Team Kiwi 10 Jimma : Building Hope in Ethiopia

The 18 people of Team Kiwi ’10 travelled across the world to Ethiopia in October with the intention to build.  Perhaps what we didn’t instantly realise was that we would build far more than houses alone.

Starting out as relative strangers, we built relationship with, and trust and confidence in each other to become practically like family after four weeks. 

We built our personal ability to challenge our capabilities and comfort zones, to just ‘dig in’ and give things a go. 

We built relationship with children, homeowners and other locals despite some language barriers, proving that expressing care and working together are a language in themselves. 

We built our ability to be patient, to take things as they come and to accept the cultural and practical aspects that differentiate Ethiopia from our home. 

We built an appreciation of the diverse and colourful landscape of both city and country that constituted at least a fraction of what we saw of this vast country. 

Perhaps most importantly, we built our own understanding of the world, the issues many people face every day, an appreciation of how fortunate we are and what really matters in life. 

I really hope we will all continue the ‘building’.

There are some specific memories that are of greater value than all the gold in Dubai (ironically just four hours flight away).  

Hanna’s obvious love for the children in her orphanage and her trust in God and determination that has enabled it to grow.  The opportunity to spend time with the children and the universal appeal of sport (particularly football) to bring people together.

The joy evident in the faces of so many children when they see you and want to hold your hand as they shout ‘you, you, you”.  Their enthusiasm to see the camera and ask for your water bottle at the end of every day.  Their extraordinary strength as they help with the building work without any complaint.  

The warm greeting of a girl washing clothes in a stream (build, day 1) growing to tears caused by having to say goodbye (build, day 12), and her kind offer to carry my bag to our bus.

Kassahun (our field officer) reciting the daily task list.  Moving rocks, moving ‘sticks’, digging trenches, putting up frames and doing chikka.  Now that I am back at my daily job at a desk in front of a computer, these jobs seem extremely satisfying!

The tears of gratitude of a homeowner’s wife as she looks forward to a better home and future for her family.

The multitude of hugs from ‘Mr T’ as together we hold and nail the walls of a house.

The cheers and claps from all around as the large tree stump located in the middle of a house plot is finally toppled by a large group of men all united on a cause. 

The excitement of discovering that the Jimma Centrale Hotel served chicken salad and fruit salad.  It was just what many of us were craving! 

The twice-daily call of “coffee time” and daily call of “lunch time” and the pleasure of being able to share that with so manypeople, with thanks to the hard-working local women.  

The happiness of a young girl who is overjoyed to receive a pair of already old sneakers worn on a building site for the past two weeks.  Would our children be that delighted in a gift like that? 

The many people in all areas who are forced to beg, many of whom are blind or missing limbs or the ability to use them.  The distances people walk and their amazing ability to carry heavy loads on their backs.


Having to dodge people, donkeys, cows, sheep and goats as we walked and drove (and not only in the country), the absence of traffic lights and give-way signs, the musical toot of the horn. 

The view across the mountains and plains surrounding Lalibela, absolutely spectacular!  

The glint of joy in the eye and the slowly spreading smile of a young woman wrapped in a colourful blanket who once faced the burden of a childbirth-related fistula but who now has hope of a less socially-isolating future. 

The opportunity to see coffee plantations and processing, such a vital commodity for the future of Ethiopians and often taken for granted by people in the west. 

So many memories to hold onto and share, new perspectives and great friendships formed!  I am so grateful for the opportunity and privilege to be part of Team Kiwi ’10 and would encourage anybody considering a trip like this to open their heart and mind to experience this for themselves.  If you are open to be changed, you will be!

(Image left is of Donna the author of this article.)

Click here to see images from the trip.

Click here to view  the list of our generous sponsors.