GDST Travel Scholarship report: exploring Ethiopia

In this week’s report from a GDST Travel Scholarship recipient, we hear from Salem Yosief, a student at Howell’s School Llandaff, about her visit to Ethiopia.

Earlier this year [2016], I was awarded a prestigious GDST Travel Scholarship which enabled me to go on a 3 week trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I arrived on July 22nd 2016 with many different aims and goals in mind for the trip. Throughout my time in Ethiopia, I learnt a great deal about life in less economically developed countries and how this can affect the everyday lives of the citizens including education and healthcare.

I had the opportunity to visit various locations during my visit to broaden my knowledge of the culture and tradition there.

One of my main goals for the trip was to do charity work. Before my trip, I had begun a fundraising project with some friends from Howell’s called ‘40K for Ethiopia’. We pledged to walk 40K, around the equivalent of a marathon, in order to raise money for several different charitable causes in Ethiopia.

We managed to raise £470 which I took with me to distribute. Using current exchange rates, £470 equates to approximately 13,100 BIRR (the Ethiopian currency). We used this money to support 4 different causes.

The first cause that the money was used for was to help the homeless. It was truly shocking and saddening to see the number of people on the streets without a home. With a far weaker economy than our own, the poor and homeless in Ethiopia receive very little help from the government and rely almost entirely on donations to get by. July 19th is a national holiday in Ethiopia where it is tradition to give money to the homeless and poor after a church ceremony.

We attended a local church and gave 10 BIRR to each person, and 20 BIRR to those with children. I was surprised to see that even though 10 BIRR is the equivalent of under 40 pence, our donation of 10BIRR was often the single biggest donation these people received. It was a hugely satisfying feeling to see the delight and gratitude of the people as they could use this money to buy water (6 BIRR), food, or other essentials.

As a prospective medic, I was particularly interested in gaining a greater understanding of the healthcare system of the country, and to compare it to our own. I had the opportunity to visit a pediatric ward in a local government hospital, named Zewit Hospital. Although this hospital was government-run, patients still had to pay for treatment and any necessary medication.

I visited a ward of seven mothers and their children who all had different conditions, but one that was common amongst them all was severe acute malnutrition. To me, this emphasised the lack of education and facilities available to these mothers about the kind of vitamins, minerals and food that their children require in order to mature and develop healthily.

This was a harsh reminder of the extent of poverty faced by these families. This fact was further emphasised when one of the medical students explained to me that these children were unable to obtain an X-ray scan since their parents could not afford to pay for one. I was told that each X-ray would cost between 60-100 BIRR – under £4, yet this was simply inaccessible to these children.

Therefore, we gave 500 BIRR to each of the seven mothers and children in the pediatric ward in order to help them obtain the required scans and also assist with any further medical care. We also met a 17 year old boy who had cancer, whose mother had to pay large amounts of money for his hospital visits, medical care and transport. We were truly moved by his touching and inspiring story and decided to donate some of the money to him and his mother in order to help them continue his course of medication, in the hope that he will be cured.

The last cause that we donated to was educational, rather than medical. For the last three years, we have been supporting five young children in a rural village called Acheber, to attend their local school, who couldn’t otherwise. In order to attend their local school, they must have all the necessary equipment including bags, pencil cases, stationery and clothing, which their parents cannot afford.

Therefore, each year we send them a ready-made kit with the required items so that they can attend their school. We have heard back that they are thriving at school and truly enjoy it. Knowing that we are able to help these children is a rewarding feeling indeed.

My trip to Ethiopia was an extremely exciting, educational and rewarding one and I am very grateful to the GDST for giving me such an incredible opportunity, It has left me inspired to continue to learn more about the country and do what I can to help charitable causes there, whether they are on a small or large scale.