Ethiopia was the last place on my mind when I thought of going on my first field visit, but now I wouldn’t have it any other way. This past July is one I will certainly never forget. For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to help others, and be a productive global citizen. This motivation inspired me to apply for the field visit when I was given the opportunity.
Thankfully, I had chance to see firsthand how Concern Worldwide operates in Ethiopia, and the differences they are making. I went along with Margi Bhatt, Concern’s Global Concerns Classroom Manager, Havana Caso-Dosembet, a student at Trevor Day School, and Ms. Barbra Spiridon, my ninth grade English teacher. We also met with Concern’s Irish team, and Kate, Concern’s country director in Addis Ababa.
Knowing that the money spent on giving us this field experience could have been spent on another clean water project really makes me want to show that I do not take going on this trip for granted.
Our group traveled to the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region of Ethiopia and stayed in Sodo Town, where we visited many Concern sites. We first visited a nursery where Concern educates farmers on efficient way of farming, and which plants are best to use in which situations. I found it interesting to learn that some plants we use decoratively in New York actually have medicinal uses (e.g. some elephant ear plants).
That same day we met with the Landless Married Youth Group. As generations go on, parents divide their land amongst their children. As a result, some offspring are married but have no farmland to support their families. Concern works with these people to find other methods of generating income (such as beekeeping and women’s money management cooperatives).
The next day we visited a water supply scheme. Concern was able to build a pump from a water source to a tank that could supply approximately 1,500 villagers. We learned that previously villagers had to walk three hours to the nearest source of water and, after filling their vessels, they then had to walk three hours back home. These six hours are now spent in more productive ways, such as farming and taking care of their families. The average cost of building a water supply is $2,500.
On our fourth day in Sodo, we visited Sodo High School. We were enthusiastically greeted and given a tour of the school. We were shown two libraries, one for the upper school and one for the lower, filled with outdated books. We saw the science lab, volleyball field, and radio room. We were given a coffee ceremony as well. Students spoke to us about their HIV/AIDS prevention club.
At the end of our visit, one student asked us what we could promise them as Americans. I volunteered to raise funds to help them upgrade their science lab. The lab they are currently using has no functioning equipment or chemicals.
I realized that a “Western” way of life is not always a better way of life. Some of these people in Ethiopia may not want our lives — but rather a better version of their own.
Knowing that the money spent on giving us this field experience could have been spent on another clean water project really makes me want to show that I do not take going on this trip for granted. I want to have a lasting effect everywhere I go, and I feel that this is the perfect opportunity for me to be a better global citizen.
I learned an abundance of life lessons from this extraordinary trip. One of them being that you cannot have any expectations about what a place will be like. While driving to different sites, one minute I would see a girl in her working outfit, full makeup, and hair blown out. Thirty minutes down the road I’d see a little boy wearing nothing but a run-down shirt, no underwear, no shoes. I also realized that a “Western” way of life is not always a better way of life. Some of these people in Ethiopia may not want our lives — but rather a better version of their own.
I am glad that I volunteered to aid Sodo High School. I feel that this is a great way to expand on my experience and increase awareness for global citizenship. In turn, I am receiving a great deal of support from my friends, family, neighbors, and Concern. I have discovered that even though people may not have to time to help others directly, when given the opportunity, they will gladly contribute what they can give. I also now know that any action that helps is almost always responded to with appreciation and generosity. I am so grateful to Concern for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime experience.