When I was first taken to visit a derelict property and open land in a rural mountainous area of Ethiopia just 18 months ago I became party to an impossible dream. My face was streaked with my own tears and the red dust of the mud structure that day as I heard an ordinary woman tell me of her dream to offer early years education for the most desperate children in that small town. We were just an Ethiopian and British grandmother burning with an ambitious idea and a little bit of heaven’s faith. After prayer I echoed the words of Jesus “Let the children come” and as if to confirm heaven’s will for our thoughts around 20 children suddenly ran into the garden, bringing the quiet, neglected spot suddenly alive.
When I returned to Ethiopia a few months later a third ordinary woman was added to the mix, one with skills and experience and drive to begin the planning and budgets necessary to establish a nursery school where there was none. We discovered on that day that a sizeable donation we received just prior to the trip was the exact figure that would be required to give a grant to kick-start the little pre-school. There was much rejoicing and our hearts were settled. It was time to act.
During my November 2013 visit I was able to see for myself the incredible effort and determination that is required to fulfil any kind of plan in Ethiopia. In hot weather, at high altitudes, in the rural mountainous area, the organisation of permissions, utilities, building materials, planning, tradesmen and labourers, takes several trips around offices, workshops and suppliers. It is then necessary that the work is overseen, so that all instructions are carried out as required. All of this means time. Time that busy women don’t have in great excess. It was inspiring then to see that our new co-workers were so committed to the development of the new school that by the time I got on the plane back to the UK they were already camping out there, physically working themselves and directing labourers in every detail. I called them and heard their excited chatter and the builders hammering as a new toilet block, water supply, electricity and playground equipment were installed. There was now a deadline as we planned the official Opening Ceremony of the Debora Kindergarten for 9th April 2014. This to coincide with the weeks when I would be leading a multi-skilled team from Cumbria to visit Ethiopia.
Registration for the Debora KG took place in March this year and the first twenty 3 to 4 year olds, selected by local people from amongst the poorest families in the area, took their first steps into an opportunity for education that most of their parents and grandparents never had, and never thought possible. During the summer break staff will be specifically trained to ensure children develop in their learning using a diversity of methods and resources.
When I arrived outside Debora KG prior to the Opening Ceremony the transformation was astonishing. Outer fencing had been decorated in attractive autumn colours, blending with the natural area. When the gate was opened to reveal the shady garden and playground with its sturdy, locally made playground equipment the air was filled, not with neglect, silence and despair as it had been previously, but with the sound of 20 small children singing brightly. I was keen to savour the transformation and entered slowly treading as if on holy ground, in awe of the wonderful work that had been performed since my last visit.
The school building itself was transformed, repaired, painted and hung with bright educational posters, inside and out. It was bright and happy, welcoming and clean. Children sat on bright little chairs enthusiastically waiting for our visit. Their welcome song, the wonder of a dream coming true, the knowledge of the truth that “with God nothing is impossible”, the realisation that these ordinary women had worked so very hard to make it all happen, with no real benefit to themselves: these things all reduced me to those tears again, but this time with such thanksgiving.
Debora Kindergarten is a beautiful demonstration of so much that is good about our world. It is also testimony to a Father God who, when we set our hearts and minds to come to the sides of the poorest of the poor in our world, tiny vulnerable children without hope, without equality, without opportunity in the world, He will do everything He can to help us.
I don’t think I will ever be able to forget the quiet awe and radiant thankfulness of those 20 mums who attended the Opening Ceremony of their children’s new Kindergarten in the shady garden of a previously derelict building. On their behalf and from the hearts of our courageous co-workers, “Thank you so much” to all Povertyswap friends who have made the start-up of this transformational pre-school reality.
Plans are already underway to offer 50 more places to the hundreds of waiting children in the school’s location. That will require an expansion of premises, staff training and running costs but we are convinced that PovertySwap friends will agree this is a great investment. Would you help us? Donate online, by standing order or by post. Fundraise through BTmydonate. 100% of donations, with the gift aid, goes directly to our co-workers for development of these childrens’ vital education. Do The PovertySwap with us. Thank you.