What took me almost 6000 kms and on a 24 hour trip? To a Country I used to know due to poverty and draught? I wanted to take a break from the environment I have lived in almost 21 years. To discover new culture, traditions, people. To challenge myself. I study Human Resources in Tallin, and the AIESEC internship program has been in my mind for almost a year, since I joined the organization. I gave up on the idea several times. It only takes one minute to change one's life. There I was boarding my flight from Tallin to Istanbul to Addis Ababa.
I lived with other interns from Holland, Norway, Kenya, Russia, Taiwan and USA in a cozy apartment with hot water and electricity. During the evening or on weekends we joined the other AIESEC international volunteers for dinner or just for chatting about our work.
My roomie, Aurora from Holland, and I were volunteering at Fresh and Green Academy to teach mathematics and English from Grade 1 to Grade 4. I was able to use the same methods that I was taught when I was the same age as the children, and I tried my best to make mathematics interesting. Standing in the middle of the small classrooms, (9 to 23 students) I challenged myself by developing my confidence and ability to control the situation.
Students in our school loved us from the very first day. Every morning we walked into the school yard they welcomed us with tons of hugs and kisses. It charged us with motivation and energy for the whole day. I have never met children who are so sincere and loving. They admire every piece of you, and we wanted to make the children feel the same way that they made us feel. We showed our love and caring through conversations in English, learning amharic taught by them and encouraging them to show love and compassion to the person sitting next to them. Even though hearing every student's past and personal life could be very shocking and made us think about the cruelty of life, their smiles and shiny eyes made us happy again.
People at Fresh and Green inspired us to share everything we have with others. The school owner Muday, truly a saint, was the first person to show this. We were able to hear all of her amazing stories about each child and learn about how she gives everything she has to them. Her stories made us so thankful for the life we have and for the work that she is doing here in Kotebe.
Each day we shared an inspirational lunch time with traditional Ethiopian food the best coffee during the coffee ceremonies. Aurora and I even helped organize some holidays, including Valentine's Day (they had never celebrated this before) where we made small cards with hearts for every student in the school. We were also able to celebrate Estonian Independence Day.
The loving children are not the only thing I miss sitting here in my cold Estonia. I met so many inspiring and fun people there with whom I share memorable moments and conversations. Local AIESECers who visited us everyday or who we bumped into on streets showed us the the best places in the city and partied with us until the early morning. I never felt alone because I had the best people surrounding me- people I could trust and with whom I could share my emotions. I miss them.
Those 7 weeks in Ethiopia were memorable and amazing. Local people always helped us to the buses in the morning, showing us how Africans are: free, loving and beautiful. I reallized that many of the African stereotypes are false, and now I am able to share the reality of Ethiopia to my friends at home. I will just say, though, that it is better to discover Ethiopia by yourself than listen to the stories others.
Seeing the pictures of those children at school and remembering the friendships I made and the experience I got, I am sure that I made a difference at the school and at home. Changing the lives of those children was a gift for them and for me. That gift for me was love. I don't believe the stories they tell me about crazy people in Ethiopia. In Addis Ababa there was no war and life was peaceful and loving, so don't worry about your safety.
Thank you Fresh and Green and AIESEC in Ethiopia for this amazingly memorable internship and opportunity to do something great. I recommend to take your own opportunity and make a difference (even a small one) for other people and for yourself.
Maris from Estonia