Evergreen PA sponsored Lizzie Varley, from York, to take part in a community project at Andinet Elementary School in Gonder, Ethiopia.
You can view full details on this project here. You can view Lizzie’s account of her experience with this project below:
In August 2016 I travelled for three weeks with eleven other Girl Guiding leaders from the UK and Canada, as part of a Link Ethiopia education project. The main goals of the project were to fund the building and decorating of a new classroom block, and to run a summer school for forty of the school children.
Andinet Elementary school is a small school, sponsored by Link Ethiopia, in the Azezo community just outside Gonder. There are roughly 325 children attending the school from the surrounding area, and 7 teachers. Link Ethiopia partnered with Girlguiding UK and AidCamps International to improve the school buildings. Previously, the school had a rundown set of classrooms with lumpy stone floors, poor roofing and unplastered walls. Originally built from traditional wood and mud, one in particular had fallen into a state of disrepair and could no longer be used as a classroom. The new building, built using money raised by our joint venture, houses two classrooms and is a spacious and positive space for children to develop and learn in. Having previously had to finish educating children at grade 3, the school now plans to educate children up to grade 5. This will provide huge opportunities for the local children.
The money for the classrooms had already been raised before our trip, so when we arrived in Gonder they had already been built and were ready for us to decorate with fun, educational murals. We spent many a happy afternoon painting the alphabet, numbers, days of the week, colour wheels, months, flowers and animals on the walls of the classroom. We wanted to make the rooms as colourful and exciting as possible, to draw the kids’ focus and make school just that little bit more fun. It was frustrating at times, as most of us aren’t artists and our time was cut short in the end, but we were able to finish everything we wanted and it was worth it to see the kids’ faces light up when they walked in!
The summer school was definitely the highlight of the trip for all of us – each morning the children would be waiting for us at the entrance of the school with big grins on their faces, eager to help us with our bags and hold our hands as we made our way to the classrooms. The 40 children were split into two groups – lower grades (1-3) in one and higher grades (4-6) in the other. I was looking after the lower grade group, which meant that the kids had very limited English. Although it was a struggle at times, we found that it was a lot easier to communicate with the kids than we first thought – the children in the slightly higher grades would help out the lower, and as they were always keen to learn we were able to teach them new words through gestures and body language.
We had five mornings in total with the children and we had planned a lot of fun activities and crafts to do with them, including: days of the week pinwheels, animal masks, decorating their own photo frames and tote bags, rocket balloons and caterpillar pegs. The kids absolutely loved anything crafty and we let their imaginations run free with lots of colouring in with the paper, pens and pencils we had donated to the school. It was amazing for us to see the children take delight in everything they were doing, and to see how each child created something unique and special to them. They were incredibly polite and respectful towards us as their teachers, and treated all of the resources with great care as well.
We also introduced the kids to some English songs such as ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’, ‘The Hokey Cokey’ and ‘Singing in the Rain’. We all had great fun teaching them the actions and they had a good laugh over how ridiculous we looked! And every day we would play at least one game with them to get them running around, which usually resulted in chaos as there were 24 of us in a tiny classroom, but everyone was giggling and having fun so it was a good kind of chaos! We had such a fun time running around with kids, playing football, bowling, catch and cat & mouse.
We had an absolutely amazing time with the kids at the school – the time we had with them definitely felt too short. These children have very little in the way of possessions, and yet they were kind, generous, happy, loving, intelligent and full of life. I will miss them every day and I think it is safe to say that I learned far more from them then they did from me.