A trip to Ethiopia leaves a lasting impact
A team of 21 students from Ballyclare High School and Carrickfergus College in Northern Ireland spent 10 days in Bekoiji, Ethiopia in early July 2011 running a camp for the 330 children in the Stand by Me Bethany school. There was a feeling amongst the team before they left that they would be irreversibly changed by the encounter – and they were.
Each one gave themselves whole-heartedly to the kids in all the craft, sports and games activities that made up the five sessions each day. The stories and situations of many of these children created emotional intensity and a real team togetherness which fuelled many late night conversations. The team was amazed to meet one of the children called Martha, who only 20 months earlier was dying with HIV but who has now recovered to good health after being provided with nutritious food and medication. One of the highlights was helping Martha and her sister Salam move from a one roomed mud house to a beautiful new home which the team decorated. This demonstrated clearly how we can literally change someone’s life by standing by them.
One team member, Healey Blair expresses it like this “There are no words to describe the impact this experience has had on me, except to say that Bekoiji, Ethiopia, will never leave me. Never have I found somewhere where there are such opposites so close together. Bekoiji is mud houses, remote with extreme poverty, yet there are telephone poles and pylons. 4×4 vehicles dodge horses and carts, goats and cows. A mud hut had a satellite dish. Yet, Bekoiji is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to. Past the poverty we see, the people welcome you with open arms. They don’t complain, they just smile; they are so happy. This affected me hugely as they have so little and yet they are always smiling, and are always giving. Not even ice cold showers, garlic goat, mosquitoes and jumping spiders could change my view on how beautiful Bekoiji is in terms of those who live there. Bethany School and its pupils have changed my life. The school is making such a difference to the lives of the poorest children. The kids have opened my eyes and given me a better perspective of the world. They are beautiful kids who have made me laugh and smile and cry from sadness and from joy, and I will never forget a single moment I spent with them. Those ten days taught me that where you invest your love, you invest your life, and to be the change you want to see in the world.”