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January 4, 2016

During the week of December 12-19, eight students and two faculty members from the College of Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) travelled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The purpose of this trip was to give our students (and faculty) an opportunity to collaborate with teachers in Ethiopia, provide instruction to Ethiopian children, and to learn about the history and culture of Ethiopia. The first three days of our trip was spent at an International School in Addis Ababa which was an amazing learning opportunity for both the students and faculty. However, the highlight of our trip was to be found on our fourth day at the Fregenet School. As we entered the compound, we were greeted by the pre-KG students and by the administration. Our visit began with a tour of the school and we were impressed by how the staff worked to make the environment as clean as possible and it was apparent that they were making use of all that was available to them and were working at full capacity.

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As the day progressed we found that we were quickly becoming involved in the day to day activities of the school. The UNCW students were encouraged to teach lessons in English and in return both the staff and the children taught our UNCW students many Amharic words. When the UNCW students weren’t in the classrooms, they were busy helping the cooks to prepare the upcoming meal or volunteering to wash the dishes. The act of preparing food to help meet the most basic of needs was a powerful learning experience. What stood out most for our students was the routines that were in place for serving and cleaning up and how lunch is then extended to students who no longer attended the Fregenet School. Through the established routines and the interactions between staff and students, it was apparent that the children at the Fregenet School are cherished and loved. We were also impressed by the respect that the administration shows to the teachers and that a place is provided for them to have lunch and to collaborate.

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Though we were only able to spend two days at the Fregenet School, this short visit made a lasting impact. We were moved by the fact that the school serves students that are most at need and that the school not only makes a difference in the lives of the students but also impacts the community by opening the library to those that live nearby. We are looking forward to visiting the school during our 2016 International Experience to Ethiopia but plan on committing more time to the school in our next visit. We are also committed to working with the foundation in the years to come so that more children in Ethiopia have access to the resources that the Fregenet School offers.

Heidi J. Higgins, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
University of North Carolina Wilmington
601 South College Road
Wilmington, NC 28403-5940