Friday 25 July 2014

Thursday – home visits and night drive, plus an emotional Friday

Today was the last of the home visits. Both of the visits today were very positive and inspirational. The visits were both to women who had been on the program for at least 3 years. The oldest group visited Dawit's house and the second youngest group went to Kedus and his elder brother Zelalem's house.
The houses were of a reasonable size compared to the ones visited at the start of the week (2-3 double beds in size, sleeping around 3). The mothers have jobs based on the skills they've learnt though W.A.R. One mother is a hairdresser and also runs a textiles business and the other is an assistant in a hotel kitchen. The houses were made out of mud, wood and corrugated iron.
Unlike some of the other groups we experienced coffee ceremonies and traditional food such as Injera. In Ethiopia they serve coffee from the same granules three times. The first time is true Ethiopian coffee, the second is okay and they call the third American coffee (not strong enough!). Everyone who has tasted the coffee on the trip so far agrees that it's the bee's knees. Lucy will not stop talking about it - she's making us add in she had four cups after 3 in the afternoon and Milly is threatening to buy Ethiopia's supply of coffee.
In the evening we had time to reflect on all of the home visits, from the women who had been on the programme for just two months through to the women we visited who had successfully completed it. It made us realise how amazing the work of W.A.R is, as we were able to see how completing the programme transforms their lives and the lives of their children.

We can't believe our week of teaching is nearly at an end and it's going to be awful saying goodbye to such an amazing group of kids. Thank you for all the comments – they really cheer us up when we're missing home, even the embarrassing ones!
Lots of love Ellie, Gemma, Lucy and Milly

At 9.45pm the first group of year 11’s went out on the night drive with 3 of the team leaders (the others are going on Saturday as the bus isn’t big enough for everyone).

It was a very surreal experience in some ways; we were all expecting to go to a specific district, like in Amsterdam, but instead we drove through street after street after street, and still didn’t go to even half of the places where prostitutes are in Addis.
4 years ago there were approx 150,000 prostitutes in Addis alone, and the number has gone up since then, and as we drove around we were shocked to see so many girls and women standing side by side on the streets, waiting to be picked up. We were out on a Thursday evening, relatively early in the night, but still the roads were full of ladies and girls.
Some of the girls didn’t look like prostitutes at all, they were dressed in long skirts and blouses – apparently these are the girls who have come in from the countryside looking for work; as they become ‘urbanised’ their clothes get shorter and more revealing.
Another thing that shocked us was their age; some of them looked like they were just 14 or 15 years old – younger than us, and we also saw lots of pimps waiting around, doing deals with customers before handing a girl over, like an object for sale.
Some of the streets were full of bars, with Christmas lights outside, and those had loads of girls on them. Other streets were darker, and they had the less well-dressed girls on them, and then there were the big groups of very skimpily dressed women outside the posh hotels.
The police don’t do anything to protect the girls; in fact one place where we saw a really big group of prostitutes was at the back of the police station, and apparently the police often use the prostitutes themselves.
If a girl gets murdered whilst working as a prostitute, she won’t have a proper burial or anything, as the stigma of prostitution means that society doesn’t think she is worth spending any money on to be buried.
The men didn’t look sleazy – many of them were well-dressed, and apparently many are business men in town for work reasons, either from other Ethiopian cities, or from other countries. We didn’t see any Westerners, but there were definitely some from overseas.
Seeing all of this led to a mix of emotions – we were angry with the men who use and abuse the women in this way – both those who want the sex, and those who act as pimps and treat the girls as objects with which to make money
It also made us wonder – with every woman there is a reason why she is there, and a family that she is looking after, or has had to leave, or children waiting at home alone.
It was quite a scary atmosphere – we didn’t feel in danger as we knew that we were in good hands, but we did have to keep hoods up, and Birikte prayed for a safe journey which made us aware that there is always an element of danger.
It has made us even more inspired and in awe of the volunteers who go out each night with the van, to give out tea and cake, to talk with the prostitutes and tell them about the Women At Risk programme – they are a truly amazing organization.

Reflections by Cammie and Bethany, words by Helen


The final day with the children was always going to be hard – we’ve had such a wonderful week with them, and got to know them and their stories and personalities. We’ve helped them achieve new things, been inspired by their hunger  to learn, cried at the conditions and backgrounds some of them live in, rejoiced at the improved life that they are now having thanks to Women At Risk.
So we knew today would probably be hard emotionally – and we weren’t wrong!

The morning was the usual mixture of lessons and activities, plus final rehearsals for the songs and dances the groups did at the celebration event in the afternoon.

Then we had a wonderful gift of an Ethiopian lunch with the WAR staff at their offices – rice, enjera, the sauce that goes with it, popcorn and freshly brewed coffee – all very delicious and a real treat from some very special people.

After lunch we had a quick visit to see where some of the ladies of the project get trained in weaving and then went to the production centre where there were several ladies weaving scarves that then get sold at the Ellita Handicraft centre.

A team of 24 girls is bound to want to shop, so we squeezed in a short visit to the centre, and many scarves were bought – its so good to be able to buy something where you know that the money is going to help a specific person, and that it will help them and their family with the new life that they are embarking on through WAR.

After all that it was back to the school for the final celebration. A highly emotional affair, each group did a song or dance to much applause from the rest of the groups, and all the mothers who had come along. It was very special to see so many mothers, and to see the smiles on their faces as they saw their children singing and dancing.

There were speeches, and presentations, and then it was time for the goodbyes. And that’s when the tears really started to flow! All of us are sad to be leaving, and many would love to stay an extra week. We have made some special friendships here, and its so hard to leave them behind whilst we return to our old lives – lives that just wont ever be quite the same again.

Tomorrow and Sunday are slightly more touristy days, which feels a bit odd at the moment whilst the emotions are high, but I’m sure we’ll have a great time. Its been a very special day today, and here are the pictures to prove it!


Sarah Bovill said...

Incredible highs and lows. It was hard to read about the night drive and to understand the stark reality of the situation. But so uplifting to know that W.A.R. are trying to change things in a sustainable way for some of these women and girls. The final celebration looked like the perfect way to say goodbye, well done and thank you. I can almost taste the coffee - so make sure you bring some back Gemma;)

Lots of love from us all XXXXXX

Unknown said...

Well done to all of you and that includes the children, their mothers and the W.A.R. community.
You have shared an incredible experience which you will remember forever.

Lots of love from Doris and John Hibbitt. xx

Marianne said...

I must admit to shedding a tear too when I read todays blog.
( Maisie will no doubt tell you that i cry at everything!)
In just one week you have made such a difference - just as your students have to you.How lucky you have been
Better go now before the tears start again !! Maisie ..would love you to bring back some coffee too!

Unknown said...

Can't even begin to imagine the emotional roller coaster you have all been on this week. The pictures are wonderful. Thank you for sharing the highs and the lows.

Lots of love, Gilly Forrester (Scarlet's mum)

Anonymous said...

You are all incredible, how humbling to read this blog, just wish we could do more to help. You have all been so privileged to spend time with such amazing and inspiring people (including Helen and Jimmy - thank you). You will take so much from this experience and use it in your future life, well done, you have done your school and us proud.
Cant wait to see yo and Issie, Id love to taste the coffee too so bring some back. xx

Lots of Love Claire (Issies Mum)

Unknown said...

Very well done girls! The smile on the mums and the children faces is so rewarding. You have been working with an incredible team over the last week . It is a privilege to come across amazing people like the WAR and CRED team.

Enjoy the rest of your stay in Ethiopia .

Lots of love Gigi & Ehab

Anonymous said...

WOW - so impressed girls, what amazing work you are doing! You should all be extremely proud of yourselves!

Cant wait to see you Iz and hear all about it. Missing you.

Love Liv (issies sister) xxxxxxxxx

Unknown said...

Well Howdy everyone - Clint Westwood here - just wanted to say so hotdamn inspirin you all are are tell you how we're all thinkin' of ya back here on the ranch . Im hopin everyone our there has leant some cowboy songs on them there ukuleles . All that bloggin is great , apart from the bit about American coffee bein too weak .Has been great to share a tiny bit of what's going on out there , back home . YOU ARE ALL HOTDAMN AMAZIN' ! Stay cool - and keep it country - Clint XXX

Unknown said...

Another amazing trip. Just want to say well done to all of you, especially your hardworking leaders Jimmy and Helen. Enjoy your last full day and see you soon Jim :)

Unknown said...

Another extremely interesting and moving blog. Thank you so much. It's been fantastic to follow your activities this week, and to get an insight into the work of W.A.R. Hope you have a great last couple of days! With love, Alex and Mike Witt

Unknown said...

So very heartening to see such happy photos and so very glad you all seem so committed and involved in your Ethiopian adventure. We are proud of you. Love you Rosie xx Jake very excited to see you too xx mum xx

Unknown said...

Thanks for the Daily comments. We are impressed with the quality of of the experiences you are offering to the group which are socially, emotionally and wonderfully cross-cultural. We admire the organisation and hard work that the adults have put into these.Rosie we look forward to hearing your personal perception when we meet.Love from Grandma and Grandad in Formby.

Unknown said...

Well done Ladies, you should all be so proud of yourselves. What a fantastic experience and memories that you will still be talking about for years to come. Looking forward to hearing about it all first hand Rosie, missing you, safe journey home Saira xx (at Mummy's laptop!!)

Jean and Jim said...

Rosie you are on your way home now and I have only just seen the blog. You should be very proud of yourself. These sorts of experiences are life changing and you will be even more grown up now I think. Every one in your team has made a difference and this is what life is all about. Well done all of you. See you soon jean, Jim and the cats xxx