Archive | November, 2013

The Least of These – The Programs of Yenege Tesfa

14 Nov

A large part of my work is supporting the amazing things that already go on in this city. Organizations and projects that have been running for years, sustained by the passion of community members. Recently I have been helping one such group with their visibility for donors (making brochures, updating the website etc.). It’s a simple way I can use my technical skills to support what’s already happening.

As part of this project, I have been going around to photograph the activities and children’s shelters run by Yenege Tesfa (translates to Hope for Tomorrow). Though I had worked with them before, Yenege Tesfa was the partner for the Grassroot soccer program with street orphans, I had never visited their shelters.

Fasil Boys' Shelter

Fasil Boys’ Shelter

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They have just opened a new boys shelter. When I walked in I recognized many of the boys I had worked with over the summer. They had just moved in two weeks ago and already they seemed more content, emotionally safe, and formed a community of brothers. They had chosen the boys based on their participation in the mobile school programming, showing that these boys, even with the hardships on the street had ambitions to better themselves. Many of the children housed by Yenege Tesfa are now in the top 10% of their classes. A supportive environment that values education really really really matters.

Some of GRS graduates

Some of my GRS graduates

Yohannes Boy's Shelter - the newest of 5 homes

Yohannes Boy’s Shelter – the newest of 5 homes

But street children are not the only vulnerable children in this community. To address a different need, Yenege Tesfa opened a day care center – across from the prison. When someone is incarcerated in Ethiopia their family must feed them, their children can live with them, and many times for single mothers, their children spend most of the time behind the prison fence.

some Day Care children

some Day Care children

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painting nails

painting nails

one of the house mothers making lunch

one of the house mothers making lunch

So as of last week, a day care program was set up to have programs for the children of prison inmates. A deal was struck with the guards to allow these children to pass through the gates in the morning, Yenege Tesfa provides programs and lunch, then they can go “home” and sleep with their mothers in the prison at night.

The broad range of programming from Yenege Tesfa is visibly making a grand change for the children and families it helps. Addressing not just the symptoms of poverty and disease (shelters, day care, food coupons) they also have the foresight to address the causes, creating programming that supports those on the edge (healthcare vouchers, mobile school for street children, agriculture for single mothers, life skills and business trainings).

girls with their house mother at Tsehaytu Shelter

girls with their house mother at Tsehaytu Shelter

Two goofballs at Tewedros Shelter

Two goofballs at Tewedros Shelter

Doing homework at Fasil Shelter

Doing homework at Fasil Shelter

At Mintwab Shelter

At Mintwab Shelter

In the model garden

In the model garden

Over the next few months I plan to highlight some of the local groups and projects I have had the pleasure to work with. Praising the good work being done by Ethiopians themselves. There are so many international aid organizations (for usually better and sometimes worse). To see homegrown or home-sustained programs makes me feel like the work I do here, if it supports these, will have more impact, more promise, and more roots.

Madam Ambassador

10 Nov

Last week I was lucky enough to have dinner with the new American Ambassador to Ethiopia Patricia Haslach. Incredibly down to earth, she had been visiting Gondar to speak at the university and see some of the primary schools in the area (one of which was the former primary school of her staff member and had a relationship with Gondar’s sister city in Corvallis, Oregon).

She travelled as a private citizen, without a large entourage, impressing hotel and restaurant staff all over the city. She stayed with one of my favorite hotels, Lodge du Chateau. Small and intimate rather than overblown and well-known, it was great they have been recognized and recommended to American staff. Seyum the owner was so honored and told us he had called his family in pride. We had dinner at Four Sisters restaurant, all four of whom have great unique personalities and whom I love equally. To see the ambassador come in with only two staff members, great women!, impressed them immensely.

To have dinner with local Peace Corps volunteers, while great for us, really had a bigger impact on the community at large. This is democracy at work—American equality and willingness to get down and dirty with some of the grass-rootiest of workers. And we know Peace Corps volunteers can be some of the dirtiest of the bunch. Willingness to hear about our work, our challenges, and even learn a few Amharic words went beyond our dinner table. It was also lovely to be at a table of all women, high powered and starting out alike.

She even knew my old boss and Dean of the Josef Korbel School, Ambassador Chris Hill. Amazing how small this world is.

So here’s to hoping her term is productive, safe, and continues to deepen relations between these two nations. Welcome Ambassador Haslach.

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The Music that Keeps Me Sane

6 Nov

Different moods, bus rides, cooking, working out, drowning out men from the age of 12 – 60 on the street. Music serves many different purposes for a Peace Corps volunteer. Here’s a list of the full albums that have kept me sane these past 14 months in no particular order. New suggestions are welcome!

Avicii – True

Florence and the Machine – Lungs

Mumford and Sons – Babel

The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart

The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter

Gangstagrass – Gangstagrass

Of Monsters and Men  – My Head is An Animal

The Autumn Film – The Ship and the Sea

Imagine Dragons – Night Visions

Taylor Swift – Red

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zerios – Up From Below

The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow

The Black Keys – El Camino

Alt – J – An Awesome Wave

The Great Gatsby Soundtrack

John Mayer – Paradise Valley

Janelle Monae – Electric Lady

Parachute – Overnight

Adele – 21

Rihanna – Unapologetic

Lady Gaga – Born This Way

Regina Spector – Far

The Wombats – A Guide to Love, Loss, and Desperation

The Amelie du Montmarte Soundtrack

Jason Mraz – Mr. A-Z

Chris Garneau – Music for Tourists

Bess Rogers – Out of the Ocean

 

Yup, it’s an eclectic mix. Again, throw your suggestions my way! Music is easier to get my hands on than video.

The Roof of Africa

2 Nov

7 girls, 5 days, 1 goal. To summit the highest point in Ethiopia. Ras Dashen. Or as it’s known locally, Ras Dejen.

The only thing they don’t tell you is, you aren’t just summitting Ras Dashen, you are summitting the 6 peaks between here and there in addition to the valleys, rock scrambling, and gorges you have to scale along the way. Kilimanjaro? Piece of cake. This is the Roof of Africa.

the start....

the start….

beautiful peaks and wildflowers. October is the best time to go.

beautiful peaks and wildflowers. October is the best time to go.

I'm still energetic on day 3.

I’m still energetic on day 3.

We stayed at three separate camps. Starting at Sankober, we spent the night at Gitch, then Chenok, then the base camp for Ras Dashen. The food was amazing and the trip was well organized by Simien Trek (simientrek.com), owned by our good fried Shiff. Highly recommend them to any Simien hikers!

Sunset at Chenok. Pride Rock.

Sunset at Chenok. Pride Rock.

One of our camps. Rained heavy that night!

One of our camps. Rained heavy that night!

these donkeys carried our stuff... I guess we aren't that hardcore.

these donkeys carried our stuff… I guess we aren’t that hardcore.

lunch the first day

lunch the first day

Over the course of our trek we saw some amazing views, walked through a huge troupe of baboons, spied the Walia Ibex, and even saw the Ethiopian red wolf. To see all the endemic species of the SImiens was a real treat and quite rare.

Walia Ibex, endemic to the Simiens.

Walia Ibex, endemic to the Simiens.

Gelada Baboons... or the University of Michigan researchers have determined they are the last of their kind of monkey

Gelada Baboons… or the University of Michigan researchers have determined they are the last of their kind of monkey

hanging out on the cliffs. If they can run around these mountains in gellies, I can do it in chacos... right?

hanging out on the cliffs. If they can run around these mountains in gellies, I can do it in chacos… right?

We finally made it to Ras Dashen (about 14,900 ft) on Day 4. While some of the views were more epic the first few days, it was still a major accomplishment to summit. It was cold and windy at the top so we took a photos, had a quick lunch and then headed back down the 3,000 feet to base camp.

a short free climb to the top

a short free climb to the top

did it in Chacos! these are officially hiking sandals

did it in Chacos! these are officially hiking sandals

Gondar Girls on Ras Dashen

Gondar Girls on Ras Dashen

So we did it. Still alive. Only a few bloody blisters, broken toes, a small case of dehydration, a medium case of dysentery, and a lot of windburn.  This trek will go down as one of my more epic experiences. I mean trekking is cool, but when you trek three feet from monkeys… this is trekking in Africa.

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