German Student Volunteer Sept 2010
Kenneth Allan, a 21yo student from Stuttgart, Germany wanted to take a gap year before university and he searched the internet for international places to do an internship. He didn’t want to follow the traditional footsteps of his peers and go on the pre-planned. After doing some research on the World Wide Web, Kenneth learned of the story of the JRDC in Shashamane, Ethiopia. He decided that this was where he would like to spend his Gap Year. So he began making inquiries. One of those inquires was to Dr Rene Zazou Williamson, aka Dr Zazou, President and co-founder of Shashamane Sunrise Inc, an organization that was founded in 2005 to support student and schools in developing countries. The organization’s mission is to “help create healthy learning environments where children have access to the educational resources and mentorship they need to achieve their academic goals. We also promote volunteer work in the developing world.” In fact, the JRDC School was the inspiration of Shashamane founders Ras Markos Rose and Dr Zazou as they learned how small contributions could make a significant impact in the lives of the students in the school. The organization now works in six countries (Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago in the Caribbean and Ethiopia, Kenya & Uganda in Africa) and has sponsored some twelve schools serving a total of 4100 students. Shashamane is supported by small donations from individuals and corporations and gifts in kinds e.g. school and classroom supplies and ICT equipment.
In this letter to Dr Zazou, Kenneth wrote: “I came across the Shashamane settlement by learning about Rastafari culture. It interests me enormously and I plan going there, to see how life is in Shashamane. I am a motivated, self-reliant and flexible person. I get along well with people, no matter what ethnic background, sex or age.”
Shashamane at the time did not have in place a system that allowed for volunteers to spend an extended period of time working at our sponsored schools. Most of our work was centered on the workshops and projects we ran during our “Service Visits”. So we started designing a program for an International Internship with Shashamane to meet to the need of volunteers like Kenneth, usually young people at the start of their careers or mature folks who are looking for a break to rejuvenate themselves or are at the end of their careers and want to give back. We contacted our School liaison Ms Lorna Curtis, Director of the JRDC and we arranged an opportunity for Kenneth to spend 10 months in Shashamane before going on to university to pursue his degree in Computer Visualistics. Below is Kenneth’s report on his “Year in Shashamane” (excerpted):
“I have really enjoyed my year in Shashamane volunteering at the JRDC. Sadly it passed too quickly.
Everything was great, except for the fact I didn’t have a proper visa. This was also a reason why I switched my activities once in a while. With a proper visa, one could teach straight through.
My work in the school was nice, at the beginning I talked to the director, who made a schedule for me and didn’t overload me with work. When I was teaching spoken English, a teacher helped me when I had trouble. I was properly introduced to the subjects I was teaching, and how they were taught. The kids were fun to teach and were willing to cooperate for proper class activity (most of them :)).
After 2 months I started working in the office. Makeda, Sister Lorna and me got along well, as well as with the other JRDC board members. In February, Sister Sauti and I (later on Mario Gad joined) started reshaping the school library, which had been closed for two years up till then. That meant reorganizing, cataloguing and running the library to a certain extent. Here there still are problems, due to the fact that (the) library rules are not yet well known to everyone, including the teachers. Also, we had to start setting up an analogue system, which is costly due to paper copying fees, and also time consuming. A PC is already on the list of further requirements, though. Speaking of which, Ras Tewelde (a Reggae artist from Italy) mentioned to me he might be able to organize some new, sponsored Toshiba hardware for the school. I don’t know how far that project has currently gotten, though.
My accommodation was the best I could imagine. With a friendly family, good food, a nice neighborhood, etc. It has the biggest re-visit value I have ever experienced! 🙂 Thank you all! Most of the native Ethiopians I met are very hospitable and respectful to foreigners, too. Their dishes are also delicious and the culture, music and languages are worth a visit to see, hear and feel.
In between I had to leave the country twice (to Djibouti) and re-enter for a fresh visa. Also I had to visit the immigration office a lot, to extend these visas/already extended ones. But, that also was an experience I’m not mourning about. It’s worth mentioning to future volunteers though 🙂
I’d love to something like that again after my studies, but one has to wait and see what the situation will be like for getting a visa, I heard the embassies are shortening them.
I learned some Amharic on the way, but I never took a class.
I would like to say thank you to Sister Lorna, Dr Rene Zazou Williamson and Ras Markos Rose and, of course, to Shashamane Sunrise and JRDC in general for having enabled this wonderful experience for me.