Robert Mastroddi - Physical Therapy in Ethiopia
I only found out last minute that I had time between jobs to go to Ethiopia. Amazingly, Projects Abroad managed to organize, among other things, my placement and home-stay extremely quickly. After a short week of preparation for the trip, I arrived in the middle of Timkat (Epiphany) – Ethiopia’s biggest festival. This was a truly amazing welcome to Ethiopia, with thousands and thousands of people piling into the capital. The traditional music, dancing, singing and parades of the Ark of the Covenant represented an arrival I’ll never forget!
I chose Ethiopia because it’s less known than other destinations and after a bit of research I had realized just how much there is to see and do there. It’s certainly a country steeped in culture, tradition and beautiful countryside. Years ago, I had also seen photos of the southern tribes and have been fascinated by the country ever since.
My Physical Therapy placement
The work placement was a fantastic experience. The enthusiastic staff welcomed me like family and we very quickly became great friends, not just work colleagues. Being qualified, I was delighted that there was so much opportunity to provide help.
I was given the opportunity to train local rehabilitation field workers (physical therapists) and was so happy to discover a huge eagerness to learn and progress. I also took great pleasure in training families and staff at different centers on how to help their disabled children. It was great to teach in context though, as I was training these people alongside treating patients. This gave me a great chance to see different and varied cases and develop myself as a practitioner as well.
Work was fun (but also taken very seriously) and extremely varied – from orphanages to autism centers to medical centers to home visits. I was also lucky enough to take part in some awareness programs for disability in schools. The work was extremely rewarding and provided necessary support for very poor families in Addis affected by disability.
It was a pleasure to meet all those wonderful people and get a really authentic insight into the city. Projects Abroad also organized some group work days, where all the volunteers joined forces to help one particular orphanage or center. With this I also got the chance to see other work settings and meet even more people. These days were fun and included a variety of activities including painting, playgrounds, giving educational classes and refereeing football tournaments!
My Ethiopian host family
My host family was amazing and made me feel right at home. They considered me as family and looked after me so well. I miss them! They introduced me to lots of family members and friends and even took me to Ethiopian wedding celebrations!
It was also very interesting to live Ethiopian-style and learn more about the culture and country by being immersed in it. Living like a local, riding public transport and working with Ethiopians completes the experience. I learned so much from my family about them, Ethiopian culture and life in Ethiopia, what an amazing time living with them. With my family, work friends, the other volunteers and social events, I didn’t feel alone for one second!
Traveling around Ethiopia
I also had the opportunity to travel to some other areas of the country – Ethiopia has so much to offer (culturally and sights) so I would highly recommend spending some time traveling around the country after a good amount of time at a work placement. Traveling throughout the country felt extremely safe and was a great experience.
Amongst the highlights were the numerous and varied ancient churches of/around Lalibela, set amongst beautiful mountain landscapes. There’s also an opportunity to explore a less known part of the Great Rift Valley, which boasts many beautiful lakes. Passing traditional villages en route is a bonus as you get to understand the ways of life of different people in the country. Some wildlife we encountered includes wild Gelada baboons crossing the Simien Mountains and hippos in the lakes!
An amazing and diverse country with some of the friendliest people you are ever likely to meet!
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