Young D&C volunteers working in Ethiopia
Even from the very moment when we stepped off the airplane in Addis Ababa, I felt so welcomed in Ethiopia. As part of the Diocese of Down & Connor’s Living Youth team in Belfast, we travelled with our leaders Fr Raymond, Anna and Maeve, to build homes with Habitat for Humanity, Egypt (HFHE). The following day we travelled to Debre Berhan where we would be based for the next 10 days and I can still vividly see the moment we walked onto the site, seeing a huge crowd of local people. It was so overwhelming.
Everyday we got to take part in new tasks, such as helping to dig and fill foundations and weaving the wood that made up the structure. Working alongside the locals was so encouraging and motivating. They taught us Amharic (local language) as we worked and I felt as if I was fluent after just two weeks as we sang and danced together. Whoever said it was all work and no play?
Mrs Kimfe and her ladies supplied us with an unbelievable lunch each day. All the girls got to dress in traditional costume for the coffee ceremony and each of us were given a special name. Lunchtime football was great although due to the monsoon season, we all went home covered head to toe in muck! Playtime with the kids was also very enjoyable. The smiles on their faces were priceless when they saw the balloons and bubbles we had brought with us.
During our time in-country we visited the current homes of those who would be receiving a Habitat house. Seeing such poor living conditions first hand was a very hard and emotional experience, but it also helped me to realise the impact of our work. Together we were building houses for families to start a new life. One woman we met said she felt guilty thinking about how we were risking our own lives travelling so far from home in order to help her and her family receive a space of their own in which they can call home. This statement just shows how the work of Habitat for Humanity is appreciated by everyone in the community.
When the last day arrived, I did not want to return home at all. It broke my heart leaving the local people. Last day on site was the best day ever. We handed over the keys to the new homeowners, played a big football match and had a presentation ceremony. All the members of our team received certificates and hand-made scarves saying ‘I love Ethiopia’. As we left the site, the workers hopped in a van and followed us. As the bus drove down the hill, I looked back and the sun was shining down through the clouds over the building site. It was then it hit me, God had been with us throughout our work and his presence will stay with those people and bless them in their new homes.