Dear family, friends and other interested readers,
This blog post is more a personal update. As you know, we have been living and working for the past year in Wolaita Soddo in southern Ethiopia at a children’s home (orphanage). This past year has been a great experience for us. We have learned a lot and, in return, we think we were able to help in some ways as well. Up until about a week ago, we had every intention of continue to live and work here for at least another year.
However, about two weeks ago, a teaching position opened up suddenly and unexpectedly at the International Community School in Addis Ababa (ICS). Within a matter of just 5 days we learned of the position, traveled up to Addis to interview and Nathan was offered the job. We did not immediately accept the position. The timing was very sudden and difficult for us. We really were not ready to leave our life and work in Soddo. The thought of leaving in general, but especially so soon, was very sad for us. But after some very careful consideration, we decided to accept the position.
Our role here at the Children’s Home has been a volunteer position. Our housing has been provided and we’ve received a small monthly living stipend. We’ve known all along that we could not financially sustain this position for long into the future. We anticipated that we could manage for up to two years, then we’d either have to find something in Ethiopia with a paycheck, or we’d be returning back to the U.S. To find a paying job in Ethiopia is not an easy task. We’ve watched for years for job positions in Ethiopia; they are very hard to find and often very temporary. We’ve even watched for several years for job openings at ICS; in social studies, there haven’t been any for several years. So we’ve decided that if we want to continue living and working in Ethiopia, it would be foolish to turn down this recent job opportunity.
Beyond allowing us to sustain ourselves in Ethiopia, the ICS job also will allow us to live in Addis. We have enjoyed our life in Soddo, but our years in Chicago made us into big-city people. We have always liked Addis and look forward to living there. This move will also provide a good school for Titay as she goes into first grade. She will be able to attend ICS tuition-free. While she has enjoyed going to KG here in Soddo in Amharic, she is excited about going to an “American-style” school for first grade. She will also benefit from a more stimulating school environment.
This decision feels very bittersweet. We are excited about the opportunity, but it comes with the very hard decision to leave our work with the Children’s Home, which we have very much enjoyed. We do not really feel ready to leave the home. We still have some only partially finished goals for our work here. We have grown to love the staff and kids of the home, and we’ve grown to greatly enjoy the beauty of the Wolaita region. We have had a sad week here as we’ve shared the news of our move to our friends, colleagues and the kids.
But Soddo is really not that far away from Addis (327 km, to be exact). We’ve gotten use to overnight bus rides up to Addis for a weekend; now we’ll just do that trip in reverse. We want to and plan to remain very connected to the Children’s Home. Before accepting the job in Addis, we sat down with the school academic calendar and planed out all the dates we could spend in Soddo. At least through the end of 2012, we plan to come down often for long weekends, fall break, etc. In fact, after speaking with the board in the U.S. and the management here in Ethiopia, we’ve agreed to remain in the roles of home managers, though our roles will obviously change. We will clearly be less involved in the daily life of the home, but we will continue to partner with the Ethiopian management to support them in their roles, we will continue to oversee a few projects that remain in progress (the garden project, setting up a database, the well project), we’ll continue in the liaison role between the U.S. board and the Ethiopian staff, and we’ll still be involved in the budgetary process. In some ways, we see this job in Addis as a way to remain involved at the Children’s Home for even longer, because it provides us with a means to remain in Ethiopia for longer (for now the job at ICS is just a one-year contract, but we anticipate that it will be extended in the future).
Probably many of you are wondering what this all means for our well project. Since January, we have spent considerable time developing the plan to drill a deep borehole well on the Children’s Home compound to ensure a good quality and consistent water source for the home. At this point, the U.S. board has raised about 2/3rd of the needed funds. We have formed a partnership for the drilling/casing stage with Water is Life, a water/drilling NGO that operates in southern Ethiopia with the plan to start drilling in October (see www.waterislifeinternational.com). We have already paid for the 3-phase power installation and expect to have that installation underway in the coming couple of weeks. And we’ve already completed or developed all the other components of the project: hydro-geological survey, pump research, quotes from pump and water system installers, etc. This project is going to move forward. It is a very important one for the Children’s Home. We will remain managers of this project, both from Addis (many of the materials have to come from Addis anyway) and through trips down to Soddo (we’re working to schedule the drilling during Nathan’s fall break, for example). If all the funds come in and all goes roughly accordingly to schedule, we expect to have the well fully up and running by the end of 2012. We will certainly continue to keep you updated on this project through facebook and the blog.
Many of you have supported us financially over the past year, either with funds for the Children’s Home project in general, or with funds for some of our personal living and work expenses. We want to again express our great appreciation for all of the support. Being the recipient of others’ great generosity has been one of the strange and unexpected, but also very beautiful aspects of this experience this past year. Many friends, relatives and total strangers have given very generously, despite the very real needs of their own. We know that for many of you, you have given partly because of your connection to us. We hope that going forward, though we’ll actually have a paycheck of our own and won’t be living and working full-time at the Children’s Home, you will continue to keep this project in mind and consider continuing to support it. We have chosen to remain involved with this project partly because we believe it’s a good project, involved in work of real value, led by good and honest people. If you want more information about how you can continue to support the Children’s Home, we’d be glad to provide that for you.
So what’s next? We will remain living and working full-time here at the Children’s Home until the end of July. During that time, we’ll be making some quick trips up to Addis to try to secure some housing. Nathan will start his new job on July 31st. Richelle and Titay will still be traveling back to the U.S. for part of Aug. through mid-Sept. Nathan, unfortunately, will now not be able to join them. Richelle and Titay, however, are looking forward to seeing and visiting with some of you. Titay will begin first grade at ICS in Sept. Richelle will probably continue doing some social work consultancy with some Addis agencies. And, of course, we’ll continue our involvement with the Children’s Home and continue to provide updates at www.facebook.com/hainesgotoethiopia and we’ll continue to blog.
As always, we welcome your comments, feedback and questions. We also welcome visits. We’ve greatly enjoyed visits from a number of friends and family this past year; don’t stop visiting. We enjoy seeing you and Ethiopia is a great country to spend some time in.