GLASTONBURY - LALIBELA
Lalibela, Ethiopia`s twelfth-century capital – “the Jewel in Ethiopia`s crown” - a 1978 UNESCO World Heritage site - 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 over eleven years since our plane`s flight was delayed, a total of twelve 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, footballs, tennis balls 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 2014 and welcome enquiries from anybody interested in joining us.
May 2012 - Charity Commission registration as LALIBELA TRUST - number 1147147
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Latest website update: July 2014
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.
LALIBELA CURRENT PROJECTS
Helping Education, Health and Water Supply
In February 2011 we entered into partnership with an English couple, Norman and Carole, who, since 2001, have worked in the Lalibela catchment region. Their achievements, detailed below, are hugely impressive.
Achievements since 2001
Spring Improvement Projects - 40 completed, 6 under construction, 3 under discussion for 2014.
Schools - 22 classrooms completed.
Health Posts - 10 completed, 11th,12th and 13th agreed, 14th under discussion.
Irrigation projects - 2 completed, 1 under construction.
Lalibela Trust contribution since 2011
Four of the ten completed health posts (Festival Medical Services x3, JA Clark Charitable Trust x1).
Eight of the forty Spring Improvement Projects (JACCT x4, Glastonbury Road Run x2, Millfield x1, private donation x1).
100 bench desks for Lalibela High School (Millfield).
30 bench desks for rural school (GRR).
Additionally, £3,000 annually to PADet, indigenous NGO, who manage our Safe Motherhood Project.
Currently aiming to initiate a cataract service in Lalibela Hospital.
This year Lalibela Trust will seek sponsorship for two new health posts and five new spring improvement projects.
July 2014 - Festival Medical Services and JA Clark Charitable Trust have each donated £12,000 enabling the rebuild of the two new health posts at Kewabahara and Dwena.
Safe Motherhood Project and PADet
Safe Motherhood remains a major fundraising project. For the past eight years we have worked with PADet (Professional Alliance Development in Ethiopia) - an indigenous NGO. We prioritise "hardware" - delivery kits for health centres, TTBA kits for domiciliary deliveries, post-delivery fistula repair surgery and long term family planning contraception.The Safe Motherhood Project pays absolutely everything enabling women to "live again". There is no charge for surgery. Forty-four women have had surgery, nineteen women attended twice and six women three times.
Millfield - Lalibela High School link
Since 2004, pupils of Lalibela High School have hugely benefited from the generosity of pupils of Millfield Senior, Preparatory and Pre-Preparatory schools. £21,990, 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. Last year we accompanied a staff-led party of twelve Millfield pupils to Lalibela during the October half-term. The visit was very successful. This year 18 pupils plus three members of staff visit Lalibela in October. The pupils have agreed to pay for a new water storage tank and improved water supply to the school. If sufficient money is raised by the pupils, electricity will be installed in the main classrooms to activate the plasma screens and the current sockets will be upgraded and made safe. It is hoped that the lavatory block can be females only and water connected. Textbooks and reference books will be supplied if excess money remains.
Plan UK Ethiopian sponsor-children – Somerset link
Somerset schools, organisations and individuals sponsor eight Ethiopian school children in and around Lalibela.