GLASTONBURY - LALIBELA
Lalibela, Ethiopia`s twelfth-century capital – “the Jewel in Ethiopia`s crown” - is a remote town situated 2,600 metres in the Ethiopian Highlands with surrounding peaks approaching 4,000 metres. It is the most famous tourist destination and second most important Christian pilgrimage site in Ethiopia with its clusters of twelfth-century rock-hewn underground churches. Lalibela`s population is about 20,000 with 250,000 Ethiopians eking out a subsistence living in the mountainous, deforested, barren, isolated catchment area. The rural population, exposed to climate warming and the ever increasing infertility and loss of topsoil, struggle to survive. Their poverty is heartbreaking. It has been estimated that one million died in the 1984 Ethiopian famine which occurred around Lalibela.
"I used to worry about not having shoes on my feet until I met a man without a leg"
It is now nearly ten years since our plane`s flight was delayed, a total of eleven visits and a rollercoaster of emotions.
We have been amazed and humbled by the number of individuals of all ages, schools and organisations in and around Glastonbury who have become interested and contributed towards our projects.
The contribution of local Somerset schools in their own way has touched the lives of their fellow Ethiopians. Their crested sweatshirts and clothing on Ethiopian schoolchildren, new classroom furniture, computer equipment, writing materials, a new football, a tennis ball instead of a bundle of tightly tied rags all make an impact. However,since 2012, Ethiopian Customs no longer allow us to import donated clothing.
They can give nothing in return except their thanks, their friendliness and their hospitality which they do in abundance. It is part of their culture, despite their desperate hardship, to share whatever they have and ask for nothing in return.
We are drawn to return by the generosity of the Glastonbury area support and the heartfelt thanks of the Lalibela community. We never fail to be moved by the people and experiences we encounter.
A visit to Lalibela is a life-changing and life-enriching opportunity which we thoroughly recommend.
We will return in October 2013 and welcome enquiries from anybody interested in joining us.
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Latest website update: January 2013
Our Ethiopian Experience
In April 2003 my wife and I, as tourists, visited the ancient historical sites of Ethiopia.
The itinerary included a forty-eight hour stop-over in the Ethiopian Highlands to explore the twelfth-century churches of Lalibela. Whilst preparing to leave Lalibela, we learnt that our plane`s departure was delayed for a few hours. Simply to “fill the time” we asked our guide if we could visit the local hospital? We were shocked by the conditions. My wife left in tears.
Helping Education, Health and Water Supply
In February 2011 we entered into partnership with an English couple, Norman and Carole, who, since 2003, in non-NGO areas in the Lalibela catchment region have initiated and funded the majority costs of 34 spring improvement projects, 22 classrooms, 8 health posts and 2 irrigation projects. Last year our supporters were able to donate £21,000 towards two new health posts and £4,600 to pay for two spring improvement projects.
Safe Motherhood Project and PADet
Safe Motherhood remains a major fundraising project . Since 2006, PADet (Professional Alliance Development in Ethiopia) - an indigenous NGO - has been entrusted by Plan NGO to run our Safe Motherhood Project. We now work directly with PADet. We prioritise "hardware" - delivery kits for health centres, TTBA kits for domiciliary deliveries, post-delivery fistula repair surgery and long term family planning aids. However, we accept that there must be "mobilisation" of the local health staff to educate, identify and encourage those women whose lives are blighted by the dreaded "fistula" to come forward, undergo surgery and return to a normal lifestyle. Such is the stigma, shame and humiliation of a fistula in the eyes of their community that the women will go to extreme lengths to conceal their condition. The Safe Motherhood Project pays all expenses for fistula women - absolutely everything, including surgery, is free. Forty-one women have had surgery, nineteen women attended twice and six women three times.
Millfield- Lalibela Secondary School link
Since 2004, pupils of Lalibela Secondary School have hugely benefited from the generosity of pupils of Millfield Senior, Preparatory and Pre-Preparatory schools. Over £14,000, raised by the pupils, has bought classroom equipment, textbooks, reference books and computers. In addition, Millfield has donated sports equipment, footballs, tennis balls and sports clothing which are highly prized. This year we established good links with the Secondary School and now await Millfield`s decision regarding a staff/pupil visit to Lalibela.
PlanUK Ethiopian sponsor-children – Somerset link
Somerset schools, organisations and individuals sponsor nine Ethiopian school children in and around Lalibela.
Lalibela visit 2012 - please read Ethiopia 2012 under Reports
Charity Commission In May 2012 we gained Charity Commission approval to register as the LALIBELA TRUST - number 1147147.
Reconstruction Health Post at Lydba September 2012 The JACCT granted £11,000 to rebuild the collapsing mud and stone health post in this rural catchment area of Lalibela with a new breeze block construction. Currently the Health Extension Workers work from their rented huts.
New Health Post at Gazgibla January 2013 Festival Medical Services donated £10,000 towards a new health post in this isolated rural area - the site of the 1984/5 Ethiopian famine - to replace a dilapidated single room.
Spring Improvement Projects 2012 - One completed (financed by Millfield Preparatory School), one under construction (financed by Glastonbury Road Run committee) and, in 2013, sufficient funds for a third.
Lalibela Secondary School January 2013 Millfield School Charities Committee have donated £4,100 towards the provision of bench desks for the new three tiered block of classrooms.