Ethiopia Teacher Training Conference Team July 2009

July 15, 2009 - July 31, 2009

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What a blessing to have you join with us on our trip to Ethiopia beginning Wednesday, July 15th through Friday, July 31st, 2009. We know we cannot do this trip on our own strength, so we appreciate your prayers, both as we prepare, and during our travels.

Our team of 24 includes one family of four and two couples (one traveling with their 13-year old niece), and fourteen members of our team are current or retired elementary, middle school and high school teachers or administrators. This is a veteran team, with more than half of our team returning to Ethiopia, with three more members having spent time in Africa. In fact, nine team members are returning to Ethiopia for their fourth time or more.

This trip, in some ways, represents a capstone for a five-year educational undertaking as part of the Ethiopia Initiative of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church (“MPPC”). In 2005, the first team traveled to Dese to work with students at the HOPE Enterprises school in Dese and to understand the programs of this 30-year ministry partner of MPPC. While successful on many levels, the 2005 trip caused the education team to retool their focus on empowering the teachers of HOPE Enterprises. (To learn more about HOPE, click here.)

In 2006, a talented team of teachers traveled again to Dese, this time to work with teachers. The team’s training focused on active learning, content enrichment and observing the teaching methodologies of the HOPE teachers. Then, in 2007, a team of teachers and non-teachers returned to Dese again.  By this time, the education team of MPPC had developed specific curriculum focused on “English-as-a-second language” techniques, active learning, content enrichment, critical thinking and other grade-specific training techniques. In addition, this team included technology experts who were able to work with HOPE teachers to try various technologies, including computers loaded with ESL software for students, overhead projectors, and native English recordings of high school texts.

The success of these prior trips resulted in a request from HOPE Enterprises for a conference for all of the HOPE teachers from all six of their schools around the country. Thus, from July 20-24, 125 Ethiopian teachers and administrators (90 from HOPE schools and the remaining from government schools) will gather in Addis Ababa for a teacher training conference. Our team has a simple mission – to teach teachers best practices for English-as-a-second-language, active learning and other teaching techniques. 

Our trip will also take us into a small village in the Rift Valley six hours South of Addis Ababa where our church has built a school and a well with HOPE Enterprises.  During our short stay there, we will gather information for the family sponsors and deliver messages and cards.  We will also serve as the representatives from MPPC for a dedication ceremony of the school and the well.

We love spending time and playing with the children at HOPE schools and providing our training program for the HOPE teachers. As HOPE would say, the children served by these schools are the “poorest of the poor” (in a country that is considered one of the poorest countries in the world). (In each entering class of 50 students, forty percent (or 20 students) are full orphans, another forty percent (or 20 students) are half orphans and the remaining twenty percent (or 10 students) are considered “destitute” (to use a HOPE phrase) – living in a large family where starvation is a real risk either because of a lack of income or the family income is variable.)

Our team will also serve in the HOPE feeding kitchen in Addis Ababa. The soup kitchen would be makeshift by American standards (with its corrugated tin roof held up on poles), but it has been serving the street children of Addis Ababa since 1975 and is the oldest, largest and only feeding kitchen in Ethiopia feeding 1,000 people each day – 200 children each morning (who are then given some biblical instruction before they go to school), and 800 people at lunch, including street mothers and children, people suffering from severe disabilities and others who live on the streets or are destitute. Each person eating lunch must present a meal ticket purchased for 1 BIRR or approximately $0.12 US. That represents 1/4 of the cost of the meal, the rest being underwritten by donations.

Finally, we plan to visit some of the other amazing ministries in Ethiopia, including the Hamlin Fistula Hospital, the Sisters of Charity Hospital for the Destitute and Dying, and Project Mercy in Yetebon (six hours Southwest of Addis Ababa).

During our time of preparation, our team decided that our mascots would be Gumby and Pokey, given that together, they form a perfect team (one is nothing without the other) and they are incredibly flexible (as we hope to be). To understand what these two little rubber creatures have come to mean to us, please click here.

In the last weeks leading up to our departure, our team has focused on hearing God and understanding what it means to be servants. We hope to carry ourselves in this way as we learn what God has in store for us. And we look forward to sharing it all with you through these pages while we are there, and with our personal stories upon our return. During our time there, we would appreciate your prayers. If you are so inclined, please refer to our prayer calendar.