Monday, 22nd October 2012
Monday morning dawned bright and after a glorious night's sleep, the team were refreshed and ready to go for the start of the real business of our visit to this wonderful place. After breakfast it was time to head off to IHA-UDP - Integrated Holistic Approach Urban Development Project - now you know why we say IHA-UDP! They are our truly marvellous hosts who look after us so well whilst we are in Addis Ababa - looking after all the practical matters for us and feed us at lunchtime day by day. To start our first "working" day they gave us an outline of how the project works, the way they work with the communities in which they operate to try to deliver lasting change in the lives of people who, by their description, are the poorest of the poor. The area we work in Addis is truly one of the most disadvantaged in what is in the main a very poor city. Having got a bit of a take on the general picture we were then taken out on the tour of the AHISDO area in which we would be working. The tour was fascinating giving a real in the flesh feel for what living in a truly poor area of the world, shacks of tin, floors of soil and one tap between forty households - all this in a capital city dominated by a massive amount of money from other countries of the world - many of us asked how does this add up? But one of the highlights of the tour was a quick chance to get into the Kindergarten - we were barely through the gates before we were mobbed by a multitude of beautiful smiling faces. The welcome was overwhelming and set us up for the work there the following day. It was great to see that two of the staff there were sporting their orange Higgidy tee-shirts from last year. The other highlight of the morning was a visit to the AHISDO old peoples' centre, where we met a group of lovely elderly people cared for by the work IHA is doing. They spend time daily at the centre and help prepare the lunches for the sponsored children from the local school. So after an eye opening morning it was time for lunch at IHA (see it gets even shorter!)
Lunch was a good refuel and the afternoon was taken up with a visit to the original IHA project in CBISDO. This was originated many years ago and has been under local management for many years, it has also suffered from interference from local government seeing land repossessed and building closed down. But many of the facilities are the same as AHISDO and we also visited their elderly people's centre - what a privilege! A group of dignified and gentle people, who welcomed us so generously and showed us such heart warming love - they simply seemed so pleased that we'd bothered to go in and see them.
The day was concluded with a complete contrast as we went to the Addis Ababa Hilton and enjoyed a quiet chill out in their garden and sampled their delicious ice-cream - a fine way to end a very interesting day - tomorrow the real action starts!
Tuesday, 23rd October 2012
No lie-in today up with the lark - well not actually a lark - more up with the Black Kite - 9 of them perching on the building site in our grounds at the hotel. They looked rather ominous as they stared alertly down into our compound - perhaps looking out for a straggler on the way to breakfast. Their ability to detect their quarry enhanced by the potential scent wafting from the partially unwashed team below due to the patchy water supply - a problem affecting not just our hotel but the wider area around us - strangely the boys didn't seem to be objecting as much as the girls and the adults. Breakfast was eventually negotiated and it was time to pack all the gear into the buses for the short hop to Kindergarten. Excitement mounts as the buses pick their way through the early morning Addis traffic jams - it just seems to be a case of drive and sound your horn and wait for everyone else to get out of your way - the only things they don't! Only one tiny bump as we turned into the street where the Kindergarten is. Soon we were outside the blue-green gates and our work awaited. Inside the children were all assembled singing their morning songs, saying their prayers and then singing the national anthem as the flag was raised. The it was down to action - everyone to the classrooms and very soon there was singing and laughing and excitement all round. Break-time at 10 was a time to really share with the little children - bags of energy and just a real desire to play with their new friends. The facilities in the school playground are sparse but that didn't limit the fun - impromptu games sprung up everywhere and wherever you went at least 2 little ones were hanging onto you hands. The photos below show some of the activities going on and show the fun being had by all. The team were brilliant all morning, all their hard work and planning swung into action and the morning closed with everyone elated - we had certainly hit the ground running - literally in some cases! Then it was back to IHA for lunch.
The afternoon was more of the same - high energy fun all the way. Once again the proof that you don't need XBOX, Playstation or WII to have a great time - all that is needed is a pair of hands and a big pile of shaving foam in them - one clap and off you go! It a good tip though to have a few wet-wipes available to clear up the carnage afterwards.
Having said our first goodbye to the Kindergarten children it was then a short trip down the road to the Youth Centre for the after-school club. This was a much greater challenge. Older children in a far more relaxed and chaotic atmosphere. It was very hard work but once again the activities we delivered were very well received by the youngsters who came - they had fun, which is what we are there for, even if we left feeling a bit frazzled.
We got back to the hotel for a short debrief and then out for dinner at one of Addis's many Italian restaurants. This definitely wasn't Pizza Express, more like Pizza at the speed of the M25 in rush hour. But eventually the 30 pizzas and pastas dishes were delivered and with full stomachs (well most of us) it was back to the Lido for a chat and then bed. Is that the end of Tuesday already?