Editor’s Note: Bradley Tarrance was on our Mocha Club Ethiopia trip #1 from June 25th-July 2nd, 2008.
Bradley (bottom center with hat) with teachers in Ethiopia
When I returned from Ethiopia, the most common question I got was, “How was Africa?” What a loaded question. The easiest way to answer it is, “Life changing.” I’ll share one of many experiences I had while there.
I am a teacher in Michigan. Three of my tripmates (who also happened to be teachers) and I had the opportunity to visit some classrooms in the town of Ambo, Ethiopia. The teachers were all from Ethiopia so we needed a translator. There was a “Q&A” forum, where many normal classroom issues were brought up, and we did our best to give advice. One of the teachers, around my age, took a sort of bonding to me. He pulled me to the side a few times and talked with me. He told me he has 42-50 children in his classroom, with only one chalkboard, not enough seats, no paper, pencils, or pens. I was astonished. I work in an extremely low-income area (Flint, Michigan) and work with underprivileged children. In this small town in Ethiopia, hundreds of children were coming to learn, and there were not enough resources to teach them. Of course I could use more resources in my classroom back home, but this was unheard of.
The next logical question I asked was, “What can we do to help?” The response I received surprised me. It was not money, pencils, paper, or a new chalkboard. All of these items would be greatly appreciated, but the principal and teachers asked only for our prayers. Just to simply keep them in mind and pray that they will have the strength and power to change the young lives of Ethiopia.
We had about a three hour ride back to Addis Ababa after this encounter. It gave me time to reflect on what they wanted from us. It then occurred to me that this learning center represents the entire culture. They do not need material things in the same sense that we do. What makes them motivated and just plain happy in life is to have one another and people believing in them.
I’ve taken back to the U.S. many lessons from my trip. The most important one, I believe, is that material items in this world do not mean as much as we think they do. Sure, my friends love my Jeep in the summer, we have cookouts on a friend’s nice patio overlooking a lake, we ride our motorcycles across country and enjoy a lot of the things we have. But as I learned in Ethiopia, true happiness is only found in one another, not in the material things.
>> VIEW MORE PHOTOS from this trip!