Ever considered volunteering overseas?

November 25, 2015
Beyond the Orphanage

Agatha and her friend Alex were facilitated with a volunteer placement through Beyond the Orphanage (BTO). They taught at a school attended by some of the children of BTO. They give a thorough account of their experience and the unexpected heart-warming end to their placement. Read their story…

We arrived at Addis Ababa International Airport, not knowing what to expect. Our driver, Danny, picked us up and we made our way to Kidane Mehert School and Orphanage where we were provided with lodging for the next few weeks. The city was much more developed than we had expected, however there were still clear differences between wealthy and poor. When we arrived at the orphanage the children seemed so happy despite their circumstances, and we felt more than welcome to be there.

Each day over the course of our volunteering, we would walk through the busy streets of Kebena to meet the students of Braveheart School. The children at the school ranged from ages 10 – 21 and came from a range of family circumstances. We were teaching English each morning, along with a bit of maths at the children’s request. Due to the different academic levels throughout the class, it was difficult to teach the group as a whole without being too challenging or not challenging enough. We mainly focused on building conversation skills through a variety of different games which helped involve every student in the class, regardless of their ability. It was however, difficult to build on these skills as many students would not come to the class everyday, therefore they would miss out on certain skills such as learning to speak in past tense that we may have covered the day before. All in all the students were very enthusiastic and willing to participate and help their peers who struggled with conversation. We found it incredibly rewarding, seeing their progression throughout the weeks and how grateful they were for our lessons each morning.

We were lucky enough to be in Addis Ababa over the time of Ethiopian New Year, which takes place on September 11th. This gave us more insight into the cultural traditions that take place in the country. It was confronting to see the many chickens and goats tied up and being sold on the streets for New Years feasts, along with the skins of sheep and goat that were displayed in huge piles throughout the town the next day. Despite this, we thoroughly enjoyed being included on this special day as Danny, our driver invited us to his home to take part in the traditional lunch and coffee ceremony. When we first arrived at his house, Danny offered us some traditional home-brewed beer that his mother had made. It wasn’t too our taste, but luckily he also offered us some of the local beer to wash it down with! Lunch consisted of injera and dorowhat – a traditional spicy chicken stew. After lunch, Danny’s wife prepared the coffee ceremony, slowly roasting the coffee beans over charcoal. We finished the day with 3 cups of coffee each.

The day after New Years Day, was our last day with the students. Normally the school is closed on this day because the children help their families at home after all the celebrations have taken place. We decided to go to the school anyway, to see if any of the students would come to say goodbye, expecting only 1 or 2 to show up. To our surprise, the whole class was waiting for us to give their thanks for the last 2 weeks. We had become quite close with the students and it meant a lot to see so many of them there, as we felt we had really left an impression on them and that all our time with them was worthwhile.

By Agatha and Alex

BTO thank the Agatha and Alex for their time, talent and energy. If you would like to volunteer with BTO find out more here.

Volunteering Overseas | Beyond The Orphanage

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