Ethiopia: Sponsors see firsthand how sponsorship has impacted this community

By Robyn Heath, Ethiopia Child Sponsor

What a humbling experience it was for my husband, John, and I to visit our sponsored child, Henok, in Ethiopia.

Our first stop was Addis Ababa. This capital city was full of differences from Australian cities: there were armed guards at the airport; we were frisked when entering shops or businesses; crossing the street required some courage as vehicles honked their way amongst cars, small buses and donkey trains; construction sites were everywhere moving Addis further into modern times, with an apparent relaxation of OH&S- type regulations

After flying 500kms, we spent our second day touring the smaller city of Arba Minch. There were fewer tall buildings; most vehicles were small blue tuk-tuks used as taxis; people were everywhere – bathing in the river, shopping in the markets, walking the streets in their colourful clothing, and herding goats, cows or donkeys.

The mountain road to our overnight accommodation provided breathtaking scenery. We looked down upon the valley below, past many agricultural fields and small traditional huts in addition to people walking with assorted loads. At one point we were serenaded to beautiful harmonies when a group of children stopped to sing for us, and our guides found our excitement amusing when we witnessed a family of baboons cross our path.

Spending the night in a traditional bamboo hut, we awoke to watch the sun rise over our beautiful panorama view, after which we travelled to the nearby World Vision project at Chencha.

What came next was the pinnacle of our visit. We met our sponsored child Henok – instantly recognisable from the annual photos we’d received over the years. I was overcome with emotion - just as I was to be again soon when meeting and embracing his mother who was equally overcome – the tears in both our eyes bridging the cultural and language gaps. Family and neighbours came and went, Ethiopian and Australian gifts were exchanged and we were treated to a traditional coffee ceremony (Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee) and a variety of local dishes.

Escorted by four World Vision workers, Henok accompanied us the remainder of the day. The community in Chencha was a different experience from the two larger cities we had visited: no motor vehicles, save the World Vision one and a couple of motor bikes; people walking everywhere; children playing in the street; and simple housing mostly made of mud. We returned many smiles and waves from locals.

At the World Vision headquarters we much enjoyed meeting the workers (all Ethiopians). The Chencha project is wholly supported by Australians. Our flag was proudly displayed and workers told us of their barracking for our country in the World Cup!



"I believe their work is real"

At the local health centre we were told of the focus on babies and children – safer births, immunisation and health education. In addition, regular clinics target many diseases (not limited to the large problem of HIV), and statistics show the steadily increasing life expectancy of local people. It was at these centres we could see firsthand the positive effects World Vision has had in Chencha.

At the high school we met students clad in colourful uniforms. With large smiles and friendly interest in us, they expressed gratitude for their educational facilities and provisions. The Principal allowed us to enter classrooms, talk to students, see new building works and hear of the improvements in education for local people since World Vision entered the area.

After our wonderful day together, we sadly said goodbye to Henok and headed back down the mountain to Arba Minch from where we left Ethiopia the next day.

Albeit rudimentary and sparsely equipped health and education facilities by Australian standards, along with the provision of clean water and other developments, there is no doubt in my mind that the quality of life for people in Chencha has been improved immeasurably.

While this project is nearing its completion there are many other areas of the country in need. As one project closes, another opens, so there is always a need for support from sponsors such as us.

I highly recommend being a World Vision sponsor. I believe their work is real, and our support reaches its intended recipients. Being sponsors for only one child, we often felt unworthy of the gratitude expressed to us by World Vision workers and local people, but when our contribution is multiplied by many others, the benefits also multiply.

We cannot thank World Vision enough for this opportunity. It will remain in our memories forever.