Below is an article from Juliadele Male, about her volunteer experience at the Fregenet Kidan Lehitsanat in Addis Ababa this summer. Juliadele currently attends high school in the US and traveled to Ethiopia this summer to visit and volunteer.
This past summer, summer of 2011, I had the privilege of volunteering at the Fregenet School. I spent one week traveling up north to the beautiful towns of Lalilbela and Bahar Dar and two weeks volunteering, splitting my time between a day care and the FKL.
Visiting with the children at the school was a tremendous experience for me. I, along with a friend, taught them English vocabulary, English songs, and games in English. We played football (soccer), basketball, volleyball, and pass, experimented with crayons, markers, finger paint, and watercolors, danced, climbed on the jungle gym, went up and down the slide numerous times, pretended to wear really fancy clothing and put on a fashion show, read English books, and mostly exchanged a lot of affection.
It was truly amazing how quickly and deeply I was able to connect with these children with virtually no language. The students were so welcoming, loving, accepting, adventurous, and hungry to learn. I would walk in every morning and the kids would drop everything and run over to the gate and totally swarm me, always fighting over who was going to hold my hand. We would shake every kid’s hand and sometimes even get a kiss. The girls in particular loved playing with my long hair. No matter what we had planned, the students were ready to participate with smiles of their faces. We were never faced with any behavioral issues and all the kids collaborated to try to understand our English.
Part of what made volunteering at the Fregenet Foundation such a pleasure was the wonderful facility they have. The property is very spacious with plenty of room for the kids to run around and play. There is a concrete courtyard upon entering with a basketball hoop and benches. In addition, there is another field connecting the library to the grade three and four classrooms where the kids generally play football. There is a spectacular library filled with all the popular English books, English dictionaries, many different types of textbooks, newspapers, Amharic books, and computers. It seemed as though the kids had full access to the library and it looked very well maintained. All the classrooms are equipped with a desk for the teacher, desks for the students, a chalkboard, chalk, and colorful posters covering the walls with fruits, colors, the days of the week, animals, ìABCs,î and much more. There is a great atmosphere to the Fregenet Foundation and it felt like a very safe environment for the kids to play and learn in.
I was also very pleased with the staff at the school. All the teachers were extremely sweet and caring towards the kids and myself. At Fregenet, the teachers are more than just teachers; they are mentors and someone for the kids to seek love and comfort from. They would constantly share hugs and kisses, dance with one another, and although I couldn’t understand what they were saying, I would often find the teacher laughing with the students. Everyone looked like they were happy and having a good time. Everyday I was there, the staff would give me some of the lunch prepared for the kids, teach me how to dance and write my name in Amharic, engage me in an interesting conversation, and make me feel at home in a foreign place. The staff was very helpful and truly incredible.
The goals of the Fregenet Foundation are exactly what Ethiopia needs. There is no reason any kid should ever go without an education and the foundation goes beyond providing a basic education. The attendees of the school receive two meals a day, uniforms, a great education, and a loving and safe environment. I am so thankful for the time I got to spend with the students and they provided me with so much insight into life.