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Ethiopia - Giving something back
Giving something back
Bradt Guides is an advocate of Responsible Tourism, and readers unfamiliar with this concept are pointed to the excellent website of the British organisation Tourism Concern (www.tourismconcern.org.uk) for further details of what this entails, However, we also think it is important to note that the promotion of Responsible Tourism is not intended to imply that conventional travel is inherently irresponsible or damaging to developing countries. On the contrary, as the world’s largest industry, tourism is an immensely powerful economic stimulant, with some 15% of jobs worldwide being tourism-related. All the more so in a poor country such as Ethiopia, where community tourist projects and more straightforward private developments such as hotels and restaurants all create employment and raise foreign revenue. Ultimately, almost any sustainable tourism venture in Africa falls into the category ‘trade not aid’ and will contribute to the economic development (and/or cultural and environmental preservation) of those countries where it is most needed.
Few visitors to Ethiopia can fail to be moved by the warmth and generosity of the people, despite their poverty, and the country has an impressive number of NGOs, often set up by people who originally came as tourists but stayed to help. The list below is by no means exhaustive; these are the organisations I came across during my two-week trip, and who provided me with a little extra information about their activities. All would welcome donations to help them further their work.
Ethiopia Education Aid (www.ethiopiaeducationaid.org) A small Christian charity, founded by Maurice and Susan Clarke in 2006, who fund students through school and college so they can gain a qualification or trade. Here are some of their success stories:
Mulugeta Ababu is our first student to graduate. We gave him a new suit, tie, white shirt and cufflinks and he was thrilled. The graduation was a wonderful celebration of music, traditional dancing, receiving awards and much clapping – quite different from our own!
Mulugeta’s story Mulugeta grew up in a rural area without education. He lost both parents (his mother died from rabid dog bite) and started school at 15 years. When we met Mulugeta in January 2006, he was 22 and working long hours in a shop to feed himself. He could not afford books or a school uniform and was struggling to stay at school. We visited his headmaster and teacher to find out about the education system and discuss his situation. On returning to the UK we started a charity, Ethiopia Education Aid, and sponsored Mulugeta’s last year at school, followed by a nine-month course in English and computer studies to gain entry into Lion College to study Tourist Management for three years. Needless to say, we are enormously proud of him!
Birtukan Abate’s story Birtukan left home when she was 16 to begin a job in Addis Ababa as paid help in an Ethiopian household. Three years later she was found ill-treated, downtrodden and earning a pit home. Initially we were asked to support her return home to Lalibela. Once her tance – insufficient to allow her to return confidence had returned we began to sponsor her at a further education college to train as a hotel receptionist. She is now learning English and Computer Studies and has a hotel placement one day per week. She is a transformed young woman for as little as £40 per month.
PLAN (www.Plan-UK.org) I learned about Plan from Dr Hugh Sharp, who has raised thousands of pounds for this NGO which is active in Ethiopia in health, education and community projects. They also do child sponsorships. Hugh and his wife came to Ethiopia as tourists and after seeing the poor conditions in the hospital in Lalibela, decided to get involved. Now they come to Lalibela every year, to ‘keep an eye on things’ and visit PLAN’s office there.
The Donkey Sanctuary (www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk) Visitors are often dismayed at the state of the working donkeys in Ethiopia (which has the second-largest number of donkeys in the world, after China). A Devon charity, The Donkey Sanctuary, has a highly effective project in Ethiopia, working with the owners to improve their understanding of donkey care, such as how to prevent harness sores by using the locally made padded pack-saddles, and reduce the currently high incidence of traffic accidents involving donkeys.
I talked to Asmamaw Kassaye, the head vet at the Donkey Sanctuary in Ethiopia. He told me its headquarters are in Debre Zeit but with mobile units in five different locations. With so much poverty around you would expect donkey welfare to be pretty low down in priorities, but of course to a rural person a donkey is the equivalent of a car; without one he loses his ability to earn money. Asmamaw showed me a photo of a donkey brought in strapped to a flat-bed cart, pulled by another donkey. The vets successfully cured it of its colic.
To learn more about their work while in Ethiopia or make a donation during your visit, phone the headquarters in Addis Ababa: Tel: +251 618 5708; Mobile: +251 91 333 3591 or +251 91 160 3911. Once home, donations can be made through the sanctuary website: www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk.