On January 8, Building for Children, a volunteer group from Northeast Galway, left for Ethiopia.
The Irish volunteering team is going for ten days of hard work renovating school dormitories in the Addis Ababa region.
Building for Children was created in 2006 by a group of professionals in the Newbridge area. With the willingness to create safe places for children around the world, the association chose to unite its members in diverse volunteering missions.
Like this, Building for Children has been very active abroad by building and refurbishing children’s accommodation in orphanages, hospitals and schools in dire conditions all around the globe.
For Peter Daly, professional writer and photographer, the adventure started in Eastern Europe, where he travelled with the volunteers in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia to report the association work out there.
“Those children from those zones of past conflicts, they are the first people who need help,” he says.
In fact, even if the United Nations are putting lots of efforts to protect children during conflicts, they are always the first victims of the wars.
According to Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), approximately 468 million children (18.8%, or more than one in six) were living in a conflict zone in 2022.
The regions where the conflicts are really harsh, children undergone immense suffering, both physically and psychologically.
By witnessing and experiencing violence, displacement, separation from their families and the loss of loved ones, children have been left with important psychological trauma, especially in the case when of a civil war such as in Ethiopia.
That is how, after long years of working in Europe, Building for Children chose to put their effort in Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest province.
According to a 2018 United Nations’ report, children in Oromia are more likely to be deprived of more basic needs and services than the national average.
Peter joined the Ethiopian volunteering team in 2019 and worked with them to raise funds.
From table quizzes to gigs and charity sales, everything was held to help finance the renovation of Sebeta Blind School.
The establishment provides education and maintenance for visually impaired children from the Oromia region.
Located 30 kilometres from the Ethiopian capital, the residential school homes about 370 blind or visually impaired children, both girls and boys.
It is the only school for the blind run by the Ethiopian government.
After months of fundraising, the team of volunteers arrived in Sebata. They had to spend €1,000 to get the tools through customs, but the volunteers understand the reason they are here.
“It is horrific,” according to Peter. “It is so hard to describe unless you visited… Children need care and the school buildings are in disastrous condition. You need to touch, to smell, to feel to understand the emergency.”
No time to cry, the volunteers began the first phase of their restoring plan: housing 26 blind and visually impaired girls aged between 13 and 17 who were renting rooms in unsafe conditions in Sebeta town.
The volunteers built a new dormitory from start to finish but decided that it was not enough, and in January 2023, a second restoring phase was launched.
It involved the renovation of two of the six existing dormitories, each home to 40 blind and visually impaired children.
The Irish volunteers renovated these dormitories with two new functioning bathrooms with showers, toilets and sinks, new beds, bed linen, doors and lockers.
In January 2024, the third phase will be about renovating two more of the existing dormitories, home to a total of 80 children.
The aim will be to complete them with working sanitation, safe electrics, fixed-up beds with new mattresses and bed linen and to create and equip an indoor playroom.
The truck, loaded with the 80 mattresses arrived on the morning of January 12, bringing the materials and the hope of a fresh start for these children.