I met three wonderful young girls in Ethiopia. They are students at the Adadi Primary School. Officers in the school’s WASH club, they are strong leaders in bringing their community up out of poverty.
The Angolela Area Development Project of World Vision has been hard at work helping the community with education, health, clean water, and livelihood. World Vision sponsors 5000 children in the area and has a budget of $1.3 million (US DOLLARS) About 3/4 of that comes from Child Sponsorship. (You can choose to help by sponsoring one of these lovely children.)
What exactly is a WASH club? One of the hardest parts of providing clean water to communities is educating the people about the need for sanitation and hygiene. Drilling the wells is relatively easy. Changing a culture can be more of a challenge.
That is where the schools can really help. The Adadi Primary School has dedicated teachers for 942 students in grades K-8. Many of these children have seen the new water wells drilled and have been taught the importance of hygiene. In Adadi, three young girls lead 45 students in the “WASH Club.” They gave a confident, articulate presentation to our group of visitors last month. President Yeshie described the five committees: Outreach, Beautification, Fundraising, Cleaning Latrines, and Facilities. For outreach, they prepare skits and presentations for the community on the importance of using latrines and washing hands before eating, preparing food and after using the bathroom. The Beautification committee plants flowers on campus and helps create artwork for the schoolyard. Fundraising includes a raffle-type event!
These girls understand the positive impact that clean water has had on their lives. They realize they had to miss a lot of school in the past when they were sick, and this kept them from excelling academically. Now they see opportunities for further education and for careers that would take them beyond just marrying young and having household jobs.
Bizuneh Bizu, 15, vice president of the WASH club, says: “We draw water from a nearby stream to bring back to grow flowers and vegetables on the school yard. We teach the other children to keep the environment clean. Every Friday we clean the latrines. We provide soap or ash in a plastic bag.”
“WASH is all about health. Since we got familiar with basic knowledge, we are transforming and transmitting knowledge to our families. WASH is beyond hygiene. It empowers girls and woman. It puts us on equal footing. We understand our rights, that women aren’t meant just to serve men. We can do what men do,” says Yeshie Derbie, 14, club President.
The girls are passionate about water and all that cleanliness will do for them. They strive to influence other students to join them as they pass the new habits on to their families.
The club encourages families to build a home latrine and use it. “We go home to home to figure out who has a latrine,” says Aster Reta, 16. “They are marked red, for none, yellow, for in process, and green for done.”
This is how the world will be changed.
When we met them at school, on a Saturday I might add, the WASH club appeared singing and wearing headbands proclaiming, “WASH is Life.” It was overwhelming.
I have seldom met students of this age so fully engaged in something so important. These girls will do great things. Perhaps they will hold office one day in the beautiful country of Ethiopia. They may be doctors or teachers or engineers. I look forward to watching them grow and become what God has planned for them.
I have a new friend and sister in Christ. Her name is Meseret and she lives in Ethiopia. We met just two weeks ago when I was there visiting her World Vision area of Wonchi, west of Addis Ababa.
Meseret has both an MBA and BA in Economics from the University of Gondar, Ethiopia. After seven years working for different international and local NGOs like Mercy Corps, Food for the Hungry, and Compassion, Ethiopia she felt led by God to come to World Vision. Meseret just started with World Vision in December and she told me that she is so happy to work there. Her spiritual side will be nurtured, she says, because each day the staff meets for devotions, and this makes her feel connected to God’s leading.
Meseret is Program Supervisor for the Wonchi area, which means she helps determine how this area will best help the people living there. The area is in the third phase, (years 10-15) of World Vision’s Area Development Plan. You can see how the people of Wonchi live and many of the ways World Vision has helped them here. Many water projects are coming to completion in the coming year and Meseret hopes to offer some special activities for the teenagers.
It was a huge surprise to meet this energetic young woman. I had received a contact form from her days before leaving for Africa. I had no idea who she was, but a message from an Ethiopian when I would soon be visiting that country intrigued me.
When we met, she impressed me right away. She wants to lead some teenagers in Bible study and requested some of my materials. Oh how I wish I had packed those books just in case someone might want them.
In any case, the internet is a wonderful thing and Bible Studies for Teens will help Meseret in any way we can. God is so good to connect us in ways we could never imagine for ourselves.