Ethiopia - The Cradle of Mankind


My luggage never turned up on the belt. But hey, here I finally was - May 2018, Gendit, Northern Ethiopia. Walking the dream to find a village to build a school.

A cathartic week amidst lashing rain (yes it was the rainy season), injera* aplenty and a million electricity blackouts. *a flatbread - it’s a local delicacy in this part of the world

’Johnnie’s’ Air BNB was little better than camping - let alone ‘glamping’. The notice over the bath read ‘don’t put rubbish in here’ and standing in the rain proved to be the best way of washing my hair. No ‘Dyson Supersonic’ here.

A week here truly puts life in perspective. Ethiopia - the cradle of mankind - has produced a humble, warm generous people. And - in spite of the weather - a people thirsty for education. 

My week unravelled as cathartic, deeply humbling and inspiring; it was a roller coaster of pure joy and deep sadness. A week in a thousand tuk-tuks, over crowded, dilapidated vans and over 800 miles across rural Ethiopia. Bananas became my staple diet as embarrassingly I hate injera.

To walk towards one thousand children carrying leaves and flowers had tears running down my face, and the feeling of being an unpaid celebrity in a United Nations documentary. An utterly humbling experience. 

Four villages heard the rumbling of our van over the week. Every village visited had a need and a dream to find a sponsor. And I had a dream to find a village. Teachers, children, advisers and village elders swathed in white robes and casually carrying Kalashnikovs sat patiently as questions and answers were translated from Amharic into English.

There were up to seventy-five children in these broken wooden huts or rubble strewn classrooms. An almost inconceivable thought - but this was the reality. However, sitting in these lessons was a life time privilege. I taught these children English with one piece of chalk and a blackboard hanging off the wall - a challenging experience. But they all smiled; they all wanted to learn.

And every night by torchlight I wrote my diary - a diary which would finally guide us to decide which village would be the one. It was tough. They all could easily have been ‘the one’.

On Thursday our van rumbled up the mud track and into Gendit village. Two classrooms and a guard with a gun. One piece of chalk. No books. No director. Two worn out teachers. No toilets. One well. Twenty-three children ran towards me with tiny leaves they had picked from the bushes. I cried. This was the place. 

And the dream began.....THIS was a Cradle for Mankind. And what the heck if my luggage never arrived. All you need is a dream.