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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

We arrived Safe and Sound

Ethiopia... January 14th 2013

Well we finally arrived; I think we all thought we would never get here.  We arrived in Addis Ababa to find that the main road had been dug up..Ethiopian style! This means you can’t drive on it and if you try your car might topple over...oh the joys of being back.  Eventually after the taxi broke down twice, and going around in circles for an hour trying to explain to the taxi driver where to go and avoiding our car turning over we eventually got to our bed for the night.

Arriving in Dire Dawa is always like coming home, Sunday was spent walking around seeing friends and showing the new volunteers around. None of us could wait until Monday when we would finally get to see the Youth Release youth centre. We didn’t know what to expect, would there be children there? Are the programs going as well as we think they are? Would we be disappointed? It is safe to say the youth centre exceeded all of our expectations, walking in and seeing the Youth Release sign on the door was the realisation that our dream of opening a youth centre had finally come true.

Meeting all the staff; the project coordinator, three social workers, a librarian, two guards and a cleaner, was amazing! All of them are from Ethiopia, and are fantastic at what they do. Hearing them talk about the youth centre and the children, it was surreal to think that this time a couple of years ago we wondered would it ever happen. It was one of the most surreal experiences...

Primary education is now free in Ethiopia so all of the children go to school. As there is such a demand for education the day is divided in two; one group goes to school in the morning and another in the afternoon. There are 200 children attending the programs at the youth center. Half of the children come in the morning at 8:30, they play for half an hour and then attend tutorial classes in the basic subjects; English  maths, Amharic (the local language), and geography. The staff brought us to see the classes, most of the children stared in shock as they had never seen a white person or ferenje (forigener in amharic) before. 

Most just laughed when we talked, especially with our broken Amharic, oh well at least it broke some barriers. After their class we played some games with them, and introduced ourselves, many of the children were still a bit nervous about approaching us so they stayed back but there’s always tomorrow....

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