The Ethiopia of today is full of life, proud history, expanding infrastructure, it is intensely green and somewhere I've just returned from after visiting our sponsored child, 8 year old Gizachew.
As a child growing up in the 80s, the images of the great Ethiopian famine are the ones I most associate with the idea of extreme poverty. I understand now that the photos showing such an extreme, seemingly hopeless, situation probably were not the best reflection of a people with have such resilience and an incredibly rich culture. They did however, leave a lasting impact around the world.
Over the past few years I’d been increasingly interested in visiting Ethiopia mostly from seeing photos and hearing stories about the changes but also partly because I like a good coffee and I’ve heard that theirs is some of the best in the world.
Although I've been a sponsor personally for 12 years, the company I work for recently decided to sponsor a child through World Vision UK. As we’d been going for 8 years it seemed fitting to sponsor a child of the same age. And continuing my interest in Ethiopia we decided on an Ethiopian boy, Gizachew.
After signing up and receiving our welcome email with Gizachew’s photo we had a look at World Vision's Facebook page and spotted him playing football in some of the community photos. Gift idea noted
I'd been in Ethiopia for about a week before visiting Gizachew’s community and had already picked up a few random words and phrases. I think it’s always nice to greet and thank people in their own language wherever you are. My stomach had also done its adjustment cycle after some interesting cuisine.
Gizachew's community wasn't too far from the town where I was staying so fortunately the day didn't start too early. Arriving at about 10am and after a brief introduction to the ADP staff we headed off to visit Gizachew and his family.
His house was just off the main road and was amongst a cluster of about 6 houses surrounded by farmland and a few animals. As we got out of the car, I spotted Gizachew as he wandered over in his bright green and yellow Ethiopian team football shirt. Understandably he was a bit shy and nervous. We were invited into his house and the rest of his family made their way in gradually. As one of his sisters came in she was quickly handed a different top by her mother, I can only guess saying something along the lines of ‘you’re not meeting our guests looking like that!’ Mum’s are the same all over the world it would seem.
Gizachew’s home, albeit small, had quite a high ceiling and I was surprised to see their school books hanging on hooks quite high up on the wall. This was to keep them safe, Abe, Gizachew's father explained.
We sat down to chat and I handed out some gifts to Gizachew and his four siblings which included some writing and drawing items and a football. Gizachew’s mother was constantly preparing things while we were there, coming in and out to the fire. Keen to try out his new football we went back outside for a kick about and to burn off some energy. The new ball seemed to go down well.
Heading back in to the house you could smell the freshly brewed coffee wafting along with some warm flatbread
Abe handed me my overflowing coffee not realising my delicate fingers might not be able to handle the heat. Between laughs Gizachew eventually helped me rest it on the ground while it cooled. We spent some more time talking about his family and the area before saying our goodbyes to head off to see more in the community.
Leaving Gizachew's house I wasn't quite sure where we were going as my standard travelling state over there was to gaze out the window and observe life outside the car. We pulled off the road and headed cross country to the middle of a field, where there was a cluster of trees with a power line running into it.
Walking the last 50 metres over the field the staff explained that this was the community’s water pump. Something that would have certainly excited my Dad, but a gene I didn't possess. As we looked around the pump shed amongst the trees their explanation made me appreciate it a whole lot more.
Previously the bore pump had been powered by a petrol generator and provided water for just four hours a day, four days a week. With World Vision's help, three years of conversations, negotiations and planning they now have power to this little shed which pumps fresh water twenty-four hours a day seven days a week- to the whole community!
After this the staff wanted to check in on a family who had recently received the special gift of a cow from their sponsor. We arrived at the house and only the owner’s wife was home so she showed us to the cow. I’m not much of a cow expert but it looked like a healthy cow. Didn’t do much mooing though, I’m guessing it was shy too.
The cow owner’s wife offered us some of its yoghurt and other food as she told us that it gives them about four litres of milk a day of which they sell or trade half. We gratefully declined. She’d recently finished a gift for her husband which was a large thick blanket and was showing us how she made it from the cotton growing in their field, as the man of the house came home. After his wife had to justify why she wasn’t feeding the guests he started telling us that he will treat his new cow like his own stomach. An odd analogy, but one that really explained what the cow meant to him and his family. He excitedly explained that as he feeds and cares for his own stomach to keep himself alive he would do the same for the cow and through its produce it would keep him and his family alive.
My visit gave me what I think was the most complete picture of how a community benefits from World Vision’s involvement. From building schools to pumps and cows to yoghurt
Heading back to the field office we stopped by a hand pump which was swarming with families collecting their water for the day. It ran next to a creek, their old water supply, that was mostly stagnant and no doubt a great source of all kinds of nasties.
We also saw a secondary school and newly built nursery which allowed forty or so children to start getting an education they didn’t previously have access to.
It was as clear as the fresh water from the pump, the positive impact sponsorship has on Gizachew and his community
I know that over the years we'll enjoy sharing more with Gizachew and keeping up with how his schooling is going. But mostly I know that Gizachew and his whole community are part of ongoing changes that will help them enjoy their lives even more.Have you always wanted to visit your sponsored child? We love that our supporters can choose to visit the children and communities they support and see the changes with their own eyes. For more information, call our Sponsor Visits Manager, Katie, on 01908 244442.