Barbecue with our scholarship students, prize-giving for the best students in the first semester, art exhibition at the opening of our new art&crafts building…
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On February 15th, our new Arts&Crafts Center at Lemlem Baro School was opened officially with a student art exhibition under the theme of ‘Beautiful Birds’. Three of us were present in Mehoni for this special event, and we worked hard with the students in the week prior to the exhibition to finish the exhibits on which they had been working for weeks.
The quality of the students’ exhibits was very high, especially given that most of them had never done any artwork of their own until a few months ago. Our resident art teacher has worked hard with the students and we found out that we have many students at the school who are highly talented in this area.
Some of the work was bought by members of the public, and the students were very proud to receive their share of the money paid for their work. Teachers and students from other schools also visited the exhibition over the four days it was open, and the feedback was extremely positive. Many of our students thanked us individually for providing the school with an art room and also asked us to pass on their thanks to the many EE friends who had provided art materials over the past few months.
We are always grateful for biro pens (new), colored pencils (can be used), water paints and other decoration items like gold and silver paint. Have a look at the pictures and see just how well they did, including our three most talented students who were allowed to create bird masks and open the exhibition as ‘beautiful human birds’.
By the way, the ‘luxury birds’ exhibit of four colorful birds was mounted on one of our classroom stools turned upside down. The legs were the perfect size to be inserted into the wrapping-paper rolls used for the body, and the faces were made of egg cartons, cut and covered in plaster tissue and then decorated. We loved them!
This week EE board members Thomas, André and Lesley will leave for Mehoni and the official opening of our Arts&Crafts Center at Lemlem Baro School. The opening will be celebrated with the first student art exhibition to be held at a rural government school in Northern Ethiopia.
February 15th is the official opening of the center and, once the ribbon is cut, the door will open and bird song will pour forth to the visitors outside. Guests will then be shown through the exhibition, which features birds of all kinds. We can’t wait to show you the photos of the students’ lovely work following the exhibition.
This trip’s schedule will also include the yearly dinner for our scholarship student community which now numbers 45 students. In addition, our board will be monitoring the construction of our Early Learning Center which is now underway at Lemlem Baro School.
A short video about the state of the buildings and gardens in September 2019, before the beginning of the new school year…
If you want to see the transformation that 4 people and their friends can bring about in a school project, have a look at this film. It was made for the tenth anniversary of Ethiopian Enterprises. You see the results of the transformation of a large public elementary school, including scenes from 8th-grade holiday courses, work in the permagarden, the opening of toilet blocks with innovative rainwater-systems, school prize-giving, etc. Just as you get that good feeling that now all is well, you get to see footage filmed in a neighbouring school just a few weeks ago….
Last Thursday evening more than 50 members and friends joined us in the Kulturraum Thalwil for a celebration of EE’s tenth birthday. Following the annual general meeting of EE members, our board members and helpers welcomed numerous guests with drinks and fine finger food. Then there was time for chatting, meeting new people and shopping at our Ethio-Shop. After the apéro, EE president Thomas Baumann and Mehoni School project leader Lesley Stephenson delivered a short overview of the origin and past history of Ethiopian Enterprises. EE’s current project at Lemlem Baro School was then introduced in more detail, illustrated by photos and a short film created by board member André Cardinaux. Lesley then took the opportunity to introduce and thank the EE volunteers present at the event, many of whom have supported our work as helpers and fundraisers for several years: Caroline Barlow, Maria Baumann, Alois Baumann, Jonathon Borowski, Cathy Kennard, Hong Peng, Bettina Rinaldi, Jolanta Skuratko, Gabriela Stocker, Christoph Stocker and Julia Svozil. Katarzyna Zarecka and Claudia Babock, who represented General Electric Volunteers at the event, were thanked for their multiple collections of goods for our schools in Mehoni. Lesley also paid tribute to our long-year Ethiopian manager, Melkamu Abate, for his efforts in Raya and Mekelle on behalf of EE. And then the highlight of the evening arrived: our 10th birthday cake, perfectly decorated by Confiserie Bauer in Zurich with the EE logo and Swiss and Ethiopian flags. After many questions and discussions, champagne and birthday cake, the successful party came to an end late in the evening!
Thomas Baumann has recently completed the Annual Report on Ethiopian Enterprises’ activities in 2018. The richly illustrated report provides a detailed overview of all that EE achieved during the last year in Mehoni. Click HERE for pdf-file (only available in German)
Finally. Our new toilet facility at Lemlem Baro School was opened on March 20th. A large crowd of government officials and parents gathered at the school for the opening. Not only were the visitors interested in the squat toilets with which they are already familiar, they were particularly interested in the so-called Calamino Cistern, an innovative rainwater-collection water tank which can be made by the farmers themselves using a special mold. This cistern was created during our time at Hagereselam with Helvetas, and we had always planned to introduce this innovation to Raya when the toilets were built. Rainwater in the cistern will be used for cleaning/’flushing’ toilets and hand washing, and we were very lucky this year: early rain in March filled the cisterns for us so that we could demonstrate the water flow at the opening.
The new facility with 8 cubicles for each boys and girls in two separate buildings represents a huge improvement for the school and its general hygiene level. Our thanks to all who contributed to this project.
All public schools in Ethiopia work on a two-shift system. Students attend school either in the morning or the afternoon due to a lack of classrooms and teachers, and most public schools alternate students and shifts on a weekly basis. If a school is as fortunate as ours and has its own library, students can work in the library before or after their shift. However, most schools in the Raya region don’t have any books, let alone a library.
Given this situation, one of our concerns about running an all-day English training program for 166 8th-grade students during a holiday week was that they would get tired and cranky when attending school all day. But we needn’t have worried. When Lesley asked them on their second morning whether they had been tired the previous evening, faces lit up and they shouted ‘no’. One student even said she had hardly slept as she wanted to know what they would do the next day!
In a country where forward-planning is still largely just an idea, our responsibility was considerable. We had to create classroom teaching plans which would have the children speaking and hearing English all day but which would offer enough variety for them not to get bored. The creation of the teachers’ plans was a considerable task for Lesley but the time taken was worthwhile as all teachers learned from this.
The students were taught two grammar blocks a day, and one new vocabulary block. Beyond that, they had art classes, dancing classes, library reading classes, cleaning classes (maintenance at the school is still a core concern), and saw films – all in English. While we were unable to provide lunch for so many, in the mid-morning break they received a different treat each day: dried fruit and nuts, health bars, chocolate biscuits, bananas and oranges driven down by mini-van from Mekelle, and on the final morning their own wonderful local bread. At the end of the afternoon on Friday we had a closing party at which they worked on the ‘ferengi’ dance they had learned with passion in their dancing classes (with music by Michael Jackson) and then did some traditional dancing. At the party they also each received a soft drink (more expensive than a biro pen and therefore rarely consumed) and some of the wonderful locally-grown peanuts for which the area is well-known.
Lesley was assisted by the Lemlem Baro English teacher, 7 preparatory school student teachers with very good English skills, and a Swiss-based Eritrean teacher who joined us for the week as a volunteer. He was a life-saver. As Eritreans speak the same Tigrinia language as people in Tigray, he was quickly accepted at the school, and demonstrated maturity and very good teaching skills. The students loved him.
The training program was a huge success. We saw real progress in the students’ work, and their delight was obvious. This was the first time that they had ever received such personal attention and recognition. We can only hope that it will help as many of them as possible to pass their external 8th-grade exams coming up in early June.
In Ethiopia, Christmas will be celebrated by those who are members of the Orthodox Christian church on January 7th. However, in many of the hamlets in rural Raya-Azebo in southern Tigray, there will be no gifts and no special food. Many families simply don’t have money to purchase anything special.
For the hundreds of young orphans in the region, a safe place to sleep in the coming weeks will already be a gift. There are no orphanages in Raya-Azebo. And while this year’s harvest was better than many, without suitable storage facilities and rainwater collection systems, the next disaster may loom again in a few months. This is no time to sit back, there is work to do.
It is often tough to work in Raya-Azebo. There is so much need everywhere, but in order to really help we have to stay focussed on sustainable goals. This past summer in particular, the deaths of a dozen high school students from our area who had been lured into illegal migration by traffickers showed clearly how important our education support and new high school scholarship program is becoming. When teenagers have a hope for the future, they are less likely to be seduced by lies.
This past year we have widened the scope of our activity. We have erected a rainwater storage facility at another school in the region, and have supported our two regional high schools with many issues. We have provided school furniture for a group of schools who had no desks for their students, and given clothes and sports goods to community groups and schools. We have taken a firm and visible stand against corruption. We are currently tackling the growing hygiene problem around Lemlem Baro School and through the Mehoni community by financing and overseeing the building of a toilet facility within the school so that our students don’t contribute to the problem. This is an expensive but crucial undertaking and we have become toilet experts over the past 2 years in preparation for the work. For this project we are urgently seeking further funding.
As we approach 2019 and our tenth year of work in northern Ethiopia with Ethiopian Enterprises, we have done some research into our impact. We can proudly claim that our efforts in these 9 years have positively impacted the lives of 50’000 people, and this is a conservative estimate. We will be publishing the details behind this claim when we enter our tenth year in January.
People in our area do not want to migrate, they do not want to become refugees. They want to stay in Ethiopia and create better lives for themselves and their children. The only way to help them do so is to help provide better education and better facilities, better training and know-how. That is what we are doing, with your help. We are immensely grateful to every person and institution who has donated to our work this year. On particularly tough days, it is your support which keeps us determined and focussed. While EE board members cover all their own costs, often for weeks at a time while working in Raya, the costs of our construction and other support work are significant. Every franc donated goes directly into our projects, and we hope that those of you who helped us in 2018 will stay with us in the coming year as we follow our path of endeavor. Our journey in Raya is not yet over.
Thank you all so much and our best wishes for a happy, healthy 2019. Lesley, Thomas, André,Tatjana