This weekend, approximately 130 RPCVs from Ethiopia, going back to the early 1962 and the first group of PCVs, traveled back to Addis Ababa. Arriving at the International Airport, they were met by the Minister of Education and other officials of the Ethiopia government, were hosted by the American Ambassador at the Embassy and yesterday, Monday morning, September 24, they were bussed to Jubilee Palace, Emperor Haile Selassie’s former residence, and greeted for a sit down meeting with the new President of Ethiopia, Ato Girma Wolde Giorgis. “He was not only very obviously happy to welcome us,” one RPCV wrote afterwards, “he also answered our questions at length and with aplomb.”
This sort of ‘reception’ for former Volunteers returning to their host countries is not unusual. We are remembered fondly in many places in the world. But what is surprising, and gratifying, is seeing how many RPCVs continue their service to their host country. Take Nancy Ross, who was a PCV in Ethiopia years ago.
As a PCV she was involved in the establishment of a center serving vulnerable children in Adama ( once knew as Nazareth). She was not able to return this week to Ethiopia, but she asked if anyone was going to Adama, and would they look in on the Center and tell her their impressions.
This Center is under the oversight of The De Lasalle Reproductive Association which was formed to provide HIV information and serves orphaned and vulnerable youth by teaching them tumbling and music. The center is on the grounds of Bosset, a government primary school. Teachers receive about $20 per month half time-so they are primarily volunteering. There are 450 orphaned and vulnerable children ages 2-8 who attend. It is supported by the Association and small fees of about $1 a month although initially a Peace Corps seed grant helped pay the teachers.
In her Peace Corps days, Nancy raised money to buy materials to build the school. “It is a primitive building,” she recalls, “We started with canvas and Save the Children USA donated some tables, helped obtain running water, and provided funding for the out house.”
Soloman Gidhay was Nancy’s local collaborator. He was an unpaid volunteer who formed the Association and is constantly working to raise funds for his projects. Last year he got a local hotel to sponsor a holiday party for the school, and while Nancy was back in-country on one of her return visits, she and Soloman worked on other projects such as obtaining an Embassy grant to help the program for the vulnerable youth, and start an urban garden for the caretakers of children at the center.
Yes, Nancy has completed her Peace Corps tour. She has come home again, but she left her heart with the children she is still helping in Ethiopia.