A Volunteer’s Experience in Gondar

On 5th November 2013, I arrived in Gondar to begin a 6 week volunteer placement with The Kindu Trust. As a former Specialist HIV Social Worker in the UK, my remit was to work with TKT Mothers Coffee Morning Group, assessing health and social care needs, promoting HIV/AIDS awareness amongst the group and the staff, and evaluating existing services provided to mothers of TKT sponsored children, who are currently living with HIV/AIDS. Despite experiencing some initial apprehension about travelling alone, into the unknown, when I met ‘outgoing’ General Manager Ato Kassahun at Gondar Airport, I immediately knew that I was in safe hands. My first impressions of Kindu Trust Ethiopian team were that they were an extremely welcoming, hard-working, dedicated and committed team – who also enjoyed a good night out!

Jane with members of the Mothers Coffee Morning on World AIDS day

Jane with members of the Mothers Coffee Morning on World AIDS day

I quickly settled into the routine of daily working at the project. The Mothers Coffee Morning Group met fortnightly, so my time was divided between interviewing individual members and completing questionnaires, talking to the group as a whole and providing them with general training on HIV and disclosure of HIV status to their children and families. I also had the opportunity to investigate HIV health care provision in Gondar by visiting an HIV clinic at a local health centre, and HIV testing clinics at Gondar Hospital. I am extremely grateful to Tadele, TKT Project Manager, for his assistance in interpreting and facilitating outside visits. I had travelled to Africa with a number of pre-conceived ideas about communities devastated by the AIDS epidemic, but was surprised and delighted to find that in Gondar, HIV treatments were free and widely available. The HIV+ mothers needing treatment who I met, had no problem in accessing and taking the medication exactly as prescribed, and HIV testing was considered as a normal and sensible precaution against the spread of HIV/AIDS. Although stigma was apparent at some level, the Mothers Coffee Morning Group proved to be an amazingly strong and mutually supportive band of women. The majority had disclosed their HIV status to family and friends, as well as to the wider community. Their resilience was confirmed by their willingness to wear red ribbons (as did most of the staff) on 1st December – World AIDS Day. My work with the Mothers Coffee Morning Group was extremely interesting and rewarding.  I am optimistic, that with some further assistance, the group will continue to go from strength to strength, improving their own lives and the lives of their children.

Women working on toys for children at Gondar Hospital as part of income generating activities for the Mothers Coffee Morning

Women working on toys for children at Gondar Hospital as part of income generating activities for the Mothers Coffee Morning

I was also fortunate during my time at Kindu Trust to be able to assist with teaching English to Kindu Club children, to help out with report writing in the Sponsorship Office, to blow up balloons for the Kindu Playgroup children (which invariably ended in tears as numerous balloons burst!) and to talk to visitors to promote the organisation, encouraging them to sponsor children and make lots of purchases from the shop. I was honoured to be involved in the selection process for the new General Manager, as well as sad to say goodbye to Ato Kassahun, whose long and dedicated service to TKT, ended on the same day as my volunteer placement. I would like to thank all the staff from The Kindu Trust, UK and Ethiopian teams, for providing me with this incredible opportunity to volunteer in Ethiopia.  I will never forget the hospitality, warmth and kindness shown to me during my time spent in Gondar. I would also like to congratulate everyone involved in the excellent work that is being done by TKT, and to wish them even greater success in the future.

Jane Attwool volunteered in Gondar for 6 weeks in August last year. To find out more about volunteering with The Kindu Trust in Ethiopia check out our page on volunteering or ring us at the UK office.

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