I was a volunteer at Fresh and Green and it ended up being a learning experience which transformed me beyond my imagination. The whole experience made me view the world from a whole new perspective.
As a volunteer, you pass on various skills to the rest of the community without expecting anything in return but at Fresh and Green I got so much contentment and love from the entire community! I learnt that volunteering is more of interaction and connecting to the community. I taught spoken English and even learnt what it takes to be a teacher!
I learnt so much about myself and got a much deeper understanding of what life is about. I also acquired virtues I did not posses before like patience and thoughtfulness. Every Monday we had devotion in the “coffee room” and various religions were represented. It made me feel whole in that in as much as I did not understand the prayers and the language, I understood that God is universal. We also connected spiritually with other workers in the school.
I acquired a child-like innocence when I was singing with the children in the KG .Those kids have a burning urge to learn!! They were so eager to learn new things and were extremely receptive. I thought they would easily forget the songs I taught them but the next time I went they sang the song over and over again. Just to emphasize on how the kids desire to stay in school. In case one may wonder how eager they are to learn, they learnt to sing a song in Swahili (a language they barely know or hear about!).
Another outstanding element of Fresh and Green is the sustainability. Muday has not only taken the children out of the streets but has also set out to ensure that their mothers are getting a means to earn a living. She also guarantees the children 3 meals in a day.
The mothers have formed a cooperative in which they make crafts and Habesha scarves for sale. They also assist in domestic tasks in the school. How sustainable can a system be? This goes ahead to abolish the dependence syndrome that I have observed in most charitable organizations which unfortunately are not sustainable. The plans that Fresh and Green have for the future are big! With the very spirit of sustainability transforming it to a boarding school in the outskirts of Addis Ababa in the near future will enable the children remain in school. This project’s sustainability really touched my heart.
My faith in humanity was equally restored. I left home not trusting ‘strangers’ because of my own personal encounters of theft and corruption I observed in my own social system. When I met Muday and learnt how hard she worked just to see to it that the children did not sleep hungry and in the streets, I felt a gap in my heart was re-filled. This attitude of giving was spread out to my fellow volunteers and most of the Ethiopian people.
I later met Trish Hack, who valued those children as though they were her very own. In a culture that is saturated with individualism and consumerism, I am so glad that there are hearts willing to give themselves away for the sake of others. I am still grateful that humanity’s conscience is not completely lost.
Through my volunteer experience, I also made lifelong friends! My fellow volunteers with AIESEC firstly, the Addis Ababa University fraternity and I cannot forget to mention Glory Rain. She would give everything to see to it that Fresh and Green lives on. We traveled to other parts of Ethiopia together and made memories to last a lifetime.
Living by example is what Muday lived by. She lived a life of simplicity and her own children are enrolled at Fresh and Green. This goes to show she firmly believes in the system and in making a difference. The simple lives led by Fresh and Green community members constantly reminded me that a happy heart and good health are the fundamentals of life.
Though my volunteer experience is over, I continually fall in love with the community so closely knit. They say home is where the heart is, and for me, it is Fresh and Green, Addis Ababa. My heart is open and a new life continues to bloom within.
I would like to thank Fresh and Green Academy for an amazing life experience in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. My husband, a school teacher and myself a Chiropractor, set out the summer of 2011 to climb Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. While in Africa, I wanted to utilize my skills and passion for chiropractic and volunteer for those who do not have the luxury choosing chiropractic. After meeting Dr Salem Aklilu, the first chiropractor in Ethiopia, at a Parker seminar we were put in contact with Dr Greg Rubinstein of New York who has brought chiropractic to a primary school in Addis Ababa.
Our experience there was terrific. Muday, a wonderful Ethiopian woman who started Fresh and Green, came and picked us up at the airport and treated us like royalty. We stayed at a hotel and were picked up daily to head to the school to adjust the children. My first day at the school, I adjusted the kids and some of the moms. Spencer, my husband, spent some time in the classrooms teaching the kids the basic principles of chiropractic and health.
I was amazed by what Muday has done. She has 111 children at the school all of which come from families that can not afford for them to go to school. They are fed a healthy well balanced diet of 3 meals a day, they
get clothes, showers, teeth brushed and naps for the young ones. They learn English and all the core subjects, they even get music and art. All of this is done through donations, she unfortunately has to turn families away daily as she can not help anymore at this time. Muday’s vision is big, she has many plans for fresh and green and the children in that community.
A lot of the moms are involved with the school as well. Many coming from the streets were they have had to beg or prostitute themselves in order to feed their children. Muday has the moms cook the meals, do laundry, make crafts and learn how to support their families.
The children were so excited for their adjustments, lining up and looking through the window with anticipation. I loved that Dr Gregg had been at the school 3 times in the past few years and I was continuing on his work. The more the people in the community see the Chiropractor as someone that can help their body heal themselves, the healthier they will become. The children are so fortunate to be receiving
great nutrition, clothing, chiropractic and education. These children could be the ones who help Ethiopia become a better country to live in. As BJ Palmer once said, “You never know how something you may say think or do may affect the lives of millions tomorrow”.
My experience at Fresh and Green Academy will always be remembered. Many of my patients donated spare change in their pockets before I left and we ended up collecting enough to help Muday buy uniforms for the children in September. We are also sponsoring a child to continue her schooling. I would recommend for anyone to volunteer at Fresh and Green Academy, you won’t regret it.
Dr. Christie MacDonald
- Adjusting the children helps their bodies better fight disease.
In 2005, Ethiopia had 4,414,000 orphans, the second-highest number in Africa. You could easily double if not triple that number to determine the number of Ethiopian children being raised without a father or a significant male member of their household.Among our 90 students, the number with an adult male living permanently in the household could be counted on one hand. For both the boys and the girls, it is a tragedy born of the AIDS epidemic and a patriarchal society. I say this without judgment, only stating the facts that I have witnessed and researched.
This picture was taken by Francesco, who along with Todd, comprised the two male volunteers on the April trip to the Academy. Both of them are young single men in their 20s, but they seem to me to be “old souls,” natural-born fathers, the kind who will be “hands-on” dads. Watching them interact with the kids was a delight for me, but for the children themselves, their presence must have been something altogether different.
Only time will tell how this generation of Ethiopian children will fare without fathers or father-figures. My hope is that, for the kids at the Academy at least, they will benefit from the example set by Anteneh, Muday’s husband, and their friend Hilu. Both are teachers at the local high school, and both of them spend a lot of time with the kids. Certainly the men who volunteer with Friends of Fresh and Green (including Trish’s husband, Gregg) provide wonderful examples of how a man can be both strong and nurturing at the same time.
Muday speaks highly of a local man, a pilot for Ethiopian Airlines, who regularly stops by and takes some of the boys home to play with his own children. There are trekkers who stop by the Academy often (it is a Geo-Cache site http://www.geocaching.com). All in all, Fresh and Green Academy students have more exposure to positive, male role models than many of their peers.
On this Father’s Day eve, I want to recognize all the men who are working and have worked so hard to make a difference in the lives of the children. There are many of you, including my own dad (and Trish’s dad) who taught us the value of “giving back.” And I want to acknowledge all the male sponsors, who are providing support “behind the scenes” as it were. Although the children may not know you by name, you are making a difference in their lives nonetheless.
Kathleen Murphy Vilicich, Vice President