until I was sat in the airport all by myself waiting for a flight to a totally foreign country that I knew nothing about and where I knew no one. I thought to myself ‘what have I done?!’
I don’t really know why I chose to go to Ethiopia and I didn’t know what to expect but I spent the most valuable two months of my life here. I’d associated Ethiopia with extreme poverty but Addis Ababa has come a long way and I was surprised but pleased that there were bars and pizza places nearby.
My placement at Kidane Mehret Children’s Home
I spent my time at Kidane Mehret Children’s Home and I loved it. The kids are an inspiration and I wanted to bring them all home. They are always happy even though they have nothing. They love having volunteers there and as soon as you walk through the gate they all run up to you wanting to hold your hand or be hugged.
The oldest person at Kidane was seventeen and she was lovely, showing me around, always making sure I was ok and always there for a chat. I spent my time with the young babies, feeding and cuddling them, playing with the toddlers, who were adorable, talking to and playing with the kindergarten children and hanging out with the older girls who would spend hours telling me about lives at the home, asking me about life in England and talking about hair, nails and music. They even braided my hair which I loved. The kids are all so amazing and I miss them all so much.
My host family
I couldn’t have asked for a better host family; they made me feel so welcome. I felt like part of the family and was very sad when it was time to leave. I was really looking forward to experiencing a different culture and the way people live, and I really experienced this with my host family. I got to try on some traditional Ethiopian dresses, take part in a coffee ceremony and eat food I’d never even heard of before.
Even though it would have been part of the experience to have a cold shower and a hole in the ground for a toilet I was secretly glad my host family had a hot shower and normal toilet! My time in Ethiopia would have been nowhere near as good if it wasn’t for my host family.
Ethiopian people are so friendly and I was surprised by how well most of them spoke English. You can’t walk down the street without at least three people saying hello to you. Everyone wants to know about you and your country and they all want to show you around Addis. I could walk around by myself and felt totally safe. I even made friends with a few Ethiopian’s and made sure I got their email addresses so we could keep in touch.
Memories to cherish
I had so many memorable times in Ethiopia. Getting a shared taxi was a scary experience at first but after a while I was rushing to get a seat like one of the locals and felt like I’d been doing it all my life. As I love shopping Merkato was heaven. I spent a lot of money there and I came home with so many souvenirs. It was wedding season while I was there and there was often three or four weddings happening in the park, near my host family’s house, at the same time. All the brides and bridesmaids had beautiful dresses. We got invited to one wedding and it was lovely to be part of it.
We went to a traditional restaurant for the monthly volunteers’ dinner and I loved watching the traditional dancing even though I was too shy to go up on stage. Some other volunteers and I went out to the cinema, to the pool and out to dinner in the evenings. There was always something to do and someone to do it with. I never felt alone.
If you’re thinking about going to Ethiopia you should definitely go. I learnt so much from this country and its people. Going to Ethiopia was the best thing I’ve ever done and I would love to go back one day.
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.