March 5, 2018
Dear Friends and Supporters,
Teachers and students from University of North Carolina visited Fregenet School two years ago and they did it again this past December. Below is the detailed information and their activities with our students, remarkably penned by Dr. Higgins.
“The Watson College of Education from the University of North Carolina Wilmington was pleased to make their second trip to visit and collaborate with students, faculty, and staff at the Fregenet School as part of an international studies program. Drs. Michele Parker and Heidi Higgins first brought university education students to the Fregenet School in 2015 and then returned in December 2017 with 6 undergraduate students, 1 graduate student, and a classroom teacher who was part of the first group of students in 2015 and decided to make the trip again.
During the visit to Ethiopia in December we were able to spend 10 days in Addis Ababa. Weekday mornings and afternoons were devoted to engaging with students and teachers in four different school settings. Though each school offered our students incredible learning opportunities we found, as with our first visit, that the interactions with the staff and students at the Fregenet School had the greatest impact on our students’ professional and personal lives. Our students were given the opportunity to plan and teach lessons in English, collaborate with the classroom teachers, help prepare the food, assist with serving and cleaning up breakfast and lunch, sing and dance with the students, and engage in the ground clean up in and outside of the school grounds. One of the highlights of the trip was when the staff and students took the time to teach our UNCW students different Amharic words. Overall, the time that we spent at the Fregenet School was the best part of our trip to Ethiopia.
The following quotes from our students illustrate the impact of this experience:
“I had to leave some of the most loving and caring kids I have even been around. I took bulleted notes on my phone so that I could remember and one of the phrases on today was: “My face hurts from smiling”. This is honestly so true and I have never felt so much love concentrated into one place than I did on that last day that we had at this school. It was filled with laughter, joy, dancing, and tears.”
“At breakfast, it was an emotional day talking to the teachers. I couldn’t help but looking at the students and feeling an overwhelming sense of compassion and fulfillment at being able to be a small part of this school. Everything that is done for these students is done wholeheartedly. These students are greatly loved. You can just feel it. There is so much laughter and joy in this place. I wonder…could we be as joyful with everything that we have in our schools? How can we foster this feeling in our schools and personal lives? We must find a way.”
“Be still my heart! From the moment I stepped into the Fregenet School, I fell in love with everything about it. The students, the teachers, the administration, the vision, the mission, the purpose…everything about this school rings happiness, excellence, and compassion. I remember thinking, ‘This is exactly why I came’.”
“Great things happen here not because of abundant resources but because of complete dedication and perseverance of the teachers. “
We are looking forward to continuing our collaboration with the Fregenet School with future visits to the school through our International Study Abroad program as well as finding ways to work with the Foundation so that more children in Ethiopia can have access to the resources that the Fregenet School offers.
Heidi J. Higgins, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina Wilmington