As a volunteer, you pass on various skills to the rest of the community without expecting anything in return but at Fresh and Green I got so much contentment and love from the entire community! I learnt that volunteering is more of interaction and connecting to the community. I taught spoken English and even learnt what it takes to be a teacher!
I learnt so much about myself and got a much deeper understanding of what life is about. I also acquired virtues I did not posses before like patience and thoughtfulness. Every Monday we had devotion in the “coffee room” and various religions were represented. It made me feel whole in that in as much as I did not understand the prayers and the language, I understood that God is universal. We also connected spiritually with other workers in the school.
I acquired a child-like innocence when I was singing with the children in the KG .Those kids have a burning urge to learn!! They were so eager to learn new things and were extremely receptive. I thought they would easily forget the songs I taught them but the next time I went they sang the song over and over again. Just to emphasize on how the kids desire to stay in school. In case one may wonder how eager they are to learn, they learnt to sing a song in Swahili (a language they barely know or hear about!).
Another outstanding element of Fresh and Green is the sustainability. Muday has not only taken the children out of the streets but has also set out to ensure that their mothers are getting a means to earn a living. She also guarantees the children 3 meals in a day.
The mothers have formed a cooperative in which they make crafts and Habesha scarves for sale. They also assist in domestic tasks in the school. How sustainable can a system be? This goes ahead to abolish the dependence syndrome that I have observed in most charitable organizations which unfortunately are not sustainable. The plans that Fresh and Green have for the future are big! With the very spirit of sustainability transforming it to a boarding school in the outskirts of Addis Ababa in the near future will enable the children remain in school. This project’s sustainability really touched my heart.
My faith in humanity was equally restored. I left home not trusting ‘strangers’ because of my own personal encounters of theft and corruption I observed in my own social system. When I met Muday and learnt how hard she worked just to see to it that the children did not sleep hungry and in the streets, I felt a gap in my heart was re-filled. This attitude of giving was spread out to my fellow volunteers and most of the Ethiopian people.
I later met Trish Hack, who valued those children as though they were her very own. In a culture that is saturated with individualism and consumerism, I am so glad that there are hearts willing to give themselves away for the sake of others. I am still grateful that humanity’s conscience is not completely lost.
Through my volunteer experience, I also made lifelong friends! My fellow volunteers with AIESEC firstly, the Addis Ababa University fraternity and I cannot forget to mention Glory Rain. She would give everything to see to it that Fresh and Green lives on. We traveled to other parts of Ethiopia together and made memories to last a lifetime.
Living by example is what Muday lived by. She lived a life of simplicity and her own children are enrolled at Fresh and Green. This goes to show she firmly believes in the system and in making a difference. The simple lives led by Fresh and Green community members constantly reminded me that a happy heart and good health are the fundamentals of life.
Though my volunteer experience is over, I continually fall in love with the community so closely knit. They say home is where the heart is, and for me, it is Fresh and Green, Addis Ababa. My heart is open and a new life continues to bloom within.