Tim’s arrival in Africa was documented in his first blog on Tuesday, and since then he has paid a visit to our hub in Addis, before traveling to meet teachers and students in a local school…
February 23rd – First day at the office at the Camara Ethiopia hub.
Just as planned, Jonny – the Head of Finance and also ‘Mr. Everything’ for Camara Ethiopia – was on hand to take me from the hotel to the Camara Ethiopia hub at 8:30am. We jumped – literally – in the back of the Hiace mini-bus (whose mileage clock has hit 100,000 at least three times I would imagine!) and were whisked at speed across town. They drive like that on the roads here in Addis – at speed, and somewhat erratically – and it was touch and go for whiplash on several sudden sharp turns!
The route to the hub also confirmed Addis Ababa’s reputation as a developing city. The amount of new buildings under construction almost every half mile is immeasurable. I can’t help but wonder though who will be able to buy these apartments when the monthly wage for a teacher, for example, is about US$150. Also under construction is Africa’s first light rail system which will serve the main arteries of Addis and looks spectacular.
The Camara hub in Addis Ababa is identical in many ways to the other hubs in Dublin, Belfast and London. It’s basic, functional, and tight for space, but it’s got the same buzz of activity, positivity and all-round great team spirit that is at the core of every Camara hub. Of course it also has the wonderful all-year-round pleasant heat of a sub-tropical, high-altitude climate, which makes for a pleasant change from the rain and sleet I left behind.
Yared, the new CEO – a dynamic and highly-educated young man, formerly an ICT Consultant at Accenture in the USA, and a University Director of IT in Addis – spent hours telling me about the amazing work Camara does here in Ethiopia. I heard all about the successes and also the enormous challenges. There was time for lunch too at a local, small authentic Ethiopian restaurant where a wide array of vegetarian food was on offer, but no meat because it’s Lent. Afterwards, we had the best coffee I’ve ever tasted from their own charcoal coffee brewing pot. This, I’m told, is exactly what every single household in Ethiopia has as an ancient tradition.
Now I can’t wait to get out and about in the next couple of days to visit some schools!
February 24th – Visit to Abadir Junior and Secondary School, Addis Ababa.
My first trip to one of the schools that Camara works with was an amazing experience. So far my brief time with Camara has been spent in our Dublin base, but getting out to see the work we – thanks to all our wonderful donors – are doing on the ground fills me with an enormous sense of pride. I received a very warm welcome from teachers and students alike, and I was delighted to be able to speak with them about the impact the refurbished computers are having on their education.
“We cannot afford to buy computers by ourselves so Camara helps us and that is a very great help for the school, for us and schools like us”, said school principal Hassen Shukr. “The children here (in this classroom) are beginners on computers now, they will get more training as they grow up, and this will help to give them a start in life which they wouldn’t have had before.”
IT teacher Kamil Muzil has seen the benefits at first-hand – “I completed my IT Teacher Training with Camara last year and now I am the IT Teacher here. These computers are really helpful to the students with their studies.”
It is obvious that Kamil is passionate about teaching his students – his enthusiasm and energy were tangible in the classroom, and his students listened intently.
I then spoke to several students to try to get an idea of how working with technology has impacted on their education – something which is easy to underestimate given that we are surrounded by technology 24/7 back in Ireland.
Seid Kasim, a grade 10 student (15 years old) had this to say: “We can now use computers to help with our homework and the applications help with our learning process. Before these computers we hadn’t worked with the internet, so it helps, for example, if we have projects or group work that we can now use these computers.”
Camara has a dedicated team of over 200 people in many countries working unbelievably hard every single day. We are making a difference. I’m still relatively new, and many of this amazing team have seen what I’ve seen in the last few days many times over, and the inspiration they instill in me – no less than the inspiration from the students I witnessed today – is to get up off my backside and get out again tomorrow and work harder.