My journey to Addis Ababa and eventually Fresh and Green Academy proved to be a long one. As a member of the Morehead-Cain Scholarship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I knew that my second summer would be spent doing service work in some capacity, but I had my heart set on South Africa or Costa Rica. After learning about a charity called Cherokee Gives Back, however, I started to think that Ethiopia was the right place for me. Cherokee pairs college students and young adults with local organizations to intern with for however long that student wants to stay in Addis. After speaking with the program director and telling her about my love for children and interest in business, she placed me with Muday, the director and founder of Fresh and Green, for my eight weeks here in Addis. I was excited to work with the children and help the school in any way that I could.
An entire day of traveling and a thirteen hour plane ride brought me to Addis Ababa and eventually Fresh and Green. My welcome to the school was amazing. All of the children stood and started clapping and singing “Welcome, welcome, welcome and good morning. We are happy to see you!” I loved the smiles that came across every single face that I saw. I quickly realized that my soft, blonde hair would be the main attraction for the kids, as they could not stop touching it when I bent down to give them all hugs hello. I sat down with Muday and listened to her tell the stories of the kids, many of whom lived on the streets before the school found them. Most of their mothers had been beggars or prostitutes, but Muday saved them from this terrible life. I couldn’t believe how she took all 160 children and their families under her care, giving them all three meals a day, clothing, school materials, an education, and rent to pay for housing. The happiness that I saw when I entered the school was completely her doing along with those who helped her start this amazing project.
McKenzie from the United States
Soon I began to settle into my daily routine, taking the mini bus for an hour every morning to get from the Cherokee house to Muday’s. I was able to teach fourth and sixth grade English four times a week and then use my other spare time to help in the school’s business office. I helped edit her project proposal for the government and potential donors, as well as edit and improve her website (including this volunteer page!). Some of my favorite time, though, was spent observing the amazing teachers here interacting with the children. I could see how much each student loved being in the classroom. Many times during the day I was even able to escape the office and play with the children in the yard or on the playground. There is never a dull moment at Fresh and Green!
Working with Muday also provided me an amazing cultural experience. Each day we had traditional Ethiopian food and one of the mothers working for Muday preformed the coffee ceremony. While I am not a huge coffee drinker in the United States, the coffee here in Ethiopia is amazing! Each day I ate in Muday’s store area with all of the people who work in the business office. We had great conversations amongst the amazing handiwork of the mothers in Muday’s Mothers’ Cooperative. I sat and admired the scarves, pots, bags, and clothes. This project makes Muday’s work even more impressive, as it seeks to teach the mothers independence and self-reliance, helping them to feel less dependent on Muday to support their families.
I would not trade my eight weeks in Ethiopia or my work with Muday for anything in the world. Ethiopia is an amazing country, and Addis is one of the most diverse, complex, and interesting cities that I have ever been to. I would urge every single person to come have the experience that I have had here. Live in Ethiopia and dive into the culture here! You will not be disappointed. There are few places that I know that have a culture in which every person has a deep love for the people around them. Everyone is so kind, and they all want to help in any way that they can. I learned that first hand at Fresh and Green, and I will take that loving spirit back with me into the United States.