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Monday, January 21, 2013

Welcoming Ceremony

20th January 2013

Today was the day we have been waiting for, for five years. Today we had a ceremony for the community to welcome them and thank them for being part of the youth center. The ceremony was scheduled for 9am, but in true Ethiopia fashion it started much later. We were delighted as it gave us a chance to go around and introduce ourselves to some of the parents we hadn't met before. By the time we were ready to start, there was probably 200 children, the 20 adolescents from the vocational training program and maybe 100-150 families. It was absolutely amazing and honestly I don't think I can put into words how it felt to see the community gather and see that finally the youth center that we worked so hard to open was open!


Did you know Ethiopia is the birth place of coffee? In Ethiopia an invitation to a coffee ceremony is a mark of respect and friendship. The community and staff invited the Youth Release team to attend a coffee ceremony at the center. The ceremony started with our Director Niamh Power making a speech thanking everyone both in Ethiopia and at home (yes that's you) for the continued support and for helping make this happen. Finally she thanked the community for accepting us and the project and for their involvement and enthusiasm! Following Niamh's speech, the children put on a number of different dramas and dances based on Ethiopian culture and history. It was absolutely amazing to see every club at the youth center represented. As there are two main cultures in the Gende Tesfa area; Oromo and Amharic we were introduced to both through dance. language and culture. I know we are biased but the kids were extremely talented and everything was absolutely fantastic! 

From a completely personal view, every time I looked up and saw all the people there and seeing the community involvement, I had tears running down my face. I really don't think we could have asked for it to be any better. Watching the parents faces as they saw their children doing the dances, dramas, and songs, it finally hit home why we are doing this! This project is not only for the children, but for the families so that the children of this community have opportunities and a place to go and get support. 








Half way through the dancing and drama, we were given our coffee. A traditional coffee ceremony is a long process. The lady making the coffee wears traditional clothes, first the coffee beans are washed and roasted on a pan, a small open fire is lit and incense is burned! The smoke from the incense mixed with the smell of coffee is going through the air and smells absolutely amazing! Once the coffee is roasted it is put in a traditional pot made out of clay called 'Jebena' with water and boiled in the small open fire/coal furnace. Again the boiling coffee aroma fills the room, once boiled the coffee is served in small cups called 'cini' (si-ni) which are very small Chinese cups. The boys had never had the traditional   buna before but thankfully they loved it. Coffee, bread and popcorn was served to most of the adults as children are not allowed have it.. understandably!


After the ceremony we gathered everyone together for a group shot, it took us about 20 minutes to get everyone in one place but eventually we got our group shot! See if you can find us :)


We must have taken over a hundred pictures of the children, the staff, the parents, everybody wanted pictures with us! It was absolutely amazing day, it was well worth the wait. From the bottom of our hearts thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who made it happen and for all your support along the way. We would have given anything to have you all here with us today, and share this experience...maybe one day. THANK YOU, and thank you to our wonderful staff here in Ethiopia you guys are incredible and we are so lucky to have such a great team!

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