Volunteer stories : Jamille M., General Care Projects in Ethiopia
Performing charity work abroad has always been a desire of mine for many years. The opportunity to travel to another country, live as the locals do, and share my knowledge with others was intriguing and something I wanted to accomplish before departing this earth. As an individual in her late thirties, the opportunity presented itself when I decided to take a career break.
Instead of relaxing and enjoying the time away from the office, I decided to take advantage of my situation by giving non-monetarily to others with hopes of learning more about myself and the people who were to benefit from my support.
I chose Ethiopia because of the fond appreciation I have for Africa and the wonderful comments from friends and colleagues who had visited this beautiful country. The prospect of travelling to Ethiopia was always something I dreamed of doing and now I had the chance to make this a reality. I was eager to meet the people who I heard were friendly, resilient, and caring with a tremendous history and an array of many different cultures resulting from over 80 tribes.
Why Projects Abroad?
My decision to go through Projects Abroad for this life changing experience occurred when I attended the information session in London. The event was extremely helpful as it provided the platform to hear from previous volunteers about their experience and to raise questions which were answered in a timely manner.
Also, I wanted to work with an organisation that managed the logistics of my trip which included identifying a placement, host family, coordinating transportation, and informing me of visa requirements. Projects Abroad was my local contact in Ethiopia with local staff available to assist regardless of time or day.
My care placement
As I had an interest in working with children, I opted for a care placement assignment. Projects Abroad paired me with the Kidane Meheret Children’s Home, an orphanage located in Addis Ababa, managed by the Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus.
The orphanage has approximately 130 children ranging in age from 0 – 16 years with many adopted at an early age. The children living at the home were orphaned, abandoned, or had been living on the streets. The orphanage is also home to a few disabled children and has a nursery (pre-school) that younger children attend during the day which is available for those in the community.
The mission of Kidane Meheret Children’s Home is to love, care for, and educate children of different ages, ethnic groups, and religions. The volunteers assigned to the orphanage help the Sisters and staff members provide for the daily needs of the children by showing them love, assisting with the development of their confidence and self-esteem so they can enjoy life and become self-reliant.
Typical day at my care placement
When I reflect on my time at Kidane Meheret, a typical day involved arriving to the orphanage at 8:45am and mingling with other volunteers over coffee or tea before heading to the classroom to teach pre-schoolers English for 3 hours. Partnering with another volunteer, I taught15 pre-schoolers English ranging in age from 3 to 6 years.
The assignment was definitely a challenge as the official language in Ethiopia is Amharic and my knowledge of the language is limited. Thankfully, we were assigned a staff member who assisted us in supervising the children. The children were ecstatic when they could recite the alphabet and count to 100 – a special moment I will always remember.
In the afternoon and for the remainder of the day until approximately 6:30pm, I spent the time caring for the babies who were between the ages of 3 days and 18 months. I decided to work longer than required as I truly enjoyed the time spent with the babies. My responsibilities included feeding, playing, and cuddling them which was a wonderful experience. I took pride in seeing how well they developed over a matter of weeks.
I distinctly recall a situation that I will never forget which involved the arrival of 2 babies who came to the orphanage on Christmas Day. The babies were abandoned, extremely underweight, and very dirty. One of the babies appeared to have been attacked by some sort of animal as she had a gash on her head and scuff marks on her heel.
I was in utter shock at the baby’s appearance and praised the staff for handling the situation with the level of care and diligence to ensure the baby was comfortable. At the time of my departure from Ethiopia, both babies were thriving and in the process of being placed with an adoptive family.
After a month in Ethiopia, my journey had come to an end which was a sad moment. My time at Kidane Meheret Children’s Home was a life changing event. I witnessed and participated first hand in helping to develop the children of Ethiopia. I also realised how fortunate I was to have been given the opportunity to volunteer with a group of wonderful people who assisted in my overall development. The Sisters, staff, volunteers, and supporters of the orphanage should be commended for their efforts.
Upon my return home, I decided to continue supporting Kidane Meheret Children’s Home remotely by sponsoring a fund raiser which generated $3,000 in monetary donations. The money was given to the orphanage to assist in caring for the children of Ethiopia.
The fundraiser was a great way to educate my friends and colleagues on the mission and goals of the orphanage to raise awareness and gain future supporters. Kidane Meheret Children’s Home will always have a special place in my heart and will continue to support in any way I can with hopes of returning in the near future.
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