Today I had the incredible privilege of meeting my family’s World Vision sponsor child Tamirat Kalayu. As the World Vision team and I arrived at the village we commenced a short walk through cactus plants and fields of barley. The sun was shining brightly and the air was fresh. In the distance ahead the World Vision staff pointed out Tamirat’s house and Tamirat walking towards us. At this stage my anticipation of this first meeting was growing rapidly.
I had no idea what to expect but what I was greeted with was very overwhelming. As we approached the family hut Tamirat, his mother, his younger brother and six of his best friends from this village greeted us. The greeting took some time as in Ethiopian culture greeting is very important and photos were a must.
After giving gifts, which I had brought for him from Australia, we proceeded into his house and were served some local food and a coffee ceremony. Ethiopians show respect for visitors by presenting the finest fresh food they can cook and also the fragrant coffee ceremony.
It is very hard to describe in words the feelings and emotions that I experienced during the time we spent with the family and staff. I was particularly moved when Tamirat’s mother produced a photo of Amy and I that was taken the day before our wedding in 2005, just less than ten years ago. I realized in this moment the full weight of what Amy and I had given to this family. To realize that we had provided a person on the other side of the world with a chance to live a better life was overwhelming for me. His mother even remarked that her hope was to one day meet us. Today her hope was realized.
After eating some Injera (traditional fermented bread), local honey and cactus fruit we received a traditional coffee ceremony where I got to pour the coffee for all the guests. We spent time reading letters written by Amy and my two boys Ezra and Amos, and proceeded to play some local games with Tamirat and his friends, using a stick and a small puck made from a melted down tyre. At the end of the games it was time for us to depart, however we would meet with Tamirat the next day to play soccer at his school in Egahamus.
The next day we spent time discovering where he attends school, playing soccer and learning more about his day-to-day life. I was so happy to learn that Tamirat really loves learning and is very thankful for the opportunity to attend school and gain education.
Finally after a morning filled with activity it came time for us to leave and head back to Addis Ababa. As we headed back to the nearest town we stopped by the side of the road just near Tamirat’s grandfather’s house to bid him farewell. Tamirat communicated with me through a translator that he still could not believe how far I had traveled and that he was so grateful for the visit. I also encouraged him to continue his study and thanked him and his family for their warm reception. We jumped back into the car and watched him walk over the hill and back to his village.
It was sad to leave Tamirat but I am glad to know that World Vision is working so hard to ensure he and his community have positive future.
As you may have seen in our blog titled ‘The Rose Ceremony’, earlier this week we visited The Lelt Foundation in Ethiopia. For the past few months we have been fundraising to purchase instruments for underprivileged children in Addis Ababa. The foundation this week visited the Mercato (Ethiopia’s largest market) to purchase a whole bunch beautiful, quality traditional instruments.
On our final day here we pulled up at the gates of The Lelt Foundation in the outer suburbs of Addis Ababa. The children were once again excited to see us and manager Girma came to greet us with a welcoming hug. Our journey to Ethiopia was wonderfully encapsulated by this moment; when we finally saw the smiles on the faces of children who had been given the gift of music. As we got to physically touch and play these hand-made instruments our hearts were full of joy and happiness as we realized this had actually happened.
We headed outside where children had gathered in a large circle and started to dance and drum using the Kebero’s we’d bought. Their rhythms were infectious and everyone began to clap along while the most enthusiastic kids danced. Plus, thanks to generous supporters from Australia we exceeded our fundraising goal and were able to offer them six months of tuition for these traditional instruments by expert local musicians.
What an amazing way to end our trip to Ethiopia!
We start the day walking through freshly ploughed fields up the side of a rocky mountain until we reached a collection of bee hives where a few of the local farming families collect honey. We’re about to approach the hives when we notice one of the workers running towards us as the bees have started to attack. We’re asked to turn around and proceed at pace down the mountainside as African bees are particularly aggressive!
After jumping back in the 4WD’s we drive back to town through villages covered in cactus trees and limestone houses with mud roofs. Things are ancient here, like life has not changed in hundreds of years. There are hand pumps for water and people herding goats while donkeys act as trucks for carting timber and stone. We reach a small building where World Vision has helped to set up a honey making business. We tour through the factory and are about to purchase a couple of jars of this sweet nectar when the young business owners give us each a huge bottle as a gift. What an honour!
In the afternoon as we were close to Gheralta rock, a world-renowned site for tourists and rock climbers, we made a beeline for this landmark site. We enlisted a local guide to show us the rock. This incredibly large mass of rock is a holy site for the people of Ethiopia. There are some 30 churches scattered throughout the rock formations where the people go to pray and have their children baptized.
We thought we’d walk to the base of the rock and take some pictures. However, the closer we got the more we wanted to climb it. We ended up scaling cliff faces over 2000 meters above sea level looking down at the now microscopic tree line below. Levi was able to climb the most dangerous section, holding onto hand holds in the rock for dear life to reach an ancient church covered in biblical paintings, persevered for hundreds of years. We climbed down exhausted and amazed at this incredible historical site.
Check out our fun climbing video here: Rock Of Ages: The Bees Knees
Levi & Andy
We stepped out of the car to children chanting, “welcome, welcome, welcome” at the local primary school in Samre in Northern Ethiopia. It’s dusty here. The rocky mountainous terrain, baked the hot sun is eagerly waiting for the wet season.
The children had prepared for us poems which they read in Amharic, traditional songs performed wearing ancient costumes and even a short play. Through the drama they demonstrated the importance of staying in school and not running away to the city to beg. As we awaited the performances we were presented with a traditional coffee ceremony and served with steamed bread, traditional to the people of the Tigray region here.
WATCH VIDEO HERE – DANCING TO THE DRUM
The last stop of the day was a very special village where locals, with the help of World Vision, have set up their own community bank. This bank provides small loans for start up businesses in the community. This may sound normal to us but this is revolutionary for the rural villagers here. One thing that really surprised us was that they all put in a little money each month in case somebody in the community gets sick or needs help, like an emergency fund. We were so inspired by their enthusiasm to improve their standing and support each other.
Today blew us away. We met an amazing bunch of young people all in early high school that had put together a Child Parliament. Essentially this was a group of students who wanted to raise awareness about issues affecting youth. Such a mature bunch of kids with incredible vision. Watch the video to see why we were so moved….
Pottery is an essential element of Ethiopian life. From the richest to the poorest, every Ethiopian family owns a selection of intricate handcrafted pottery, from coffee pots to cookware and drinking mugs. We were amazed to meet the women who make these products by hand.
We arrived to the smell of kiln fired clay, smoke rising in the cool mountain air, dodging donkeys carrying wood along the cobblestone streets. We entered a dim lit rusty tin shed where about twenty women young and old, some nursing their babies, sat around pottery wheels designing beautiful coffee pots from the wet clay.
World Vision have helped these women out of poverty and they are now proud business women, able to provide for their families. They’ve become the envy of their neighbours and a proud part of their community. We felt proud to see them at work.
– Levi and Andy
Today we saw the tough side of life for many in Addis Ababa, living and sleeping on the street, begging for money and having to live hand-to-mouth to survive. World Vision demonstrated to us the incredible impact their programs are having around the city – from school literacy programs to chicken farms – helping people out of poverty and giving them a chance to reach a greater potential.
The stand out experience of today would have to be our visit to the Lelt Foundation here in Addis Ababa. For the past six months we’ve been fundraising through our project ‘INSTRUMENTS FOR ETHIOPIA’ and thanks to many generous Aussies we were able to purchase a bass guitar, keyboard as well as a whole bunch of local Ethiopian instruments. We had no idea that we would be greeted by around a hundred children in the most moving and humbling welcoming ceremony. We stepped out of the World Vision vehicle to joyous singing, clapping and were given roses by each of the children to say thanks for our visit and for the donation of the instruments as they crowded around us smiling. We were truly moved!
Watch the video here: DAY 2 IN ETHIOPIA
– Levi & And
After a twenty-six hour, headache inducing, cross-continental journey we finally arrived in Ethiopia. Gathering ourselves with a short rest at our hotel we headed out for the evening to ‘Totot’, an Ethiopian restaurant, featuring some of Addis Ababa’s finest traditional musicians and some of the most energetic dancers we’ll ever see.
Sat in the middle of a giant grass thatched hut, out came mouth watering stewed lamb, cooking over hot clay with smoke wafting through the air from the red hot coals below. This was followed by another Ethiopian must have….Coffee. No lattes or cappuccinos here though. Just good old fashioned boiling hot, thick black coffee to put hair on your chest!
Just before we retired to the beckoning of sleep, one of the dancers came shaking her way up to our table, motioning for Andy to come and dance with her. Reluctantly Andy accepted this hilarious cultural challenge and proved that sometimes Africans have just got rhythm! (photos below). We’ve certainly been given a taste of a country rich in tradition and proud of its heritage. Now for some shut eye with dreams of what’s to come tomorrow!
Levi & Andy