01 Feb Year 12 Visit to Ethiopia
As a school we have been supporting a number of charities in Ethiopia for over six years, however it is only in the last 12 months that we started working directly with Debre Abay School and within the last six months that we were able to link with Engifa Elementary School.
Within this very short time frame it is quite extraordinary just how much has been achieved and I am gratified that so many members of our school community have come together to support our projects.
A group of 6th form students and two members of staff have just returned from Ethiopia and have seen first-hand how all the donations are being used and how all the money raised (a total of over £4500 in the last 18 months) through non uniform days, school raffles and a 5km fun run has been spent. In Debre Abay School we saw the 25 benches in use, following their delivery to the school in May last year; it was very special to see students using them and the classroom clear of rocks, which used to be their tables and chairs. It was very humbling this year to be greeted like old friends with welcome songs as we approached the village. Our arrival was quite a sight since we were preceded by five donkeys laden with seven huge bags, filled with donations, plus all of our trekking bags. As we unpacked, the school director was thrilled to see so much sports equipment including a full football strip. Our sixth formers were also able to teach the students Jenga, Connect 4 and loom banding which at the speed of production when we left would present only one problem – where they can get their next supplies of bands from?
When we returned from last year’s trip we decided to sponsor a ‘small’ class of 40 students for £10 each which supplied them with a uniform and all their pens and educational equipment for the year. The Highbury Grove staff responded quickly and we were able to achieve this target within weeks. This year, to continue the relationship, we thought it would be nice to give these students a Christmas present, so staff sponsors were each asked to fill a lunch box with small gifts to be given to ‘their child’. The response from the children was incredible. Initially they were unsure, looking quizzically to their teacher, but as they realised this was for them to keep, their eyes widened, their excitement grew and it proved to be a very memorable moment for us.
Whilst at the school we were treated like royalty, presented with a sheep, invited to a village wedding and welcomed into their classrooms. It was quite difficult to leave after such a visit, but further up the valley we had to visit our second sponsored school. Here we experienced another warm welcome with speeches from village elders and had a second sheep presented to us – we gave this one back! It was amazing to be seated inside the new school building knowing that our efforts back home raising money had paid for the building to be completed. There is still a great deal of work to be done, the earth floor needs levelling and it needs windows and benches, which we will hopefully be able to do after our next round of fund raising.
“The Ethiopian trip was just surreal and that’s the only word to describe it for me! It was the first time ever that I felt unattached from the stresses of daily life. Our trip to Ethiopia was jam-packed and we were constantly on our feet. On the first day at 9am we took part in a food run which feeds 300 homeless men, women and children. That was a real eye opener and you realise how different our lives are. Learning about traditional daily routines was so strange to me but it was amazing trying it out and doing it for yourself. I would say Ethiopia has changed the way I see things and by finding out first-hand how some other people in the world live opens your eyes, but it’s something that you have to go see and do for yourself for you to actually know and understand.” Cerys (Year 12)
Thank you to everyone who contributed to these projects, whether you donated books, clothing, games, sporting equipment or simply paid £1 on the non-uniform day: you have made a huge difference to the lives of 1400 children in a remote valley of Tigray.
Paul Gilbert (Assistant Headteacher)