16 Mar Year 12 Ethiopia Trip 2017
In January, eight students from Year 12 visited Ethiopia, along with Mr Gilbert and Ms Lyall. The trip takes place every year and is organised by Mr Gilbert to help charities in Ethiopia, as well as broaden the horizons of a few HGS students. Our…
In January, eight students from Year 12 visited Ethiopia, along with Mr Gilbert and Ms Lyall. The trip takes place every year and is organised by Mr Gilbert to help charities in Ethiopia, as well as broaden the horizons of a few HGS students. Our trip lasted ten days – we spent the first four in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, and then travelled to the Tigranian mountains in the north for another four days, before returning to Addis for two days at the end. We had raised an unprecedented amount of money and the trip was a great success.
Arriving in Ethiopia in the early morning, we stopped at our hotel to drop off our bags, and then went straight to a cafe about 5 minutes away, that served traditional Ethiopian breakfasts. On that first day we visited one of the charities HGS supports – The Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. Hidden in the heart of Addis, we found it to be an oasis, filled with all types of indigenous fauna and flora, as well as an extremely uplifting charitable project. Fistula can lead to a new mother becoming incontinent and because it is not well understood in much of Ethiopia, the women who suffer from it often become social outcasts – some of the women we met had not really left their houses for 40 years. The hospital, while treating the incontinency, also provides a safe and healthy start to life for the newborns and their mothers.
While we visited lots of charities, one that really stood out to us was the Food Run. Addis has an extremely large homeless population and the Food Run is an organisation that provides over 200 meals a week. Having funded two runs, we got into a set of taxis and drove around the city, hopping out whenever we saw homeless people to give them a meal and a bottle of water. Lots of the people we met hugged us and kissed us. We met a group of boys our age and we spoke to them about which football teams they support. It was upsetting to see children so similar to us living such difficult lives. It felt very strange to go back to our warm beds and have pizza takeout, after connecting with people in such need.
We also spent lots of time visiting cultural and religious attractions. We were lucky enough to be there for Ethiopian Christmas and so we spent the day visiting churches, and attending their ceremonies. Mr Gilbert also arranged for us to meet the British ambassador to Ethiopia, so we spent an afternoon in the Embassy, touring the grounds and looking out for tortoises!
After four days in Addis we took a plane to Axum, which unbeknownst to us, used to be the hub of a huge empire. We visited the obelisks – huge 30 feet statues made of solid pieces of rock – which, much like Stonehenge, remain a mystery to those who study them. We also saw the church that many people believe is the last resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. It was fascinating to learn about some of Ethiopia’s very rich history. We then drove to meet our tour guide, Kiros, and began our trek, but not before strapping our bags on to some very hardworking donkeys. When we arrived at the top of the Plateaus, we were all blown away by the views. Although we walked for six hours, we could turn around and see, miles behind us, the guesthouse we had stayed in the night before. While in the Tigray we visited a number of schools, and three we support – Enfo, Debre Abay, and Engifa. We had funded the building of classrooms and the provision of benches, and brought lots of books and toys to give to the children. Every school was extremely welcoming: one school greeted us with a song, another with an entire ceremony followed by a game of Simon Says, and in one school the children led us home, jumping down the rocks like mountain goats as we stumbled and fell, which made the kids hysterical with laughter. Again, we were struck by how easily we communicated and got along with the children, despite the fact that we didn’t speak their language and led such different lives. We made firm friends, and we are all eager to find out how they are getting on.
Arriving back in Addis, considerably more dirty and smelly, we spent another two days visiting more charities, including the only women’s refuge in Addis, and an orphanage started by a group of nuns from Malta. With one last stop at markets to buy coffee sets and other gifts for back home, we packed our bags and returned to the airport.
When we arrived back in London, we unanimously agreed that it was the best trip we had ever taken in our lives. We were so lucky to go, and to be able to make such a large, direct impact. Although we may not visit it again soon (despite the fact that we all intend to return), I feel that Ethiopia has had a lasting impact on who I am as a person, and has given me many extremely moving memories.
Ivy (Year 12 )