Dat 7

Awakening in Dese seemed surreal.  Children’s voices filled the air, as the school gates were opened at 6:30 a.m. (early by anyone’s standards, even the standards of HOPE Enterprises). As the team showered, ate and organized for the day ahead of us, we all seemed so excited to be in a place that many of us call home. As breakfast was being prepared many people from our team ventured outside to be greeted by a mob of joy-filled children.

I, unlike the rest of the team, was stuck in the guesthouse because a fever kept me confined inside for the day. Because this is my third trip to Dese, it was unbelievably hard for me to stay inside and watch the children from the window as they all called out my name and motioned for me to come outside. The hardest part came when Haimonot, the little girl whom I sponsor, asked for me to come out.  All I could do was watch and wave from the window.  I now understand what it feels like to love someone even if they can’t speak a word of English. 

Even though it was very difficult for me to watch all of the familiar faces pass by, being inside one place for a long period of time gives a person a lot of time to think.  I realized that although we think we can change these people’s lives by simply giving them a small percentage of what we own, it would never work.  After being here three times in three years, the kids remember me and I have relationships with them.  I think that this is the best gift we offer them.  Maybe they could use the material things we have, but in the long run, they will remember our relationships for a long time.

Coming to Ethiopia for the first time as a twelve-year-old and as the youngest member on our team, I had a very different view of the children here. I couldn’t understand how the children here could be so happy without having anything except for the clothes on their back. Last year, on my second trip to Dese, I mostly observed and soaked it all in. But coming on this trip, it is a very different experience.

First, this is a “teacher training” trip and I feel as if I can’t do much as I’m only fourteen years old.  Luckily, our team is like one big super hero; we seem to be so connected that not being a teacher doesn’t seem to be an issue.  Second, this year it seems I understand the people here a bit more than the last two years.  Now, instead of feeling sorry for these children I want to be with them, I want to go to their houses, and I really want to see their lives. Mother Teresa puts this feeling into words saying, “We know what poverty means, first of all, to be hungry for bread, to need clothing, and to not have a home. But there is a far greater kind of poverty. It means being unwanted, unloved, and neglected.  It means having no one to call your own.”

Now, being older (but still the youngest on the team), I understand what Mother Teresa was saying.  Maybe the best gifts to give in life are loving relationships.  Simply visiting these kids, and coming back regularly lets them know they are loved, which naturally builds relationships and creates a trust that you will come back to see them.

*     *     *     *     *     *

The morning was filled with anticipation. Having been to Dese last year I was excited to see the familiar faces of the teachers and students.  We woke up to a breakfast of porridge, bread, and “buna” (coffee).  As I walked outside into the cool mountain air and took in the view of green hills, low lying clouds, and the city below, children came out to greet me. They all came up with the same question, “allo, vut is yur name?” After telling them my name they replied “My name is _____” followed by a jumble that I can never pronounce correctly.  They grabbed my hands and walked me down the path, their big brown eyes staring up at me with huge grins on their faces. 

As I rounded the corner to the library for the devotional, I spotted Brehane, the teacher that I worked with last year.  I ran up to her and gave her a hug, but I had forgotten about the greeting custom here, and was taken aback by the back and forth hugs on either cheek that I received.  Then all the rest of the teachers present greeted me in like fashion. It felt so good to be remembered.  Later in day Brehane asked me about Cindy and Hope, members of my team from last year.

There are so many people that come to Dese, it is such a privilege to be in these people’s memories.  We come to serve, and yet we learn so much from the teacher’s dedication and strength.  Brehane has shared with me that she not only teaches English at the Hope school, but she has a dream of learning Psychology. She spends her time off in the summer studying English to be a better teacher.

*     *     *     *     *     *

What an amazing start we had working with Dese teachers on Monday.  So sincere, considerate, earnest, and heartfelt in their words and actions, the Dese teachers have left a profound impact on us from the very moment we met them.  The high school teacher training sessions began in the afternoon with a fun, thought-provoking simulation based on Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.”  The Dese teachers were quite engaged in and intrigued by the picture identification exercises, which stimulated much questioning and discussion—between the teachers as well as several members of our team. 

At the end of our lesson, we discussed the different teaching strategies we used and then encouraged teachers to choose some of the strategies that seemed interesting to employ in lessons they would prepare to teach tenth-grade students on Tuesday morning.  Zelalme expressed a desire to see Kurt teach a lesson based on the question “What is Democracy?”  Likewise, Fekadu enthusiastically proposed the idea of teaching a creative lesson on the circulatory system.  Ketamaw eagerly joined him in the planning efforts.  To say the least, the end-of-the-afternoon discussions brainstorming teaching ideas were extremely meaningful.  It is so hard to express in words the profundity of our interactions with such wonderful people.