Transforming lives in Ethiopia

From Bath to Addis Ababa

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Ethiopia through the eyes of one of our Great Ethiopian Run participants, Richard Vallis

I have just returned from an incredible trip to Ethiopia. It was a privilege to visit the partners and people Ethiopiaid is supporting, and meet some of the heroes behind the scenes. Here is a series of photos I took while visiting some of their projects.

On our first day, we received a wonderful welcome from the children at Hope School in Addis Ababa, where pupils come from the poorest of backgrounds.

Hope School is part of Hope Enterprises, an education-focused organisation that have 7 sites across Ethiopia. Children and young people can access kindergarten through to primary/secondary school, and university or vocational training.

We also visited an Association for Women’s Sanctuary and Development (AWSAD) safe houses for abused women, girls and children. With 5 safe houses across Ethiopia, AWSAD is a beacon of hope to those who have experienced domestic violence and abuse.

Along with food and medication, AWSAD provides counselling and legal follow-up, basic literacy classes, art and dance therapy, self-defence classes and vocation skills training.

We then joined 45,000 people taking part in Africa’s largest road race. I did manage to run it, in spite of being very out of shape! Here is our excited group before the Great Ethiopian Run! Addis Ababa is home to the Great Ethiopian Run and is a vibrant hub of diverse culture and colourful communities.

The Great Ethiopian Run also holds a 5 kilometre women-only race that supports the broader changes regarding the role of women in Ethiopia’s economy and society. More than 100,000 girls & women aged between 5 and 75 have taken part in the 15 editions since the first in May 2004.

Cheshire Services in Menagesha provide pre- & post-operative care and rehabilitation for children with conditions such as club foot. In the West this would be routinely treated at birth but in Africa, it is generally left untreated, to the child’s great disadvantage.

While visiting Cheshire, we saw how their aims to bring about a disability-inclusive society across Ethiopia were coming into fruition. Their Menagesha Rehabilitation Centre is their flagship site, providing both resident children and outpatients with corrective surgery, physiotherapy and custom-fitted prosthetic limbs and mobility aids. In 2018, 155 disabled children received physiotherapy each week!

After our time in Addis Ababa, we flew to Mekelle in the beautiful northern province of Tigray. Here, the buildings are painted with the most vibrant of colours, local transportation is often donkey or horse power and the scenery is truly breathtaking.

While in Mekelle, we visited the Mekelle Blind School for children, where children with low or no sight can still access the same education as others. The school is supported by SENEthiopia, who have created “talking text books” as a supplement to braille books, and 80 students received these last year.

We brought games, musical instruments and clothes (thank you to those who passed these on!). SENEthiopia supported 140 disabled young people and mothers of disabled children with livelihood training, and a total of 6,151 disabled people were supported in their communities in 2018!

The next day, we visited the Dignity Period Factory that manufactures reusable sanitary pads. Ethiopiaid and other NGOs buy these to be distributed amongst Ethiopia’s 35 million women who have no access to products Westerners take for granted. This lady is running the crèche at the factory, allowing the employees to continue working while their children receive free child care.

We also met Freweini Mebrahtu who established the Mariam Seba Sanitary Products Factory and won CNN’s Hero of the Year! It was a privilege to meet such an inspirational woman. You can watch her acceptance speech here.

In 2018, Freweini’s efforts helped 129,022 girls in Tigray, and 11,000 girls in Afar to stay in school thanks to menstrual hygiene kits.

When we returned to Addis Ababa, we visited the Hamlin Fistula Hospital and Midwifery College. Ethiopia has a population of over 108 million, yet there are less than 7,000 trained midwives. Because of the lack of healthcare, approximately 9,000 women die every year from obstructed labour whilst another 9,000 survive but develop obstetric fistula.

Thanks to the work of Hamlin Fistula Hospital and Midwifery College, in 2018 over 21,433 women benefited from a skilled delivery and more than 2,300 women received repair surgery for a fistula or pelvic prolapse.

During the trip, we were extremely fortunate to attended the 30th anniversary celebration of Ethiopiaid, founded by Sir Alec Reid, at the British Council in Addis. Ethiopiaid is run in Bath by a small but totally dedicated team, with minimal overheads. This efficiency allows maximum effectiveness for the funds raised. It was a wonderful evening celebrating the tremendous achievements of 30 years of hard work and long-standing partnerships.

Having been here in Ethiopia and seen the amazing work being done by Ethiopiaid and the partners, I am very proud to have been a little part of this trip. Congratulations to you all for your life changing success and thank you for taking me along.

Richard Vallis

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