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Jess' Blog No.10 - Day4: Part 2

By Jessica Wilkes-Reading

Jess' Blog No.10 - Day4: Part 2

A day at school

Wesleyan's CR and Charity Coordinator Jessica Wilkes-Reading, and retired dentist and Wesleyan customer Jane Innes-Rees are in Ethiopia visiting various projects to see what support people from the UK are providing - and what more can be done.

Previously, Jess received a welcome to remember at Elshadai Children's Village. Now she's taking a tour of the school and learning how much it is influenced by the British education system

Following our overwhelming welcome, the children at Elshadai Children's Village were sent back to their classes while we were given a tour by Tesfai, one of the managers.

We started in what is the equivalent of reception class in the UK, where we taught the children the classic 'Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes' song, complete with actions. In another class, the children recited the whole alphabet in English, while in another they all stood up and said together 'welcome sister'.

Tesfai showed us the library where some of the older students were doing their homework - in complete silence! Anyone with teenager children of your own, will know this is an almost impossible task...

He also introduced us to the principal of the school, who himself grew up at Elshadai and eventually came back to work there, as did the head of science.

(While we're on the subject of science, I need to say the facilities they have are amazing, with far better equipment than I had at my school! All of it has been donated from the UK, with a shipping container full of equipment arriving every 12-18 months.)

It's a real testament to the incredible team at Elshadai that adults who grew up there want to return and help after they finish university. They have a group of children willing and hungry to learn, and, having seen it at first hand, all you want to do is help them flourish.

The best way to describe it is that these children have 160 brothers and sisters. They grow up in a place where they are supported and loved so much that they keep attaining the top grades in all subjects, and 15 of the children who finished high school last year are now at university, which is an incredible statistic.

A happy place

What was startling was what an absolutely fun filled, happy, loving and positive place Elshadai is. These kids have had the worst possible start in life, being born into poverty and losing their parents, yet they are some of the happiest, optimistic and appreciative people I have ever met and they are an inspiration.

Also, considering we were in the middle of nowhere, the place was spotless. It was clean and tidy, I saw no litter and nothing was out of place, not even in the teenage girls dormitories. When I was that age, my stuff was everywhere. And, if I'm honest, *ahem* a bit later in life too...

The site also has a farm, which Alem guided us around. He talked about how the children's village has become more sustainable and no longer reliant to just a few income streams. It even has a digester to help generate energy to help power the village.

As for the animals they keep, they are some of the best looked after I have ever seen. They have sheep for fattening to become a good source of protein for the children to help them grow strong. There is a dairy herd that provides more income and much needed protein for the children.

Last year Alum took delivery of a shipping container sent over from Europe containing a tractor, ploughing and threshing equipment. This has made a huge difference to the farm because it means they can now plant and harvest more crops that will keep the livestock and the children fed and well looked after.

It's all about sustainability and having the right tools to do the job.

Of course, any visit to the countryside is fraught with perils - Jane dropped her phone in a cowpat and I got photobombed by a cow!

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