Volunteer Review: Ajay M., Teach English and Other Subjects in Ethiopia
I came to Addis Ababa to take a break from the finance world in New York City and position myself towards a career in education. My placement was at Safe House Ethiopia, a community center that helps children of all ages receive food and an education. Prior to venturing to Ethiopia, I knew very little about the country itself besides its famous rulers and long-distance runners. However, I soon found out how amazing a country it truly is. Ethiopia’s best-kept asset is its people, who I found were always smiling and helpful.
When I arrived to Addis in August, the children were on holiday, so they spent most of their time at Safe House. The center is in a compound with a gated entrance. Inside the gate is a driveway, which leads to the main building in the compound, housing a classroom, library, and computer lab. There’s also a smaller building with a kitchen and bedrooms for the children who live at the center. Many of the children worked or begged before being brought to Safe House, so some are behind in their studies.
My routine was much more enjoyable than in New York. I would wake up in the morning and leave my home after breakfast. My total commute took 20-25 minutes and included two quick shared taxi rides through central Addis Ababa. The public transportation system in Addis is actually quite efficient, and I quickly learned how to get around. As soon as I walked through the gate of Safe House, I would receive the best greeting by the small children who were playing inside. After dozens of hugs and handshakes, I would walk into the teacher’s lounge, where most of the staff and older kids spent their time.
I would start teaching my class soon after I arrived, which was usually around 9am. I taught English to the teenagers, and my lessons usually included reading and conversational exercises to keep things interesting. Most of my students were around 16 years old and they were divided into two sections of 15 students each. Other classes were also taught at the center, such as typing lessons, and I would try my best to help out with typing and general computing issues. I would also spend some time everyday playing soccer and basketball with the younger children and teenagers outside.
After classes were done in the early afternoon and many of the children went home, I would usually join the other teachers and staff for a traditional coffee ceremony in either the teacher’s lounge or the kitchen. We would all pitch in money and buy coffee beans, which would be ground up and roasted. The ceremony is no short experience; prepare to spend at least an hour drinking a few rounds of coffee! Blades of grass are spread out on the floor to give a very relaxing, homely feel. This was a great opportunity to share time with the staff and learn simple conversational Amharic, the local language. After the coffee ceremony, I would usually meet with the other volunteers in the afternoon at a local café, spend time checking email, or explore new parts of Addis. No matter what I did, I was never bored in Ethiopia!
There are many things that I can take back from my experience in Ethiopia. I have never had a job where I felt more appreciated than while I worked at Safe House. Ethiopians themselves are fiercely proud of their culture and history, with their own unique language, food, calendar, time, and holidays. The Habesha people also show a great deal of respect and camaraderie with one another. It has been a pleasure immersing myself in Ethiopian culture, (especially over round after round of delicious coffee!) and I am looking forward to seeing all my new Ethiopian friends very soon.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.