As day two and three for us wrap up, I find myself in a strange place. One where my experience and my mental images overpower the words in my vocabulary. Our group was devided in half for the past 48 hours. Group one was to visit a school, help give out deworming medication to students, and hand out school supplies collected by the Montrealers, while Group Two was to help build a school funded by JDC—the next day the groups would switch activities. My first day, volunteering at the school was absolutely remarkable. The children lined up ready to receive their medication, with torn dresses and some, without shoes. “Wat,” or “swallow” we demonstarted. The children gulped down the water, proving to us the extent of their thirst. We then sat, and played with the kids. It was remarkable, that language was not an issue. Singing, dancing, but most importantly smiling, are a universal dialect. We took pictures with them, and the students were mesmorized as some of them saw themselves for the very first time. Following game time, the group gathered to hand out the school supplies we had collected. The verb ‘rewarding’ does not begin to describe the rush of emotions that I felt. Seeing the sparkle and joy in the children’s eyes is an image that I will never forget. Day three, for me, was equally as incredible. All the emotions that I had felt the previous day, transformed into a rush of adrenaline—and I was ready to build. It was time to put our bare hands to good use. The desperation and the poverty in this country cannot go unnoticed and the fact that our physical labour was valuable made us feel as though we were truly making a difference. The school tht we had visited the first was such a beneficial addition to the surrounding community—we were about to change a community in Gonder forever.
To my Mom and Dad, don’t worry I’m eating, drinking, wearing sunscreen and being safe. To all other mommies and daddies, dont worry, so are all of your children!!
Much love from Gonder, Ethiopia!
Today, I went to a small village near Gondar, once we got off the bus, there were approximately 50 kids between the ages of 4-15 clapping and cheering for us. As we continued to walk towards the students, we noticed several houses made of wood with tin roof tops. We were quickly explained what to do, there was one platform made of cement already made, and we were able to build the walls with bricks (that are made in Gondar of tiny little rocks and cement) and cement (made of dirt, cement and water – the whole process is not as scientific as it sounds). While we were there we were able to build about 3-4 layers of brick (cinder blocks). Tomorrow the rest of the group will work more on completing some of this. They expect that it will take 2 months to complete the school house (including 3 classrooms). While we were working, many breaks were taken, from playing soccer with the kids, to talking to them, taking pictures and simply exploring what was around.
So we finally got here to Gonder- took our third plane in the past 3 days – everyone is passed out, but WOW – what an amazing day!!! As soon as we landed, we went into 2 groups. Group 1 went out in the fields to start building a new school (which Jordana will describe later on), while we, Group 2, went to one of the newly built schools and assisted with de-worming as well as eye check ups. We helped give out the pills, reassure the kids, play with them, communicate with them, entertain them, etc. It was amazing to do Tikun Olam, and to see their sincere appreciation, and making us feel like “celebrities” (like David would say). Truly amazing experience! To think that is only day 1 out of 11 days in Ethiopia is just – !!! I actually can’t wait to go to bed and wake up to go continue group 1 project tomorrow. Even though I did my “homework” before leaving, and had done my 100% to be the most informed as possible, I was still baffled by the beauty of Ethiopia, as well as the crying need for aid and assistance for such basic needs!!!
It’s 5 in the morning, and the majority of the group is half asleep—overtired, actually. But, we’re officially on our way to Gondar!! Time to get our hands dirty and do some real hands-on work! Who’s ready? WE ARE. Yesterday was our first day in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. As we drove to the hotel, and gazed out the windows, we all realized that this experience was going to be like no other. We saw first hand how the overcrowded streets were filled with beggars, handicaps, and makeshift huts. Seeing the beggars on the street was shocking. Women sat, holding young children begging for one dollar, for pocket change—for truly anything. During our morning briefing with Manlio, the head of JDC Ethiopia, he explained that we shouldn’t give these beggars any money. He explained that by giving just one dollar to just one person, everyone standing around will run up to us and want the same. We can help in other ways, which is exactly what we’re going to accomplish in Gondar.
So today, we finally got to ETHIOPIA after … about 24 hours of travelling and wow… I cannot even describe to you what we have seen and done in the past day. There are literally homeless people and beggars on the street by the dozen times 6800 and a lot of people like corner you for money and you have to ignore them and they use children to try and make u feel bad… sometimes the kids aren’t even theirs!
One of the duffel bags currently en route to Ethiopia contains school supplies that will be donated to children. Our group raised money to buy and asked suppliers to donate things like pencils, markers, pencil cases and other essentials that we were told by the Joint Distribution Committee in Ethiopia were needed. There are enough supplies for about 100 kids. The Israeli participants will be bringing toys, balls, games and other fun stuff. Our team got together on Thursday, December 29th to go shopping and pack it all up!
Ok so … it’s Wednesday … we are leaving in four days, and it is my birthday in two days and then New Year’s … and then we leave. So, I need to get everything done tonight!! That equals me being VERY stressed…and VERRRYYY messsyy!! But it’s okay!! Because this all means we are one day closer to embarking on one of the most exciting experiences of our whole entire lives!!! But until then… I will be doing A LOT of cleaning and a LOT of packing!! However, I cannot wait till it’s all packed and cleaned, because that means Ethiopia will be real!! We are all so excited!!! And everyone…stay tuned for the final product!!
Here we take a look at some of the reasons that motivated our team members to embark on this amazing journey:
For me being Jewish, isn’t necessarily about respecting all the laws written in the torah, and to follow it by the book, it is understanding what the messages of the Torah, what G-d really wants us to do: be better people. By being a better person, i mean by doing as much good and helpful actions around us.
The once in a life-time opportunity to travel to Ethiopia with 10 Beer Sheva students will expose me to a new culture and way of life. Learning about Ethiopian Jewish traditions and struggles will enrich my understanding of the diversity of the Jewish people and the richness of our heritage. It has been my experience that Tzedaka is far more meaningful when done personally. Taking an active hands-on role in the work and seeing first-hand how my efforts will benefit others will be rewarding, educational and empowering. Together we will share a unique experience that will bond us forever.