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 25,000 with over 300,000 Ethiopians eking out a subsistence living in the mountainous, deforested, 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 thirteen years since our plane`s flight was delayed. We return annually, a total of fourteen visits.
We have been amazed and humbled by people of all ages, schools and organisations in Glastonbury and central Somerset who have contributed towards our projects. Increasingly, we receive donations from recent visitors to Lalibela who feel the need to help.
The indigenous rural population 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 - a rollercoaster of emotions - which we thoroughly recommend.
Sadly, due to the state of emergency in Ethiopia, we were advised to cancel our October 2016 visit. The Millfield School party visit also did not go ahead.
We hope to coincide our next visit with the opening of the Lalibela hospital Maternity Unit in Spring 2017.
May 2012 - Charity Commission registration as LALIBELA TRUST - number 1147147
If you wish to contribute to our projects, please click for donation form in Word or as a PDF
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.
As one of our sons, who came with us in 2006, said in an article - "what my parents witnessed that day marked the beginning of a process that has raised tens of thousands of pounds for the people of Lalibela."
PLAN - UK 2005 - 2011.
Back in the UK, we approached Plan-UK, the only international NGO working in Lalibela. Plan agreed to initiate, manage and complete suitable priority mutually agreed projects on the understanding we could raise £10,000 annually. £86,000 of our supporter`s money paid for thousands of insecticide-treated anti-malaria nets and a large supply of medical equipment for both the hospital and health centres. Also forty four post-obstetric fistulae women (accompanied by a relative) received transport, food and accomodation for her to undergo surgery at the world-famous Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital or the nearer outreach Bahar Dar Hospital - all financed by Lalibela Trust.
NORMAN AND CAROLE 2011 -
In 2010 we joined forces with a London based couple, Norman and Carole. Since 2000, they have visited Lalibela four times annually to discuss, prioritise, initiate, finance, manage and complete projects in partnership with the local Government Departments of Education, Health, Water and Agriculture. Their achievements, detailed below, are hugely impressive. They are currently the driving force behind the new stand-alone maternity unit in Lalibela Hospital which is financed by Lalibela Trust.
In 2016, Norman and Carole came second in the annual award for the best international project sponsored by Rotary. Although non-Rotarians, they were both awarded Rotary Paul Harris Fellowships as a recognition of their outstanding contribution to humanitarian and educational programmes. They are eager to further their links with Rotary organisations.
Norman and Carole`s achievements since 2000
Spring Improvement Projects - 62 completed, 7 under construction, 2 failed.
Schools - 22 classrooms completed.
Health Posts - 14 completed.
Irrigation projects - 2 completed.
Lalibela Trust contribution since 2011
2015 - The construction of a maternity unit in the compound of Lalibela Hospital (see current projects).
Seven of the fourteen completed health posts.
Ten of the sixty-two Spring Improvement Projects.
30 bench desks for rural school.
Millfield School - Lalibela High School link
Since 2004, nearly £40,000 raised by the pupils of the Millfield Schools, has installed safe water to the school, an electricity supply to the classrooms, three IT rooms with new computers, 100 bench desks, sports equipment, 1,000+ text and reference books.
In 2013, a staff-led party of twelve Millfield pupils first visited during the October half-term. In 2014 and 2015, sixteen pupils visited. The visits have been hugely successful and thoroughly enjoyed - as one student said - " a once in a lifetime experience".
16 pupils have signed up to visit Lalibela this October half-term.
Plan UK Ethiopian sponsor-children – Somerset link
Somerset schools and individuals sponsor five Ethiopian school children in and around Lalibela.