Team Kiwi 2007


The Introduction to Ethiopia
It was Sunday 7th of October 2007 and the inaugural Team Kiwi a Habitat for Humanity Global Village team from New Zealand arrived in Addis Ababa for our month long stay in Ethiopia.

Our team was an unlikely bunch of 18 New Zealanders more commonly referred to as Kiwis, a complete cross-section of people, as diverse as we could possibly be. 14 Men and 4 Women aged from 21 to 73, coming from all corners of the country, from as South as Dunedin to Kaitaia in the Far North. Some of us from a construction background but many with no prior building experience. All initially strangers but brought together by a desire to build homes for Ethiopians.

The backbone and architect of the team was the energetic and unflagging Marty van der Burg, a high profile builder from our biggest city Auckland. The team also ably assisted by two Ethiopian Kiwi's Dawit Arshak and Samson Fekyebelu their presence greatly reducing the stresses of many language barriers.

After the arduous 26 hour flight the team was greeted by a comfortable heat and the sights, smells and sounds of Addis Ababa. Here we spent 3 days familiarising ourselves with our temporary home until departing for the Jima affiliate.

The seemingly impossible 11 hours required for the 360km bus ride into Jima from Addis was only to be beaten by an almost 15 hour return. The slowly winding trip over gravel roads through the Gibe Gorge allowed the team to soak up the extraordinary scenery surrounding us and share some much needed hilarity.

The Build in Frustale, Jimma
Once settled into Jimma, now having spent 5 days in Ethiopia the team was itching to get on site and work. The emotional and colourful welcome received from the people of Frustali, culminated with the singing of XXXX by XX and brought many to tears. For Marty, he was now finally able to realize the dream he had been working towards, opening up the heart and minds of an almost impracticable group of Kiwis and assisting a race of people he had grown to love.

Once the real work began Team Kiwi hit the ground running, rolling up sleeves and pants, shoes were flying off and we jumped into the Chika Pit. All caution was quickly thrown to the wind, a typical Kiwi attitude of just doing it. The team worked with what was around us, the condition of the site and tools was something we were not too familiar with, and in stark contrast to what we were accustomed to back in New Zealand. But everyone just got into it and got things done, constantly being driven forward by the hard task master of a team leader.  

The provision of lunch on site proved to be something the team would change. After two days consuming Hamburger Sandwiches from the hotel and eating alone in our hut, the team devised a far better solution. By paying the local village to provide traditional food, not only was the food far more satisfying, the cost of lunch from the hotel could now feed 70 people. This way everyone could sit down and enjoy lunch together, including the homeowners and builders we were working alongside, not to mention some of the children, who were a constant source of entertainment.

The kids in particular touched the teams’ hearts, keeping everyone amused especially around the rock piles at the entrance to the site. The teaching of English songs in exchange for a bit of Amharic, hand clapping games, and huge smiles all made the days more enjoyable.

On weekends the team challenged the locals to a couple of semi-competitive football matches. Running around on the imperfect grounds proved costly to the Kiwi’s but the first up score of 4-9 was soon backed up the following weekend with a well fought 2 all draw. The teams being cheered on by the large group of Ethiopian and Kiwi supporters.

Many days were spent; mixing and placing the chika, then piercing holes once it dried, fixing of mesh before the outer cement layer, shovelling and mixing piles of cement to place on the floors and walls, completing the arduous task of carry rocks from an insurmountable rock pile at the front of the site for placing into the floors, digging huge holes to form the toilets and clearing sites by digging out tree stumps and debris. All this work resulted in the 29 houses in the village now having all floors finished, all chika in place, the rock pile considerably diminished in size, and all toilet blocks well on their way to completion.

The team got more done than was ever expected, and with nobody really ready to leave, although a few muscles were aching to stop, the dedication of 11 of the 29 houses came. Many Habitat staff and supporters including the local mayor shared the afternoon’s festivities including Team Kiwi performing a traditional New Zealand Haka and their rendition of Enamesginew a traditional Ethiopian song as a mark of respect to those that they had worked with.

For team member Karyn Collins she could honestly say that she never had a day when she woke up not wanting to work. “Just the pleasure and thankfulness from the locals for being there made it all more than worthwhile, it was a joy.” Highlights included learning to count to 100 in Amharic as chika balls were chucked along the line, and teaching the locals to count to 20 in Maori, a native New Zealand language. Many laughs and jokes were shared with the locals and the days and weeks went all too fast, it was over way too soon. 

Much More Than the Work
After all the hard work the team was rewarded with an enjoyable R & R trip. From the beauty of Lake Tana and the Blue Nile Falls in Bahir Dar to the surreal experience of Gondar and it’s regal stone castles. The team had the chance to experience a more relaxed view of Ethiopia and some sights of the remarkable historical circuit. The Blue Nile Gorge the highlight of a 15 hour bus trip into Bahir Dar.

For Marty this Global Village trip was not only about building homes in Jima but also to raise awareness of the many other social issues facing Ethiopia. Ones with a Kiwi connection were especially important. The Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital which was started by an Australian and Kiwi in 1964, and Amanda Blewit a Kiwi who has set up her own NGO in Addis, Design for Dignity. The team spent time with both these organisations to see the differences they were making in Ethiopia. The team was also privileged to be able to witness the remarkable work that one woman is doing for orphaned children in Addis at the Hanna Orphans Home.

The location of Jima was also chosen by Marty due to its connection as the birth place of Coffee and the struggle of the impoverished coffee farmers. A visit to a coffee plantation 50km outside of Jima was followed up with meeting Tedessa Meskela and the Oromia Coffee Framers Cooperative Society’s Union ltd in Addis and learn about Fair Trade coffee and the plight of many coffee farmers.

Sad Farewells
Back in Addis before the teams’ departure on the 1st of November a sad farewell was given to the Staff of Habitat for Humanity Ethiopia. Many of the Ethiopian team had spent invaluable time assisting the team in Jima and built life long relationships.

The team was incredibly grateful of the chance to experience what they had in Jima during the build, made possible by the Habitat for Humanity staff in Ethiopia. Much has been learnt about Ethiopia and its incredible beauty and richness of the people. The teams lives have been coloured with large splashes of love, laughter, warmth and gratefulness something that is often forgotten in our Western World. As much as the team tried to give, much more has been received and Ethiopia is etched in our hearts and minds forever, many of us vowing to return.

 by Joanne Duggan member of Team Kiwi 2007.

Images from the trip can be seen here.

Team Kiwi Sponsors 2007