By Anabella Befekadu
During my trip to Ethiopia, I visited Wegene’s Learning Center. When I arrived, the Center’s manager greeted me, and was kind enough to give me a tour of the facility. I noticed the wide variety of books neatly organized on the shelves, ranging from academic textbooks to fiction books. Next, I walked into the playroom area and noticed two round tables in the center of the room. Each table seated around five to six kids. At one of the tables, some of the younger children were playing UNO, a classic family card game and an all-time favorite of mine. I sat down and introduced myself to the kids and was able to get along with them right away.
Although there was somewhat of a language barrier (I understand Amharic, but sometimes have trouble speaking it) I was able to use basic terminology to communicate with them. We played countless rounds of UNO, checkers, as well as worked on puzzles together. The kids then had a lunch break and enjoyed some traditional Ethiopian food. We all had so much fun! It was such a breath of fresh air to see them smile and just be happy with the little that they have. My visit to the Wegene Learning Center was definitely the highlight of my trip.
As I was moving around the room and getting to know them, and playing with each one of them, I couldn’t help but notice how bright these kids were. I had no doubt they could be future engineers, artists, doctors, CEOs, entrepreneurs, etc., if presented with the resources and opportunities.
Although the visit to the center was fun for both the kids and me, it was an eye opening experience that made me realize the things I take so much for granted. For instance, the toys that I threw away as a kid when I didn’t need them anymore would have meant the world to these kids. The approximately $25 that I spent with my friends at Starbucks could have been used to feed a hearty lunch, including drinks, to 10 children.
The $200 that I spent on clothes, restaurants, and entertainment could have been used to buy 88 academic
textbooks useful for their education, and so on.
On my way to the U.S., I reflected on my trip to Addis, especially the time that I spent with the children. I was amazed at how happy they were with the little that they have and how bright they were. I was also impressed by their closeness and how much they care about each other. I’ll definitely visit them every time I go to Addis and continue to support Wegene in every possible way I can.