Thursday, August 16, 2012

Israelis run Summer Camp in Ethiopia

Information Source - Samantha Friedman, Senior Associate, Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications

Project T.E.N. (Tikkun Empowerment Network) is a project of  The Jewish Agency for Israel.  It provides young Jewish people in their 20’s and 30’s the opportunity to spend a significant length of time engaging in social activism abroad (e.g. Ethiopia), while simultaneously developing their Jewish identities and connections to one another.

T.E.N. has opened a summer camp for street children in Gondar, Ethiopia. They reached the children through a local NGO, Yenege Tesfa, which means, “hope for tomorrow,” and which seeks to care for Gondar’s children by bringing them a home, a family, an education, good health and a future.

The summer camp, named "Bright Hope Camp", is run by a team of five Israeli T.E.N. volunteers and four other volunteer students from the University of Gondar.  51 children who live in the Yenege Tesfa shelters are attending the camp, where they study English every day and participate in traditional camping activities including sports, arts and crafts, and drama activities. Once a week, the day is dedicated to an important topic such as the environment or good hygiene. The Salam Armachau School, a local Gondar school, hosts the camp.  The camp is the largest in scope that the children of Yenege Tesfa have ever had the chance to experience.

Hibist, Coordinator at Yenege Tesfa, said, “T.E.N. and its volunteers are role models, they bring together everyone in order to solve the problems, they move things that haven’t moved for a long time. The children at Yenege Tesfa were hurt so many times by adults that they no longer trust them. Their connection with the volunteers is crucial.”

Olemiu, Education and Health Coordinator at the Yenege Tesfa Organization said, “I can see the amazing effort that is born of the volunteers’ devotion and determination. Even when some of them feel sick or tired, as they are not used to the conditions here, they get up anew and continue with our project (the summer camp for the Yenege Tesfa orphans) and they help the children increase their self-confidence and think differently about themselves. They are helping the children to become more aware of their importance of school and of how to protect themselves from abuse. It is an honor to work with these volunteers.”

Mtzlal, T.E.N. Project Coordinator at the Gojo Neighborhood, is an Ethiopian herself: “I’m very excited about what T.E.N. is doing in Gondar. We are really turning around things that have stagnated for years. We have dug a drainage canal for the neighborhood (in time for the rainy season). The municipality thought that we’re just another organization that buys some stuff for people and then leaves, but now they understand that we’re really here for the long run. Also the other projects, such as the Mother Teresa Clinic. The next step is to help people learn how to do things for themselves and earn money.”

Sister Luciana from the Mother Teresa Clinic has been in Ethiopia for 25 years: “The T.E.N. volunteers made an impact very quickly – the need was so great – and they are doing a good job. They are very responsible and have a strong will to succeed. They connect with the children and take care of and feed those suffering from various illnesses.”