Nick Gray visited Kibron and Adera, two children sponsored by his friends Fiona Ring and Paul Edmonds, eleven years after his friends first joined our Sponsorship Programme. Here’s his account of his experience in Gonder. Enjoy the read and the pictures!
Gonder, Ethiopia, January 2015
In 2004, Paul Edmunds, Fiona Ring and I were in Ethiopia, filming for the BBC series ‘Grown Up Gappers’. Paul had decided to take a career break, and travel round Africa: he agreed to let the BBC film his progress for the series. Fiona and I were the producers tagging along with him. When we caught up with him in Gonder, Paul introduced us to Katie Fereday, whom he had just met. “You must film her,” he said, “she’s amazing.” Katie is the founder of The Kindu Trust, a charity helping children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. By the time we left Gonder, both Paul & Fiona decided to sponsor children. Eleven years later, I am back in Ethiopia with some friends on our way to the Simien Mountains for a weeklong trek, and can find out what has happened to the two children.
On January 10th, I meet up in Gonder with the redoubtable Katie Fereday, who has now given up day-to-day direction of The Kindu Trust. Her new interest is the Empress Mentewab School which she has established in Dip Bahir, a remote village near the Simien Mountains. With her is Tom, aged 9, one of her two adopted children. Katie has hardly changed in 11 years since we filmed her. Her enthusiasm knows no bounds, she exudes goodness, and she never stops talking.
Katie introduces me to Marta Bekele, the Sponsorship Manager for The Kindu Trust. Walking around Gonder with Katie is like accompanying Angelina Jolie in downtown New York. Many greet her as an old friend, and some fall to their knees, and kiss her feet, or, in one case, showing even more respect by kissing the ground in front of her feet. She has done so much to help people in the town.
A week later, on our return from the Simien Mountains, I get a chance to visit the two sponsored boys, Kibron and Adera, with Marta. In my pocket is some money for them from their sponsors, Paul and Fiona. Both boys live in ramshackle rooms, made of wood and mud in an area of pitifully poor housing, which, surprisingly, is dotted with satellite dishes. The boys look remarkably healthy, are full of life, and have impressive plans for their futures.
Kibron lives with his mother and is now 18 years old. He told me about his schoolwork. Particularly keen on History, which includes ‘Civics & Ethical Education’ taught in English, he wants to train to be a lawyer. If he works hard he can get to University to study Law in four years time. He is captain of his football team, and plays on a dangerously hard, gravel-strewn pitch nearby – no sliding tackles there. He supports Manchester United. I ask him if he had been to Lalibela (“No”), or Addis (“No”). But Marta said that he had been in a group that the Kindu Trust had taken to the Simien Mountains, and he was so exhilarated to be out in the country that he climbed up one of the sheer precipices, stopped halfway and had to be talked down. When I present them with the US$50 that Fiona wanted me to give him, he is extremely grateful. Kibron says that he will use it to buy new trousers for the Timkat Epiphany celebrations (yes, he needed some), and his foster-mother says they will buy some corrugated iron to put on the roof of his room. At the moment it leaks during the rainy season.
When we filmed Adera eleven years ago, he was four-years-old and suffering from malnutrition, but with a cheeky smile. When we find him, I immediately recognise that smile. Adera is now fifteen, and an athletic teenager. He too is captain of his football team (under-16’s), and, yes, a fan of Manchester United! He lives with his grandmother Ageri, who we also filmed, in the same tiny house. Support from his sponsor Paul, and the Kindu Trust, has allowed her to build a tiny bar, and she makes tella, a kind of weak beer, which she sells to locals. Adera looks at me, and asks Marta: “Is this my sponsor, because he is not the man in the photo I have?” He does his best not to look disappointed. Ageri gives us coffee, and injera, and when I hand over the US$50 from Paul, they are very grateful. Adera wants a satellite dish, but his grandmother says that they will spend the money on clothes, and food, including the staple teff to make injera. They are also planning to install a water-tap. Eleven years ago, Paul told Adera to “study hard, and help your grandmother”: I can report that he is doing both. He too has an ambitious plan: he wants to train to be a doctor.
Both boys are impressive: pleasant and good-natured, bright and intelligent. They are excellent examples of the success of sponsorship. With a staff of 18, The Kindu Trust is at present helping 328 families in Gonder; it is a great achievement.
At the end of a very interesting afternoon, Marta, Kibron and I went to the Terrace Bar at the Quara Hotel, and drank smoothies – orange, guava and avocado juice in layers. Delicious!
© Nick Gray