Ambachew, his wife Workie, and I

Ambachew, his wife Workie, and I – Ambachew has a lot of penguin qualities also. His support was invaluable in the workplace and at his house during afternoon ‘chats’.

It looks like it’s good-bye VSO Ethiopia and hello to secondary history teaching in Khartoum, Sudan.  It is never easy leaving a place.  Where would I be without my driver Desalegn?  We were encouraged to come to our placements and find metaphorical penguins.  In Cuso pre-departure training, two cultures were presented as icebergs because icebergs are largely hidden from view.  A penguin would be able to come to the surface and act as a guide through Ethiopian culture. I’m not sure if this means that I have to become a penguin too.  Everyone calls Desalegn my driver here, but there is no vehicle involved.  Everyone recognises the guidance he has given me, and that generosity has earned him the nickname.  What Cuso termed as ‘penguins’ the people here term as ‘drivers’.  Either way, they are invaluable.

There are other drivers that do not carry the moniker, though.  Desalegn, Ousman and Eshetu have made a social life possible.  They introduced me to the DSTV house.  It shows Premier League Football and serves cold beer.  It’s a rare combination in these parts.  They also introduced me to everyone in the town, so that now when I walk the streets it feels like I was born and raised in these parts.  It’s a complete flip from 6 months ago, and it’s thanks to the efforts of these people to go around town, tell people who I was, and get them to accept me.   Solomon, Abdul Moujid, and Ambachew have made work life run smoothly.  Solomon and Ambachew are department heads and help me navigate the College.  Abdul Moujid is my counterpart in coordinating the ELIC, and has been enormously helpful in getting the English conversation classes to take root at the College.

This experience was made possible because of the kindness of those around me here.  Asaita is an isolated town, but it has not felt so isolated in recent months.

to be continued…

IMG_1484Here are some biographies written by students at the College that are working to improve their English.


First of all I would like to introduce myself.  My name is Abubeker Yimam Ali.  I am second year language student. I was born in Aseb on December 24th, 1986.  I was there for 3 years, then I went to Mille and I learned from Grade 1 up to 10.  When I was in elementary school I was lazy student, but when I got to high school I started participating in the class very nicely and I got good results and also I was late only one day over 2 years.  Now I live in Ayssayta because I am learning how to teach English.  I’m a hard-working student now.

First of all I would like to introduce myself.  My name is Abel Tegegne.  I am a second year biology student in Asaita College of Teacher Education.  I was born in Wichale on September 3rd, 1987.  I studied in elementary school from Grade 1 to 8 in Wichale Primary School and then in Wichale Secondary School.  Next, I came to Asaita CTE to study natural science.  My favourite food is fish.  This is the history of my short life.


Agenew studies English hard and has great pronunciation

Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed

Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed

First of all I would like to introduce myself.  My name is Agenew Tantu Leza.  I am a second year biology student.  I was born in Melkasde on June 19th, 1986.  I came to Asaita two years ago.  I studied from Grade 1-10 in Melkasde.  At that time I was a mediocre student, but now I am a great student.  There are three people in my family.  I have one sister.  My father died in 1999.  My mother is alive at this time.

First of all I would like to introduce myself.  My name is Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed.  I am a second year biology student at Asaita CTE.  I was born in 1980 on December 20th.  I got my education in central Amhara in Kombolcha.  I graduated from that city, then I came to Asaita to study at the teacher’s college here.  After one year I will graduate and become a teacher, but first I would like to attend university in order to continue studying education.  In the future, I hope to become a fair, loyal and polite person and teacher.  I want to be a responsible citizen, and help Ethiopia avoid poverty.

Everyone smiles more when they aren't alone in the picture.

Everyone smiles more when they aren’t alone in the picture.

Thank you my friend.  I would like to introduce myself.  My name is Edris Abdalla Salih.  I was born in 1986 (Ethiopian calendar).  I have two brothers and four sisters.  I started my education in 1994 in Konoba PS where I studied from Grade 1 – 8.  After completing the national exam at the end of grade 8 I began studying grades 9 and 10 in Konoba.  After I completed grade 10 I came to Asaita CTE.  I am a second year student in the Natural Science department.



First of all I would like to introduce myself.  My name is Ali Mohammed.  I come from the town of Kuteba and I live in Asaita.  I have two brothers and a sister.  I like playing football and drinking Coca-Cola.  I am Ethiopian.  I learnt from Grade 1-8 in Sinble Primary School in Asaita.  Then I went to Mohammed Hamfre High School for Grades 9 & 10.  At this time I am a second year language student at the College.  In the future I will be a teacher and I will have a laptop.

Please let me introduce myself.  My name is Endris Ali Outba.  I was born in July 1983 (e.c.) in Dalole.  I started my education in 1994 (e.c.) at Asafara PS.  I studied Grade 9 in Dalole and Grade 10 in Koneba High School in Afar.  Then, I came to Asaita CTE to study to be a teacher in the geography department.



First of all I would like to introduce myself.  My name is Abdu Ahmed Ali.  I am a first year student in the history department.  I was born in Asaita in 1986 (e.c.).  I am close to my father and my mother.  My father’s name is Ahmed Ali and my mother’s name is Issa Hassan.  I used to go to Eokechora PS and then I went to Mohammed Hanfrere HS after achieving good results in primary school.  I took the national exam in grade 10, but I didn’t get a good result.

IMG_1531First of all I would like to introduce myself.  My name is Ranma Oumar Ahmed.  I am a second year language student at the Asaita CTE.  I was born in Desse.  When I was in grade 3 I was a lazy student, but nowadays I am focused on my education.   I studied in primary school until grade 8 and high school until grade 10.  But I didn’t do very well at math, and I did poorly on that section of the national exam.  That is how I ended up studying education at this college.

Please let me introduce myself.  My name in Gebre Egzabihir Assefa.  I was born on December 19th, 1986.  I was born in Aba Ala, where I studied primary and secondary school.  Now I live in Asaita because I am a student at Asaita  CTE in the Biology Department.

First of all, I would like to introduce myself.  My name is Solomon Adefa.  I was born on June 16th, 1986 in Dessie, Ethiopia.  I went to primary and secondary school in Dessie.  Now I live in Asaita and study at the Teacher’s College.  I have one brother and one sister.

Summer 2012 has been a busy one in Addis.  My time has been split doing work for VSO Ethiopia and for the Cafod/Sciaf/Trocaire Joint Ethiopia Office.  Here is a summary of what I have been up to over the last few months:


Task 1 – SCIAF (Scottish arm of Caritasapplication for independent registration with the Government of Ethiopia’s Charities and Services Association submitted

International non-governmental organisations wishing to operate in Ethiopia must register and be licensed by the Government of Ethiopia’s Charities and Services Association.  Cafod, Sciaf, and Trocaire operate a joint office in Ethiopia and in the past have been able to register with the CSA jointly as well.  This year the CSA demanded that each register separately and distinguish which projects each organisation is responsible for funding.  In order to complete the narrative of SCIAF’s application to the CSA, I interviewed each of the Senior Programme managers in the CST joint office to learn about which projects received funding from SCIAF.  The four project areas supported by the CST joint office are:  Humanitarian, Sustainable Livelihoods, HIV/AIDS, and Civil Society. Although SCIAF is the smallest partner in the joint Ethiopia office, they support elements of projects in each of the programme areas.  SCIAF’s application for registration with the CSA was submitted at the end of August 2012. 


Task 2 – €500 000 matching funds application for Oromia Self Reliance Association to expand water infrastructure in the Borana region of southern Ethiopia sent to CAFOD

The lack of potable water supply in Oromia National Regional State, South West Shewa Zone, Wolisso and Goro districts is the source of ongoing problems in the area. Water supply and sanitation coverage in the districts is low and the majority of the people rely on surface water such as small streams and unprotected traditional hand dug wells, which are not potable, to get water for human and livestock consumption.  Moreover, sanitation and hygiene education coverage in the district is low.

Women and children who assume the responsibility of fetching water are the most affected portion of the community enduring hardship from the lack of this facilities. They have to travel long distance to fetch unpotable water for household consumption.  As a result, the communities are exposed to water borne diseases, such as diarrhoea, endangering their health status.  Schools and students will also benefit from this project as lack of water supply and sanitation facilities are also one of the critical problems of schools in rural areas in the target districts.

The Oromia Self Reliance Association aims to expand water infrastructure in the area by:

  • Developing of 18 shallow water wells. It is planned to develop 12 community managed water wells and 6 schools based water wells for 6 target schools during the three year project period.
  • Constructing of wellheads and distribution structures for community and schools, respectively
  • Constructing 12 community managed shower blocks and 12 washing basins
  • Training community members on hygiene and sanitation, Community led total sanitation (CLTS), participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation(PHAST) approaches
  • Constructing 12 blocks of child and gender friendly ventilated improved latrine blocks for students and teachers
  • Establishing and training WATSAN committees, local water technicians, health clubs
  • Conducting baseline assessment and feasibility studies for the water sources
  • Conducting environmental and gender analysis of the project
  • Training of  health/environmental clubs members in the schools to support hygiene and sanitation activities including outreach activities
  • Organising and support 360 poor women in to self help groups and provide them with entrepreneurial skill training so that they will be engaged in income generating activities


Task 3 – Google web developer tools to raise the quality of hits for Google searches of CAFOD/SCIAF/Trocaire employed

Conducting a search using google for “CAFOD SCIAF Trocaire Ethiopia”, “CST Joint Office”, or any combination of these terms returned results limited to expired job postings on Ethiopian employment websites and little information about activities undertaken by the organisation.  Using my blog and google web developer tools. I have changed the search results for these terms so that the results now contain details of projects at the CAFOD/SCIAF/Trocaire Joint Ethiopia Office.


Task 4 –   Destinations for those Google searches created

In addition to creating the pathways for google searches, I also created the content contained at the destination by writing visibility brochures, and project summaries of projects at the CST Joint Ethiopia Office and posting them on my blog.  The visibility brochures are available for viewing at https://morenewsfromafar.wordpress.com


Task 5 – Planned, tailored and delivered English classes to the staff at CAFOD/SCIAF/Trocaire Joint Ethiopia Office

English classes were designed for and delivered to staff at the CST Joint Ethiopia Office.  Advanced and upper intermediate conversation classes were offered, along with specialised classes to improve listening and writing skills, and idiomatic English.  We discussed everyday topics, such as the difference between living in the city and the country:

We sang some songs:

We watched some episodes of ‘Friends’

And we practised writing:

Task 6 – Results-based Management training

Results-based management training has equipped me with the tools necessary to organise and present my work in a manner consistent with international development organisations.  The most useful tool in my new management toolkit is the logic model:

Task 7 – Interviewed candidates for the International Citizenship Service (ICS) programme

ICS is a youth volunteer programme funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).  It pairs UK youth volunteers with Ethiopian youth volunteers and places them in local work environments in Ethiopia.  Over the summer I had the opportunity to interview candidates to serve as Ethiopian national volunteers in this program.  It was great to learn about the ICS programme, as well as to meet some highly motivated and talented young Ethiopians. 

Task 8 – Planned and facilitated September In-country Training for incoming VSO volunteers

Thirty-five new volunteers and accompanying partners arrived in mid-September for a twelve day training at the Ethiopian Red Cross Training Institute in a suburb just outside of Addis Ababa.  The training was facilitated by myself and two other serving VSO volunteers.  Delivering to an audience comprised of teachers, doctors, midwives, engineers and architects was somewhat daunting, but made easier by everyone’s positivity and flexibility.  The days were long, but the job satisfaction level was very high. 


The summer is not quite over, and there is still a workshop to conduct next week for Ethiopian partner organisations participating in the inaugural ICS programme in Hawassa in January.  But my time in the city is winding down and soon I’ll be back in the desert. 



Jah Lude is sweeping the nation with his modern brand of reggae coming out of Shashemene.  CDs are available on all the street corners, and Jah Lude can be heard in cafes around the city.



Here’s a living map of Addis Ababa.  Please note that you can click ‘view larger map’ below the map.  Let me know if you would like anything added or would like to be added as a contributor to the map:

Here are some resources that will help students of Amharic: