When I arrived in Ethiopia I really didnt know what to expect. I had seen many adverts and TV programmes depicting the country as a barren, desolate wasteland with children starving everywhere. But when we arrived I was very surprised with what I found. Instead it was a country of vibrant colours, industry (including a flourishing wine sector), valleys, trees and stunning scenery.
Of course this isnt to underestimate the struggles the people face here. Poverty is a huge barrier to many with life expectancy at only 63 years and adult literacy at 39% (UNICEF, 2012), with these figures often much lower in rural areas. It is a country that has been hit with severe droughts, war and political instability. Parts of the country are very harsh, dry desert, with populations of nomadic people working day and night to survive with the little they have.
But it is also one of success. In the past decade or so huge advancements have been made, and it is one of the few sub-Saharan African countries that hit many of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015.
We visited two schools in two regions, Tutis Primary school in the Oromia region and Kusra Primary School in the Afar region. Both schools benefiting from UNICEFS work through the government to improve the quality of education.
At the Tutis school UNICEf has built a librarym supplied basic furniture and reference books. Three of the classrooms were renovated and latrines for girls and boys built (crucial when encouraging girls to attend). They have supported teacher training, sharing of best practise and supporting school structures, such as the Girls Education Advisory Committee ‘Girl’s Club’.
At Kusra primary school UNICEF had supported the installation of 40 solar powered lamps, capacity training for teachers and also supplied numerous materials.
Without the Soft Toys for Edcuation Campaign, this would not have been possible.
I had the privilege of travelling with 8 IKEA Taiwan co-workers from IKEA stores, who were passionate, caring and driven individuals, determined to make a difference and support the campaign in-store when they returned. This is what IWitness is all about.
Ethiopia is a country of contrast; One of beauty, awe and ambition alongside some huge challenges. I will never forget my experience there and how proud I am to work for the IKEA Foundation who partners with UNICEF to make sure this work happens. Without the Good Cause Campaigns and this partnership none of this would be possible.