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Below is an article from Sofia Elias, about her volunteer experience at the Fregenet Kidan Lehitsanat in Addis Ababa this summer.

Sophia with some of the students

My name is Sofia Elias; I am fifteen years old, and currently a sophomore attending Viewpoint School in Calabasas, California. Volunteering in a 3rd and 4th grade class at the Fregenet Kidan Lehitsanat School allowed me to experience first hand, the incredible joy of giving. I heard about the Fregenet Foundation from my parents, and I was very glad to be given the opportunity to help participate in educating underprivileged Ethiopian children.

Every morning the children would greet me with big hugs and warm greetings. Every morning I would hear, “Teacher Sofia mettach!” I couldn’t get over how friendly the students were. Their smiling faces made it clear that they had an appreciation for everyone that was there to help them.

My job was to teach English. However, I got to practice my Amharic too, and it ended up being a great learning experience for me. We would play fun games like Charades and Pictionary to build their English vocabulary. Sometimes they read to me, and sometimes I read to them. One day they made up their own skits in English, and we all laughed so much! I videotaped them and they acted as though they were performing in front of a real Hollywood director. I soon realized their competitive spirits, because after each weekly test they would ask me to rank them.

Student posing for more pictures

The most fun we had was playing outside during recess. They taught me how to play “Kilb-libosh”, where you throw little pebbles up in the air while at the same time you try to collect more pebbles from the ground! We played soccer, jumped rope, and played catch. I also got to spend time with the kindergarteners who were an adorable bunch. They cheerfully worked on art projects, and showed me their love for learning.

On my last day they surprised me with a farewell party. I was touched by the amount of time and effort they had put into making this day a great day for me. They made signs, served coffee in the traditional style with grass on the floor, served popcorn, and also Ethiopian bread. Some of the girls even wore their best outfits. All this to bid me farewell! I was sure to take lots of pictures, because this was a moment I wanted to cherish forever.

Students in the school yard

This summer experience made me realize that it was very rewarding to help out those in need. Teaching these young children was a great delight, and being an Ethiopian American myself, it was definitely a privilege to serve my community. I look forward to visiting the school again soon.