Ethiopia: Top 5 moments visiting sponsorship projects

By Christine Fellner, World Vision Ethiopia Portfolio Advisor

As World Vision’s Portfolio Advisor for Ethiopia I’ve encountered a variety of encouraging, inspiring and intriguing moments visiting the field over the last three years.

From adorable children to fascinating cultural traditions; I want to share with you the moments that I experienced recently while monitoring the impact of your support in communities across Ethiopia.

1) Meeting children who make me smile

While at the Chencha project discussing progress and impact, I had the privilege of visiting the new early childhood care and education centre. The project is transitioning some of its old office buildings into classrooms and working with the government to provide teachers.

This cutie (pictured right) walked right up to me as I entered the classroom and wanted me to correct her assignment. Unfortunately I can’t read Amharic, but it looked good, especially considering she is only four years old and the centre has only been open for three months!


2) Hearing how World Vision is making a difference

Pottery makers in Ethiopia are some of the most vulnerable people. They often don’t own land and must beg to take soil from other people’s properties to make their vases and pots. Many people refused them access to their homes, believing they would be cursed too. When World Vision came and saw this community, they established pottery cooperatives and trained them.

I had a man from the cooperative come and say to me, “Before we were earning 1 - 2 birr (1 AUD is equivalent to 16 Birr) for a vase or coffee pitcher, but now we can sell an item for 10 - 12 birr because the quality is much improved.”

I learned that unfortunately banks would not loan the pottery makers money, as they were still perceived to be of a lesser status. So World Vision initiated groups where they could save together and then loan money from the group’s savings, which in turn allowed them to seek new opportunities.

A woman from the cooperative said that, “Before we were pushed from people’s homes. Our children could not attend school making us even more marginalised. Now, our children are in school and we have money to feed them.”

3) Discovering women’s cultural traditions

There’s an ethnic group in the south of Ethiopia where the women are famed for wearing large clay plates in their lips and ears. While out in the community I discovered the range of reasons behind it, ranging from disfigurement in order to discourage slave raiders, to having it as an object of beauty. Others believe the size of the lip plate correlates to the amount they are worth in terms of bride-price, while others say it signifies when they reach adulthood.

Girls in this ethnic group are valued as they will bring wealth to the family in the form of a dowry when they are married (usually 30-40 cattle) however, this payment often makes them the property of their husbands, which can lead to gender issues and other harmful traditional practices. Fortunately, in 2017 World Vision will begin working in these communities.

The people supplement their income by allowing tourists to take their pictures for a small fee. I also discovered that this has led to many challenges in the community including relying on tourism rather than educating their children. One of the ideas we suggested was that World Vision could work with the government to set up a tourism centre where guides could take tourists to learn about the 16 different tribes of the area, but also have signs discouraging tourists from giving money and taking pictures of children as it encourages them to stay out of school. 


4) Encountering the honesty of the community

As we were discussing the challenges and resources in the community a young woman came forward with a gourd full of water (shown on left) and said “Look at the water we drink. Because it is dirty we are always becoming sick. If we had clean water we could have healthy children.”

I was moved by her honesty. Water is definitely an area that will need to be addressed when the new World Vision sponsorship projects start in 2017.


5) Listening to the transformation firsthand

While I was in the Chencha project, Aberash (second from left) was eager to show me her home and the impact that World Vision programs have had on her family. It was an unplanned visit, but very worthwhile.

“In the past we were a poor family so one of my children was selected for the sponsorship program and was sponsored by a couple in Australia. My son is now at university studying journalism. I wish we could tell the couple who sponsor him of this; I would love to invite them to the graduation ceremony. I will also invite the World Vision staff to come because it is because of you that my life is changed.”