Once a year, all Ashfield Meetings & Events employees are eligible to take a day away from their daily work tasks and role responsibilities, to be able to give back to a community or cause important to them.
Our Volunteering Day has already helped support many organisations, including Indiana Sports Corp Volunteers, For UK-based Senior Project Executive, Charlotte Clarke, her interest and compassion for the Kindu Trust took her to a whole other continent.
“In October, I experienced my volunteering day in Ethiopia. For around 10 years now, a team from my local church has been going out to visit the people of Gondar in the north of the country, and this year was my second time back with the group. Yet again, it was an incredible experience and I am already looking forward returning!
During the past decade, we have built a strong relationship with the community school in Gondar and a charity called the Kindu Trust. The Kindu Trust is a small Ethiopian sponsorship organisation that has been working for over 15 years to improve the futures of children in Ethiopia. They work with sponsored children to support them through school, their home life, university, with any medical bills and much more. These sponsorships come from people back home in the UK, with almost 300 children now being sponsored in Gondar and the surrounding areas.
As part of the work we do to support the charity, we hold a dinner and auction event before each trip, each time raising around £1,000. This money then goes towards buying food supplies for around 30 families. When we are in Gondar, we have the opportunity to go out and purchase the food, going around the market choosing the best produce, and my favourite part, the chickens! Each family receives enough food to feed themselves for a few weeks. It also gives us the opportunity to meet the families we sponsor and engage with the children the charity supports. We also take out donations of clothes, school supplies, toiletries and money that people generously provide – an enormous 13 suitcases worth this time! We then hand out these donations to the families and workers of the charity.
Providing a safe space
On a day-to-day basis, the charity opens its doors to the sponsored children; they support them with schoolwork, extra lessons, and run a kindergarten. It provides a safe space for the children to go and the work Marta (Head of the Kindu Trust) and the teams put into the charity really shows through the children.
Along with supporting the charity, we also volunteer at a local community school. This would usually happen in the mornings of our trip. We would arrive around 7:45 for the flag ceremony – something that happens every day, where the children sing the Ethiopian national anthem and the anthem local to Gondar. David, the head organiser, will then go into the lessons each day to teach each class some English, sing songs and read some couple of stories. The smiles on the children's faces really does show how much the work David does out there makes a difference. Even if we only go into the lessons for an hour, they are all looking for ‘Mr David’ each time we return.
My favourite part of the trip
Something new we started this year – my favourite part of the entire trip – was teaching girls how to make reusable sanitary towels. It's something I think we take for granted in the western world, and it doesn't cross our minds that this sort of product isn't widely available across globe. We took out four sewing machines with supplies, and each day taught three girls how to make the towels. The idea came about when reusable ones were purchased to take out on the last trip but at an expensive price; Karren, one of the regular volunteers, taught herself how to make her own, and then taught me. Together, we taught the girls at the school, and we also taught three of the teachers so that they can carry on teaching the skill once we left.
The initiative was greatly received and workshops were going to take place at the girls’ club on a weekly basis. I was pleased to hear that the school is currently still running the project, even without us there, and it is something that I really hope I still see happening when I return. The girls’ club has also chosen to make the products for those in severe poverty; it’s great news and will actually make a real difference!
The lasting impact
The difference that each visiting team has made over the last 10 years is incredible. My part so far has only been small, but I hope to go out again and again. The friendships that have been made and people that we have met is something I will never forget. Ethiopia is a beautiful country with beautiful people and is honestly one of my favourite places."
For more information on the Kindu Trust, take a look at their website to see the amazing work they do to support and change the lives of so many.