BTC Ethiopia: Day 6 – Megaladi Village
We enjoyed our typical morning coffee and fried eggs at the compound, discussed challenges present in this village: water is #1. If that is addressed, other challenges like health, consistent farming amongst the drought and naturally arid land would improve. A school had been built with volunteers alongside the villagers with cement block, then the villagers built two of their own with mud and sticks. That’s exactly what you want. Create the spark, cheer them on, and watch it grow from their own desire and effort. An inter-village soccer match was also set-up between that village and Garmaan (the village we visited before), and we were told that this helps fuel not only a little healthy competition, but it helps address GHNI’s mission of improving health, plants the seed for sports which can keep villagers active instead of falling prey to other less productive or dangerous activities, and builds relationships that otherwise would not be built due to the tribal/clan mindset that often exists between villages.
We had driven past Megaladi to get to Garmaan the day before, so we had a bird’s eye view of the village, but after the hot, bumpy ride there, seeing how dusty and dry everything was just made us wonder, how does anyone live here?
The bus dropped us off to go drive the other 45 minutes to pick up ‘Team Garmaam’, so we headed into the Megaladi village to get to know the people, see their challenges, and await the return of the other team for the game.
A water test that was recently done showed that the water from a pump that had been put in a while ago by Catholic missionaries had over 50% saline content and some as high as 70%. That’s a death sentence for anyone, causing serious digestive malfunction, liver problems and other diseases that become fatal over time. There are simple/effective desalinization techniques, but getting them to become habits is not easy. And even if the water became drinkable, getting drip irrigation or effective rain catchment to fuel significant agriculture is difficult, and by their standards, expensive.
We walked with happy, but dusty children from the road, past the infamous salty water pump, 2 new water reservoirs being built and a hut that was someone’s home, back to the school that had been built. We were escorted inside the first school built in partnership with volunteers. It was cool in there, compared to the dusty, African sun-baking air outside. There were desks and a chalkboard with only 1 centimeter left of chalk. They then showed some of us the other school house they had built with mud. It was less cool, not the same number of windows, and no floor…but otherwise, it did the trick – roof, walls, desks, chalkboard.
The children wrote messages in English for us, a few of the older students asked us questions in English, wrote questions on the board for us to answer about each other. They wrote things like, “I love you”, “What are you?”, “How old are you?”
The lone phrase that stood out at the top of the chalkboard, was “Get me your money”. This was funny, but sad. It’s a sobering reality that villages who have not yet become self sufficient have learned over the years to depend on handouts. That is why GHNI is so different, and so important. We won’t give money, or major gifts. We invest in the villages who show the potential to invest in themselves, and have a multi-year plan to have them on track, supporting themselves. However, until the projects we are doing are fully funded and in place for a few years, ‘get me your money’ is a line local parents and teachers will make sure the children learn in English as soon as possible. Interesting how something as simple as what a child writes on a blackboard can be so profound and so telling.
We took pictures inside with the children and had fun with them.
We all went outside, played with the kids, talked with the adults (by showing them pictures, using gestures, and smiling.) It was HOT. Just one look at the ground, cracked like broken, dry pottery clay, and you had so much empathy for these living conditions. Over the hill, you could see some vegetation growing, supported from the rain alone, but not much.
We taught them some simple games (pattycake, duck-duck goose – although we called it goat-goat dog because theres no reason they would know what a duck or a goose is or have local language for it) and had a great time.
We took pictures with our iPhones, which the kids love looking at immediately to see themselves…just like kids in the US. We danced to music played on our phones, and let some of the kids take their own pictures and video with the phones.
You could see the latrines that GHNI had world with me to build in the distance. Properly managing human waste is critical to improving sanitation standards, so it’s a big deal to have these in a village.
The children, like others nearby, were just beautiful, inspiring and heartbreaking all at once.
Team Garmaam finally arrived. They were each issued uniforms that GHNI provided, and that was the highlight of their day, and possibly year. You should have seen them. They transformed into a team right before our eyes. They stretched, prepped and got ready to play. Since it was so hot, they only played two 15-minute halves, but in that time, we had funny moments, incredibly competitive spirit, and…a winner: Team Garmaam, the visitors. They won, 2-0. We cheered, took pictures and had the typical handshaking ceremony for the team. They packed up (all 12 of them in the back of a a van that typically held the 6 of us), and took them on the long trek back. We waited, sweating, for their return. For a while, we played with the kids, but then transitioned to sitting under the little shade hut, exhausted from the heat, thinking about the people here and what they need.
Eventually, the truck returned, we got in, and had a bumpy, hot, tired journey back to the compound.
We had a dinner late that night, where goats where freshly slaughtered for our dinner, and although we had vegans in the group, we expressed our gratitude for the show of hospitality. The dinner ran incredibly late, and it was an understatement to say it had been a draining day, both emotionally and physically.
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