Ethiopia Survey Team update May 2009

Hi to all our friends, family, and those interested in the activities of what has been happening with Hopethiopia and the survey team.

I have just returned from Ethiopia and flew in via Rome and London on May 16th. Almost all of my time I was out of contact being in some very remote areas where there was no internet access and very limited telephone communication. Thus I rarely was able to connect with Glenda for regular updates and thus it was difficult to send you information as to our activities. However, there were occasional moments of contact and hopefully I can fill in some of the gaps.

For the first 2 weeks it was just Kevin (my son) and myself briefly scouting out Uganda and the Watoto orphanage contacts, and then on to Ethiopia where we spent much time researching and connecting with the community of Harbu Chulule (HC) – the land that has been granted by President Girma and the regional Oromia government.

We really did have a great time with president Girma and I got to see him in the light of being the “Grandfather” of Ethiopia. He really does love the people and the land.  He has a special interest in reforestation projects and was very excited to see the plans for reforestation in the Hopethiopia project.

The meeting with the COO of Ethiopian airlines went very well and Kevin did a fantastic job presenting on corporate partnership. They are very interested in supporting Hopethiopia and I am excited to see participation of such indigenous corporations.

We also did meet with Janet Graham, the new Canadian ambassador to Ethiopia. She is a very good person and is just getting used to Addis having been there only a couple of weeks. She gave a us a few pointers on connecting with some of the government funding strategies and looks forward to future.

A highlight, in regards to the connections, was that of our time with Mrs. Adanech, the parliamentary Secretary of State. I did meet with her last year and she is so supportive of Hopethiopia as she has some great initiatives for empowering young girls and women to reach their maximum potential. We talked very much about the future, were able to go with her to her church (a lively Full Gospel church) in Addis, and she even had Kevin and I over for supper at her house where we had dinner with her  that she prepared. It was great to meet her family.

This was the first 2 days!! After this we were on the road.

First we went to Awassa, 6 hours south of Addis, to visit our friends with the reforestation projects founded by the Eden reforestation projects. Check out their website at www.edenprojects.org They took us through the whole program starting from a seed, developing nurseries, and then onto the planting projects in the mountains. This will be an extremely important partnership in the future. Again Kevin did an awesome job capturing and documenting the information via video and digital images. It was great to spend the time with Dawit, the director of Eden, and see how he and his wife managed the lands and their staff.

After this we headed back to Addis to revisit an orphanage that I went to last year. It is very poor, 102 kids living in 2 mud buildings, run by 2 seniors that are in their 70’s. To see a brief video clip check out Hopethiopia on You tube and you will see the little kid with glasses. Kevin got to play with him and hold him. It was lots of fun!!! We also took with us some of the blankets and toques that the women at a church in Kamloops had made for Africa. What an amazing experience to be able to pass on such a loving gift. They were all truly very grateful. I asked the “grandpa” if they ever get foreigners visiting their orphanage and he said yes they occasionally drop in to take a picture but we were the first ever to come back. For sure the orphans of the Hopethiopia project will they themselves go on the road to serve the really poor such as in this case. So much could be done with so little.

Later that day we were finally on the road to Harbu Chulule and the lands for Hopethiopia. The drive is about 2 hours west of Addis. 1 ½ hours on a paved road to Tulu Bolo and then ½ south on a gravel road. The landscape is quite beautiful with rolling hills and the odd Acacia tree. It is mostly deforested with mud hut communities dotting the land. There are always lots of people walking the roads and the land. Altitude is at 8000 feet and the temperatures were between 25 to 30 C.

Kevin and I spent time getting to know the people and the community as well as doing some GPS mapping of the lands in preparation for the arrival of the eMI Canada survey team. We walked everywhere including the total perimeter of Harbu Chulule, a community of about 2000 people and a circumference of about 6 km. This was a great way for us to be able to get a feel for the community and the people. There is an Christian orthodox church as well as a mosque in the community, the odd very small basic business, an elementary and middle school for about 2000 children all housed in basic mud hut structures, and a simple health centre with no doctors but a few health officers / nurses.

We also did some mapping of the river valley where we believe the reforestation project will start. This is an incredible area that stretches for miles that is mostly deforested with a few small areas where Eucalyptus tree groves have been planted. Eucalyptus does provide a wood source for lumber, firewood, and slope stabilization but comes with the cost of sterilizing the soil for other plants and discourages animal habitation. President Girma called me to ask what I thought of the land and he told me that he remembers walking there as a child when all the native forests existed with an abundance of wild life.  He also arranged for us to visit a nearby hot spring close to the community of Bantu which he was hoping that we might be able to help. God willing, restoration of the land will occur.

We then had to get back to Addis to arrange for some of the details to get all the survey equipment into the country. This proved to be a great challenge but thanks for all the prayers as we were able to gain all the approvals required. The survey team of 4 Canadian’s (Patrick, Lydia, Cam, Godwin, and 1 American, Tyler all arrived on May 10th and after clearing customs and immigration we were immediately able to leave for Harbu Chulule, and Woliso (the town where our hotel was 45 mins away). We spent a busy day  getting settled and then took a look at the land. Late that afternoon Kevin had to leave for Addis as he had to fly back to Canada the next day. That was a tough moment to have to say goodbye, but with one of his businesses starting up for the summer and his wedding plans he was ready to get back home.

The next day the survey team hit the ground running. A few days of intense surveying then began with Lydia and Patrick leading the survey teams and Godwin and Tyler doing the civil engineering studies. We had a part in helping with the survey and the experience was great as well as tiring. The contribution made by eMI Canada was incredible. They are a ministry that provides free engineering, architectural, surveying etc. experience to groups such as Hopethiopia to allow them to proceed to the next levels of their development. As you can imagine developing a master plan for a 4000+ acre development is a massive challenge. The survey team on this trip had a goal of trying to survey about 500 acres of the core development site. When I left HC on Friday they had pretty well completed this goal in record time and even had the chance to check out other connected lands. At Hopethiopia we are extremely grateful made by the eMI survey team and their contribution of time, talent, and treasures. We bonded as a family and had great ministry and devotional opportunities. Patrick was a great leader for their team and continually encouraged them in all aspects of life.

Other activities that occurred in HC were:

  • Pastor Workneh and Sisay, both from Calgary, met us onsite in HC. They were able to see the lands first hand and join us in prayer and provide encouragement to the team. Their presence meant a lot to us as it was quite a sacrifice of their schedule to come and join us.
  • Last Wednesday I hosted a “Design Session” for about 40 members of the local community, young and old, with regional officials, as well as most of the farmers that Hopethiopia lands are associated with. The idea for this session was inspired from some of the collaborative Design sessions that many of you participated with in Calgary.  We worked on the idea’s of community needs, vision for the future, concerns, and collaboration etc. They all participated in the group sessions and this was an extremely valuable way to communicate the short and long term vision. I showed a power point presentation of the concept and vision plans for Hopethiopia and they were very enthusiastic. They would like to see us start the project asap, and I was humbled to see how the farmers want to help us in any way possible. We will continue to update the community in similar sessions in the future.
  • The nest day was a community outreach project. Patrick had asked us if we could somehow connect the team with the community. I arranged for us to: 1) Do a sports camp with the elementary kids at the school and 2) Hand out more quilts to the rural farmers that lived in mud huts.  This was definitely a highlight of our visit. We were greeted by about 1000 children at the school and played soccer, baseball, frisbee’s, etc. total mayhem but lots of fun. We left them lots of school supplies and were blessed. We then went out into the rural community and handed out more quilts donated from the ladies in Kamloops. Once again a tremendous blessing.

One vital component of this trip was the relationship built with our Ethiopian Hopethiopia interim director, Mersea Hundie. He was referred to us by Brian Rutten – a Canadian living in Addis and doing significant mission work with his wife Val in Ethiopia. Mersea met with Wayne King and the land assessment team about 3 months ago in Ethiopia. Mersea accompanied us the whole time while we were in Ethiopia and was our Amharic voice and advised us on culture and life in general. It was great to spend this time with him as well as meet his wonderful family. Mersea is continuing his studies at bible school and lives in Addis with his wife and 2 children.

The survey team will continue until Sunday and then they return to Calgary. In all this was an incredible trip with so much accomplished and so much more to do. Many new doors were opened and old friendships were strengthened.

Many more updates, pictures, and video will be found in the coming weeks on our website, You tube, and other related links as we have time to post them.

Thank you all for your encouragement, prayers, and support. They are greatly valued and necessary. Looking forward to the future and if you have a desire to get involved please contact me directly.

Ralph

Blog, Mission Trips

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