THREE Transition Year (TY) students from Clonakilty have returned from their trip to Ethiopia with Gorta.
Aisling Coomey, Kate O’Donovan and Ellecia Vaughan from Sacred Heart Secondary School in Clonakilty, were selected last November for Gorta’s Self Help Africa Schools Programme.
Along with students from Carlow, Offaly and Derry travelled to Ethiopia during a recent mid-term break.
On their first day in Ethiopia they visited the national museum in the capital city, Addis Ababa, where they got to experience much about Ethiopian culture, art and history, they also witnessed poverty in the capital where goats casually strolled across the main roads and scaffolding hazardously straddled buildings.
Early the next morning the girls headed north from Addis through the Blue Nile Gorge to Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. On the journey they took in the vast landscape and the rural dwellings which were really little more than huts. Their accommodation that night meant that they also had to go without electricity, running water and wi-fi – a hardship for any Irish teenager. But their experience gave them a real insight into what life was really like and made them realise how lucky Irish teenagers are, particularly with little luxuries – like flushing toilets!
During their week in Ethiopia they visited three schools where they were able to interact with students their own age and talk to them about their daily lives, favourite subjects and aspirations for the future, although it was really interesting talking to the students it was also tinged with guilt as many of them played on hard ground without the comfort of shoes or lived in homes constructed from little more than sticks with no facilities for washing or cleaning.
The girls saw at first hand the basic life and struggles endured by local villagers, but also when visiting the Rusaccoo Union which gives loans to local farmers, they saw the difference that can be made as agricultural co-ops enable farm machinery to be bought to aid farmers and village life in general.
The girls said afterwards that the week had made a significant impact on them. They found themselves re-evaluating their values and views. The trip made the girls realise that it is possible to survive in this world without material things such as mobile phones and the internet, and that happiness can be achieved in the most simple of ways. The girls said they now have memories that will last a lifetime and will serve to remind them of just how lucky they are.
Aisling, Ellecia and Kate thanked their families, friends and school community for their support in fundraising for their volunteer trip and the contributions and support from the people of Ahiohill, Clonakilty, Rosscarbery and Timoleague.
• If you would like to find out more about projects that Self Help Africa undertake in Ethiopia, visit http://www.selfhelpafrica.org/ie/
– Kate O’Donovan