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Elshadai Children's Village

By Jane Innes-Rees

Elshadai Children's Village

With the family growing up, Jane decided to put her dentistry skills to use in Ethiopia where she was asked to start a dental department at the local hospital.

First problem - how to fund the cost of the flight;  answer sell unwanted items on Ebay. Where better than to start by sorting through dad's garage. Dad just happens to  be David Rees who many of our members remember from his time as a Castler (he was also District Governor in 1996-1997). 

Through the generosity of her parents and many friends enough money was raised to allow her to fly out to Ethiopia. She was advised not to travel any nearer than 10K to the Eretrean border so it is by no means the safest country in the world to work in.

Dentistry is very different from what we know here. There are very limited resources - some being donated from the UK. The method of setting a filling is to stand out in the sunshine as nothing else is available.

Through her work at the hospital she found out about the Elshadai Children's village. This was established in 1989 originally as an orphanage following the civil war which claimed the lives of many adults, along with the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the early 1990's.

The decision was taken to call it a Children's village as the children did not wish to be known as orphans.

Watch the video.

The village provides valuable education to the children along with the basic necessities - nourishment, clothing, lodging, hygienic materials and basic health care.

To date, 147 children have successfully completed post secondary education, this in a school with no desks, they have to use the floor, and many return to the school to work in various positions. The education they receive helps them to get out of poverty by learning. By the age of 12 they can usually speak 3 languages including English.

They rely a lot on donated items, eg Sheffield United shirts. In the girls house all clothes are shared, no one has any personal possessions but everything is well looked after.

There is 11 hectares of land. This produces vegetables and fruits. They also keep cows, chickens and bees to produce further food and honey which not only helps feed the children but allows produce to be sold thus generating some much needed income.

There is a river which does not dry out so enables them to grow crops throughout the year. Ploughing is done with oxen - no mod cons. A vet visits the farm weekly to check the condition of the cows. The farm and dairy farm fully cover their operational costs including full time salaries and daily wages.

Jane visits the school regularly to assess the dental needs of the children. This can include problems caused by being HIV positive from their parents. Another problem is with plaque which can sometimes be fatal. The work is undertaken in very challenging conditions, there is no lighting and limited facilities. They use eucalyptus sticks as toothbrushes.

There are several ongoing costs to cover. Teaching someone to drive is expensive, along with the fuel, insurance and maintenance of vehicles.

The budget has to be controlled very carefully to allow children to attend university.
At present a Swiss family are funding 57% of the budget but this will run out in 2016.  They also rely on individuals from the UK and US to support the program, while some income comes from school fees paid by non resident students.

Watch the video.

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