A week in Ethiopia was so much more than I imagined

September 25, 2015
Written by Havana Caso-Dosembet
Photo by Margi Bhatt

Havana Caso-Dosembet is a junior at Trevor Day School in New York City. She’s been an active member of the Global Concerns Classroom (GCC) club at her school for three years now and this summer she was one of two students selected to take part in a GCC field visit to Ethiopia.

I am an active global citizen. This may seem like an unusual statement coming from a seventeen-year-old, but I can explain.

Concern staff working with Global Concerns Classroom (GCC) have been a constant presence throughout my time so far in high school. I have spent the last three years closely intertwined with the GCC club at my school, learning for the first time what acronyms like NGO, MDG, MUAC, HDI, and GHI stand for. Our clubroom has hosted educational conversations focused on the difference between emergency aid and sustainable aid, and situations in which both are used.

Havana learns how to make coffee the Ethiopian way.

Havana learns how to make coffee the Ethiopian way.

Having those three years of experience gave me the confidence and desire to apply for the 2015 field visit. I wanted to gain hands-on experience beyond the definitions I knew on paper. My perceptions of developing countries and Concern’s work in them had been formed solely through videos on computer screens. I felt that being able to participate in a field visit would further not only my own education, but also that of my peers, by giving me something tangible and relatable to bring back to our club.

The reality was far from what I had been expecting.

During the trip, I realized that, despite feeling well educated and prepared, my expectations and perceptions were in fact problematic. Mainstream media had conditioned me to think that everyone I encountered in a developing nation would be suffering and in need of aid, which was far from the truth. Ethiopia is a country that is extremely green and vibrant, and very different from my own and others’ stereotypical view of an African landscape. The reality was far from what I had been expecting. So many moments on the trip provoked changes in my thinking patterns and made me more conscious of my own problematic behavior, which I had not thought existed.

Havana and Hannah visit a plant nursery

Havana and Hannah (also a GCC student) meet with Concern’s Mengistu Arba and Tedesse Jula at a nursery site where they distribute seeds, show beneficiaries how to cultivate land and which crops to plant, and run the women’s credit union.

I did not expect to be as changed by the trip as I was. Returning home has forced me into situations where I have had to answer questions that previously wouldn’t have vexed me. People ask me about the trip by just referring to Africa as if it is one giant country, and refer to the individuals I encountered as suffering and starving, without realizing that what they are saying is not only insensitive, but also wrong. I now find myself taking on a sort of responsibility to teach those close to me that not everyone who lives on a certain continent or doesn’t have your lifestyle needs your help or wants your life.

This field visit has shown me that learning from a young age about the world beyond your life… is vital in helping to create a more aware, caring, and involved younger generation.

This awareness and openness to a new found responsibility makes me the young global citizen I am today. This field visit has shown me that learning from a young age about the world beyond your life, and gaining valuable perspective, is vital in helping to create a more aware, caring, and involved younger generation.

Explore further:

Havana and Hannah stand on a road surrounded by cows.

Havana and Hannah interact with the local wildlife.

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