Life in Ethiopia: A Young Persons' Perspective

Our last meeting before the Summer break welcomed Maggie Huckfield from Staffs County Council's Young People's Service, together with four young ladies from Netherstowe and Friary Schools, to talk about their work supporting disadvantaged communities in Ethiopia. The project was, and continues to be, one that provides young persons in Lichfield with a wider appreciation of third world issues, assists communities in Ethiopia and has undoubtedly provided a life changing experience for those young persons who have volunteered to visit the country.

Following a brief introductory video, we heard from each of the girls. They had been impressed by the respect paid by the younger generation to their elders, but shocked by the poverty, inequality and exploitation that was endemic in the country, despite the efforts of both local social workers and those from overseas. We shared their experiences of visits to schools, old persons' homes and shelters. They were clearly moved by what they had experienced, realising, as they explained that life is a lottery and we have the good luck to have won that lottery, living in a stable and affluent society. They reflected on the "smell of desperation" in such communities. Yet despite the adversity, they were impressed by the children's eagerness to attend school and their desire to learn.

The visits by Lichfield students have led to a desire to continue their association with the country and do something to support the efforts of the local fieldworkers. Hence a project has been launched to build a classroom for disabled children. Funds were raised, yet 4500 more is needed to run the completed classroom. Lichfield schools are helping with fundraising through a variety of sponsored events together with recycling initiatives, having heard about life in Ethiopia and the project from the students who have been there.

Some may think that an evening talking about life in Ethiopia not be an appropriate topic for a Civic Society meeting. Perhaps we need topics looking at other less fortunate societies from time to time to put our own concerns about the character of development in Lichfield in perspective. The awareness of the quality of life for the average Ethiopian certainly had an impact on our student presenters; life changing would not be an understatement.

If members want more information on the LifeE project, go to Facebook. Their website is www.life-ethiopia.com

Roger Hockney
July 2010