Two oxen, five schools and many laughs later…

Over the past week the Imagine Ethiopia 2010 participants have spent the majority of their time visiting imagine1day’s schools and communities to learn more about why we do what we do, how we do it and what exactly the impact of bringing quality primary education to a community here in rural, Northern Ethiopia is (but they’ve also learned how to haggle for an ox in a local market – impressive!).

The past handful of days have brought new adventures, a wealth of challenges, bundles of laughs and a lot of growth for all of the participants.

Day Five

September 27th marked a very special day for the team because after a year of fundraising and much anticipation they set foot for the first time in Laelay Wukro – the community that they tirelessly raised over $100,000 to build a new Grade 1-4 school for.

The participants spent the day building relationships with the men, women and children of Laelay Wukro and had the opportunity to participate in the planting of 1,000 avocado and papaya seedlings around the new school property which, when they bear fruit, will provide a source of income to develop and maintain the new school’s programs. They also participated in building a fence along part of the property line and helped to build a part of the foundation. A lot of hard work was done but the day ended with singing and dancing.

Brett and a Wukro community leader plant a seedling together.

“Through planting trees and carrying stones to help build the school, I felt like we truly were given the opportunity to bond with the community,” says Doug Millard, an Imagine Ethiopia 2010 participant from Ontario. “Working side-by-side with men, women and children of the community showed all of us that we are contributing and building this together. The day at Laelay Wukro gave this trip a lot of meaning for me. My time there showed me that there are things that can be done to help other people – we can’t fix everything all at once but we can take small steps, one at a time, and work together to create something that can make a difference.”

The Imagine Ethiopia 2010 participants and the imagine1day team
in front of the Laelay Wukro construction site.

Day Six

One day shy of a week in Ethiopia the Imagine Ethiopia 2010 participants had the opportunity to visit three of imagine1day’s unique communities.

First on the slate: Tsehafti – one of our supported schools. As a supported school Tsehafti, prior to imagine1day’s intervention, already had an existing school building but lacked adequate resources, funding and equipment to really make their students excel. But when the administrators explained their new programs like animal fattening for income generation and science kits for the classrooms it showed the participants just how far a basic tools can go in helping a school like Tsehafti become one of the best schools in the district.

Inside Tsehafti’s colourful Grade Two classroom.

Next up was the community of Wazza and an inspirational presentation from Principal Halefom who explained the tremendous academic achievements of Wazza’s students since the imagine1day intervention. His students have won many prizes at both the district and regional levels and he himself has won many awards (even at the national level) affording him the opportunity to publish a book about teaching English in Ethiopian classrooms.

An attentive student at Wazza Community School.

Last but not least was Seffo Community School – imagine1day’s baby (the first school we ever built). A  Q & A session with the community and an impromptu dance party in one of the classrooms made it a memorable experience for all of the participants.

The overall consensus was that the three school visits really put flesh onto the bones of what the participants had heard and read so much about. The programs came alive and tangible results were evident. Finally, after waiting for so long they were able to make sense of how all of the different elements of imagine1day’s program come together to create vibrant, successful schools and happy, knowledgeable students.

“There were a lot of conversations that happened after we visited the schools,” says Lacey, one of the participants from Vancouver. “We (from North America) have such great opportunity for our lives just because of where we were born. We have a responsibility to give back and giving back can show up in many different ways. We can’t be all things to all people, but we can be something. We can do something. After spending time at the schools with the children and the elders in these schools I was able to recognize that contribution shows up in many different ways. We just have to do good and however that shows up doesn’t matter because there is no measure to doing good. Holding a child’s hand and watering plants with them is having an impact. Raising $100,000 for a school has an impact. Inspiring an elder who had an injured hand to work alongside us has an impact. We can all make an impact.

Day Seven

The majority of the day was spent at the local Hawzien Market – a hodgepodge of stalls filled with everything from handmade jewelry to livestock to sandals made from old tires. The group enjoyed perusing the stalls and picking up gifts and souvenirs but the highlight of the day was navigating the purchase of two oxen to take as gifts to the Abada community three days hence…

Was it a success? You bet.

After much consideration the group was more than attracted to Chuck and Johnny – two oxen with “glossy coats and gentle eyes.” From scouting out the two “chosen ones” to negotiating the price, the Imagine Ethiopia 2010 participants did it all. So, should you even find yourself in a situation where you’re haggling for an ox in an Ethiopian market – you know who to call.

The afternoon saw about half of the group take to the trails and hike the challenging, yet stunning mountain path to the remote Mariam Korkor rock-hewn church where two monks and two nuns still live a traditional, monastic life.

Day Eight

The group hit the road again, this time to travel to the community of Atsemba for a unique experience  - the very first ribbon cutting for a Grade 5-8 school (up until now we have only done Grade 1-4 schools!).

The morning was spent dancing with the community and then working on various projects like planting trees and building a gate for the new school but then after a delicious lunch of locally made scrambled eggs, honey and bread and a traditional coffee ceremony the rest of the day was all fun and games.

The drums come out and the dance party begins at Atsemba Community School.

While some people continued the dance party with the locals others went to play an intense volleyball game with community leaders, teachers, parents and even some of the older students.

Jeremy goes for a spike at Atsemba.

“What stood out to me was the continual spirit of celebration among the people across ages and genders,” says Susanne, one of the trip leaders. “What I mean by that is that there were dance circles of men, women and children in different parts of the school grounds. When one died out, another would pick up! It was a beautiful day.”

With a handful of days left in Ethiopia the participants still have plenty more stories, photos and updates to share so continue to check back here and on our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/imagine1day) to find out more!


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