“In a family of more than 10 children, can the kids really have the chance to go to school?”
“The kids are either taking donkeys with yellow barrels to the market to bring water home, or helping pasturing cattle and sheep. If making money is much in need for the family, are they still able to go to school?”
“When it’s dark, there is no light in those households in the mountains. Kids have to read by the light of firewood. The flickering flame is sometimes bright and sometimes dim and sometimes not at all. Does studying have to be so tiresome?”
Whether we were traveling south from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for more than 350km to the Oromia area, or north to Afar area to visit more children and nomad families, the doubts and questions above have come to my mind on the way.
When we grow from a child into a so-called adult, we always learn that life is full of questions without answers.
Fortunately through our IWitness trip, I witnessed the continuous efforts IKEA Foundation and UNICEF have been making for local children’s education. I also saw many possible answers to my questions concerning children’s education.
With years of continuous support from IKEA Foundation, work with UNICEF Ethiopia for local children’s education can grow. Just like the Swedish word kraftsamla (like “concentration” in English—if you focus on doing one thing well, it can be very powerful. I think it’s similar to our Chinese proverb “constant dripping wears away the stone.”) This partnership has allowed more children to learn happily at school; it has allowed more children to leave poverty because of education; it has allowed more teachers to improve themselves and have more training opportunities; it has allowed more schools to have sufficient educational resources; it has allowed more families to see hope for future in their children.
The power of education is not instant.
Some things require patience and concentration. For example, making a cup of Ethiopian coffee.
“Spread the light green raw beans in the metal tray and stir them from time to time while roasting them slowly with firewood. Take your time to roast them into the colour you want for your coffee,” says Leyeh, a new friend I met during this trip to Ethiopia. He’s one of the experienced drivers (Oh he’s not a driver. He’s more like what he calls himself—a ground pilot) of our IWitness journey. He’s been working for UNICEF for more than 13 years because of his passion.
I understand that coffee making can be a very scientific knowledge for some people, but it’s a different kind of knowledge in Ethiopia, I guess. After roasting the beans into the colour you want, grind them with wood pestle and stone mortar and pour them into a jebena. Heat the jebena with coal fire until enough white steam spouts from the top; remove the jebena made of pottery from the fire and let the heat slowly go down and settle with powder in the coffee. After a certain period of time, pour the coffee out—a shiny brown liquid fills up the whole coffee cup just like the aroma of coffee fills up the whole space right away. Take a sip and taste the flavour of the land.
“In Ethiopia, you have to take your time making your coffee like this” says Leyeh. “Its best if you do that from the very beginning of coffee making—from the roasting of the raw beans.”
Just like making a good cup of Ethiopian coffee, when it comes to children’s education, we are also working hard from the very beginning.
Some things require patience and concentration, and more love.
After passing internal tests, interviews and activities, we were selected as IKEA Taiwan ambassadors to embark on this trip to Ethiopia. We not only learned about the actual needs and growth of local children from the information shared by our Unicef coworkers, but also interacted happily with local children through the many activities we came up with by brainstorming. We taught them folding paper airplanes, making crowns or swords with long colorful balloons, striking bowling bottles we made with plastic bottles, and happily danced with children in a big circle. I think all we wanted to do is to deliver some kind of positive learning energy. Their innocent big smiles with white teeth are very often the biggest joy we received.
Apart from patience and concentration, some things require love—something we don’t really have much time to attract more, because children’s education cannot wait.
Through our IWitness trip in Ethiopia, we hope to engage more passionate ambassadors in the world to join this meaningful campaign. Spread our love and help more children with their education; it’s actually easier than we think. Let’s do it together!