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posted 12 May 2012, 06:17 by David Male   [ updated 12 May 2012, 06:53 ]

Letter from Kath in Ethiopia

As many of you know from previous articles, we sent four boxes (three of which were very kindly donated by Helix Ltd) of items to Kath way back in March. Unfortunately, it has been very difficult for the college to extricate these from the airport. It has taken some 8 visits by Kath and eventually £416 before the boxes were released. This money may sound like a lot, which it is in Ethiopia, but at one point they wanted £986. Kath has sent the following letter which she wanted me to pass onto you with her thanks.

College of Teacher Education
P.O. Box 20
Debre Birhan

Dear Friends of Abberley and surrounding areas,

First of all an enormous apology for you all having to wait so long to receive this letter. I am sure that many of you will have heard from Sallie that there were tremendous difficulties in clearing the cargo from Addis airport, so that it was almost 7 months between the boxes arriving in Ethiopia and my receiving them in Debre Birhan. It was a very frustrating time for all concerned. However, I shall not dwell upon the difficulties, but tell you of the great joy that the contents have given to the college, the Dean, my co-workers and myself.

Last year’s boxes enabled me to do a really worthwhile job in helping the qualified teachers here to undertake a one year diploma course in Special Needs. They have all be able to make some wonderful apparatus to take back to their areas, to help teachers in local schools who have Special Needs children in their classes. It has been very gratifying that in both the mid and end of year exams that they have all done well. They have all graduated with their diplomas and we now have a new intake of over 70 students, so I am ready to begin again.

Thank you so much to everyone who has so generously contributed to the boxes that I have received. Not only will they enable me to complete the next academic year without worries, but there is sufficient apparatus for me to distribute supplies to both the art and maths departments. The Dean and all members of those departments are so grateful for your help. College struggles always to teach with very limited resources and the staff consider me very blessed to have such generous and supportive friends.

The longer I stay here the more that I feel that I should. There are so many diverse problems and I feel that I want to help with them all, although obviously, I can’t. College is my priority because that is the reason I am here, but I am also involved in other educational and some social problems.

Many of you will know of the Baby Club which I hold in my house every Sunday morning. The youngest is 11 months old and the oldest 7 years. I have run this club for almost a year and it has been very successful, so successful in fact that it has grown too big and many more want to come. Because of this I am starting a club for the older children where they will be able to do art and craft, learn more English and generally do English Infant School activities. Children here don’t begin school until they are 7 and even then, education is only half time, either mornings or afternoons. Teaching is usually “Chalk and Talk” so they love the activities here.

During the summer I was asked to go to Dire Dawa to deliver some training in Special Needs to Somali refugee teachers. This was at the request of the UN who run a huge refugee camp at Jigjiga. There are over 2000 people in the camp and life is not easy for them, but it must be better than life in war-torn Mogadishu. I am told that there are many with dreadful injuries and many children with a variety of impairments. The teachers have problems in dealing with these. Sadly, I could not visit the camp, as I had hoped, but I learnt as much as I could from the three UN representatives on the course. The standard of both written and spoken English was very good and the teachers were glad of all the help they received.

Some of you will have heard of my sheep sharing project set up as a result of a generous donation from Abberley. Pairs of sheep are given to poor families who are taking in young orphaned kin. There is no public money available to help them and they suffer hardship as a result, but in Ethiopia the extended family is important. Given time, and when the sheep are breeding, the families give a pair of Ewes back to the scheme, to pass on to another poor family caring for an orphan. In this way the scheme is growing and is self sustaining.

By far my biggest project, however, is my setting up of a housing trust for female teenage orphans obliged to live on the streets. Some as young as 13, orphaned by Aids in some cases, often have to live on the streets because they have nowhere else to go. Many just want to return to school to finish their education. Because the girls are much more vulnerable to violent attack than the boys, a safe house for the very youngest seems a very worthwhile objective. Here they will have security, be able to go to school and, hopefully, flourish in the warmth and trust of a regained family feeling. At least they will have hope for the future.

It took 7 months of repeated visits to the town managers to get 500 square metres of land and in the beginning, we had some NIMBY from the local residents. Having talked to most of them now, they have become actively supportive and will take the girls, when they move in, under their protective wings. With donations from interested people at home we now have the roof on the house and water laid on, but there is still so much to do. Mamuye, the Dean of College, has agreed to us raising money locally by holding a concert here, assisted by the music students. I think we shall have a good mix of African and Western music.

You can see, then, that life is far from leisurely in Ethiopia. I have, though, been fortunate to see quite a bit of the country, a holiday in the South last year and a tour of the North this year, which took in the awe inspiring Lalibela rock churches.

I really am so very grateful to every one of you for the enormous help and support that you have given me. Without this I could not have achieved half of what I have done and it is my full intention, before I leave, to complete everything that I have begun. Thank you, thank you everyone.

My love and best wishes to you all.


Following the receipt of this letter we have been able to send £740 to Kath to cover the “duty” that the airport required and to help towards her other projects. This has been raised by the Girl Guides (£200) several individual donations, and from a raffle held at the Manor Arms, Abberley(£240). If you would like to help me send some more money out to Kath, who is doing such an amazing job under very difficult circumstances then please get in touch with me (Sallie Butcher, 01299 896837,

If you would like to see some photographs that Kath has sent of some of the places that she has visited or to read some of her letters then please see the new “Kath in Ethiopia” display that the children of the PAWS Saturday Club have put up in St Mary’s Church, Abberley.