day 4 morning by Mikayla and Angelica
we woke up to blue sky and sunshine, so the weather is getting better (at last)! and luckily today we have not had the downpour yet...!
After breakfast, we made our way up to the school on the minibuses, for day 4.
Once we got to the school we read stories to the childen and sang some of the same songs we did yesterday to try and teach them the song in English. The songs which the children knew, they sang to us in Amharic and then we sang it in English. It was great to see they were learning the English version and picking up some of the words. We also learnt a new song.
After the songs we did painting and lego with the little ones and in one of the older classes we wrote up how they made the flags they had made yesterday. The little ones did card threading which they found difficult but soon picked up, it really needs good hand eye co-ordination. The older ones also had a game of splat and the cred haka! (most of us lost our voices for a while). Everyone is having fun and really bonding with the children.
wednesday afternoon by Ruth and Evie
We have just returned from something that is very difficult to put into words, an experience that breaks your heart. We were invited to the home of two of our beautiful children smiling and singing with us all the way on the bus. There was nothing that could prepare us for what little they actually had to smile about. We were welcomed so graciously by their shy, but loving mother so obviously proud of her two boys. Up a small, flithy, cobbled alley she opened her front door to a room no bigger than our average box room at home that contained the one bed they all slept on, a small tv, some cooking equipment and a cat with three small kittens that the children adored. his room was all they had. No toilet. No washing facilities. No toys. This beautiful serene woman then offered us tea and shared with us her story. Both her and her husband had been in the military, she had been seriously injured in battle, then had the boys and then her husband had been killed. Her pay off from the army to support her boys for the rest of their lives was the equivalent of £100 she tried so hard to find another way to support her boys, but eventually had to resort to prostitution, using this one room to serve her clients. At this point we could barely speak for the whole rubbish situation was so over whelming... what these poor kids must have seen is unimagineable... poor woman. Having been a prostitute for 4 years she then met the WAR team and told us how much they had changed her life. She has just graduated from their one year programme and is now trained in food preparation which will give her lots of job oppurtunties. Her childrens health and education is paid for and she and her boys are part of a large family that will look after them for the rest of their lives. But then the bombshell... she told us she is HIV positive. With the children there she didn't need to say how concerned she was for their future if she wasn't there, we could see it in her eyes. We can barely type this, let alone talk about how heart breaking it was to realise she is one of the lucky ones who has met women at risk and yet we were really shell shocked with how much we have and how little they have and yet still they were smiling. A short drive and we're sitting here in the Hilton hotel, surrounded by luxury having come for a quick swim, it feels so wrong! How will we ever go back to our great big homes, when Mandela, Baracet and their loving mummy have so little.
Wednesday afternoon – Jimmy
The week so far has been awesome. The team have really hit their stride and are firing on all cylinders. The kids are having a great time, and even with a few illnesses, we have managed to crack on without a hitch.
The home visits begun yesterday, which provided a good opportunity for the team to see the bigger picture of Women at Risk and begin to understand the reasons they do what they do. Experinces thus far have been mixed. Today, myself and a few others went to visit one of the homes occupied by one of WAR's participants along with her family. The immeadiate sights were reminiscent of the AHISDO/SBISDO projects, and we were expecting to see up close the extreme poverty of the city. However, we were greeted by a welcoming family, a modestly sized and decorated house, along with food and fresh coffee. This as somewhat of a suprise to myself and Lexi, both of whom had been to Addis Ababa before. After discussions with Seble (one of WAR's staff) and our host, we discovered that we were in the midst of one of the success stories of Women at Risk. Here we had a women who had lived a life of desperation and poverty, unable to support herself and her family after the death of her husband, and had turned to prostitution. But now, having been through the WAR programme and started formal employment, she is able to support not only her own family, but those of her sisters aswell. We came away from that place filled with hope that maybe it wasn't all tht bad.
We were brought back to earth with some force. After we arrived back at the school with smiles, we encountered the second group (see the previous entry) who had been on a rather different visit.
The thing that has stuck in my mind is that we can now say, with full confidence born of experience and personal relationships, that the work of Women at Risk is working! Seeing the two extremes on the same day showed us that not only are WAR working with the last, the least and the lost, the marginalised and the the unloved, but they are turning lives around, enabling people to fight their way from the depths of poverty and liberate themselves from a life of brutality and oppression. The fight is by no means over, and there is still a long way to go. But today we saw a glimpse of those at the forefront, fighting for those in desperate need. And that filled us with hope.