As opposed to writing my Ethiopian experience in “article form”,
I decided to compile everything into one huge case study.
This, I found to be easier to put together as well as
more detailed and neater looking.
MY TIME SPENT
BY ANNE GICHUKI
AFRICA IN ME
So, I have been in Ethiopia for about 7 weeks now.
It's been quite interesting, let me say.
Although it had it's downs, the ups I had here, I hold dear to my heart.
People, things and places in Ethiopia
let me tell you about them.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Meet the intern
What is AIESEC?
What is Africa In Me?
Fresh and Green
Up The Hill
Stories From Other Interns
Stefani De Roover
My Personal Experience
MEET THE INTERN
My name is Anne Gichuki. I am a Kenyan citizen and a student at Daystar University in
Kenya. I am 19 years old and I enjoy reading, meeting interesting folk and going on
This summer, I went to Ethiopia on internship with AIESEC.
In Ethiopia, I participated in the “Africa In Me” project.
I was asked to write stories that set Africa in a multidimensional image – a positive image
that the rest of the world could appreciate because contrary to popular belief, Africa is
not a dying place.
But, let us not get ahead of ourselves.
Let me explain a couple of things first.
WHAT IS AIESEC?
The year 1948 marked the end of the second world war. Almost a decade of atrocities that should never ever be repeated.
A group of university students came together and founded, “AIESEC”. A platform for young people to discover and develop
their potential to provide leadership for a positive impact on the society around them.
To do this, they figured the best way was to send students on exchange to different countries so that they could see how
other people in the world live. This would develop intercultural relationships and encourage open mindedness and
friendliness between people of different races, tribes and religions. Just as important, the exchange participant would
have the chance to make an impact in this new society. A little goes a long way. True to this, now - over 60 years later,
AIESEC is available in over 1000 universities across 100 countries all over the world. Through AIESEC nearly 300,000
exchanges have taken place and a multitude of lives all across the globe has been impacted.
WHAT IS AFRICA IN ME?
Africa in Me is a global branding campaign that aims to showcase the continent to the world to make AIESEC in Africa the
first choice destination for internships globally. Africa in Me is based around an online portal, africainme.org, as well as a
set of activities designed to engage incoming EPs (exchange participants) during their stay in different countries in Africa
and allow them to explore African culture as well as document their experience for their origin LC (local chapter), while
showcasing on africainme.org.
The purpose of Africa in Me is to promote Africa as a first choice destination for internships in the AIESEC network by
creating a multidimensional image of African continent through stories of youth
contributing to impact the society.
Africa in Me activities are:
ePic Moment | Untold Africa | EsSense | Activ8 Joy
Alrightie! Now that we've got that sorted,
“Stories to inspire”
(While in Ethiopia, I had the chance to visit 3 special schools. These schools have NGO backing and serve to educate the
underprivileged children in the communities around them.)
This is a school started up by a local NGO, “ENPA” which is an abbreviation for, Education for Needy People Association.
The “La Scuolina” school was started only 3 years ago (back in 2009) and, at the time, a piece of land in Kotebe area and a
vision was all the people at ENPA had.
They pulled their resources together and were able to acquire funding from well wishers – particularly a group of Italian
teachers employed at various international schools in Addis Ababa.
Today, the school has a playground, dining room, classrooms, toilets, offices and a kitchen. They have taken 75 students
under their wing and the numbers keep improving. But aside from numbers, these children get a quality education. At La
Scuolina, they also provide meals for the children. Now that schools have closed for the summer holidays, in the
afternoons at La Scuolina, there is a group of older children who come from a local primary school (which is closed for the
summer) to have afternoon summer classes. This is another 46 children.
The classes officially offered at the school are lower kindergarten, upper kindergarten and nursery. The teachers at La
Scuolina are kind and patient with the children (we all know how troublesome kids can be sometimes) and the whole
school is always happy to welcome visitors.
When my friends and I visited there, we were met with a warm smile from Mr. Kaleb. He is the school's manager. We got
to have a chat with him as he showed us around the school. As he spoke, I could sense the sincerity in his words. For him,
working at a place like this was quite the reward. He took us to all the classrooms and he spoke to the children like they
were old friends.
We got to introduce ourselves in each classroom and all the children were visibly pleased. I was also surprised at their
command of the English language. It was not perfect, but they understood what we said and would reply when they
After we introduced ourselves, we sat in on one of the classes that was being led 2 AIESEC interns. The interns had been
teaching there for about 4 weeks now but the children still sat up and listened intently to what they were being taught.
On that particular day, they learned about various means of transport and English greetings.
After class, it was play time. The children all ran out onto the playground (dragging us with them) and we all made one
huge circle – then the fun began. My friends and I had the chance to go down memory lane as the children sang popular
nursery rhymes (in Amharic, though) and played childhood game after childhood game.
At the end of that day, Mr. Kaleb asked us if we would come back the following day. The whole school was organising a
hike up a nearby hill and we were invited. We promised to be back early the next morning and bade him goodbye. As we
were leaving, all the children ran up to us and insisted on giving each of us a peck on the cheek. Several kisses later, we
were on our way back to Mexico area.
La Scuolina gate from the inside
Introducing ourselves to the kids
Toys and arts and crafts tools used by the children
A couple of the kids at La Scuolina
Welcome sign done by Mr. Kaleb
FRESH AND GREEN ACADEMY
The next school we visited was the Fresh and Green Academy right in the middle of Kotebe area. This school was started
by a Ms. Muday Mitiku. Right after she was done with high school, thirteen years ago, she had a lot of free time on her
hands and saw that there were a lot of “blanks” in the community around her. Gaps that needed to be filled in order for
development to take place. One of the things that was wanting, was a school for the underprivileged children around her.
Muday was only 18 years old at the time, but she was determined to do something about the situation in her community.
She too looked for funding and was able to start up the Fresh and Green Academy thanks to the help of well wishers in
Ethiopia and in various places in the world like America and Europe. At the Fresh and Green Academy the classes are from
lower kindergarten to grade 6. Muday plans on expanding the school up to grade 8 as her children advance in grade. She
also offers meals to the children at her school and she helps to rehabilitate the women in these children's lives who would
otherwise turn to desperate measures so as to make ends meet. The women get training at Fresh and Green and learn to
be independent and entrepreneurial as well. Some of them even work at the Fresh and Green Academy.
On a sunny Sunday morning, my friends and I visited the Fresh and Green Academy. This particular Sunday was a special
one – not just because the sun was out in July in Ethiopia – but because on that day the preschoolers at Fresh and Green
were graduating. It was so cute seeing them all seated to one side in their robes. Each of them got a gift with their friends
and family in attendance. There were various performances from older children at Fresh and Green and even from the
teachers and guardians. The whole ceremony was conducted in Amharic and though my knowledge of the language
doesn't go beyond basic greetings, I would like to imagine the conversations went something like this;
“Our children have worked very hard and we are grateful to all of you here today...”
“That's my daughter up there, she is going to become a doctor when she grows up...”
“Mama, papa, grandmother, we all came to support our child...”
“Oh my, you are such a good dancer! Where did you learn to move like that?”
“We have gotten this far, but we still have some way to go. Godspeed...”
THE JOY CENTRE
The third school we visited was the “Joy Centre.” A school for children with Autism located in Addis Ababa. The story of
the school's inception is truly touching. It all started with a then 4 year old boy named Jojo. One day while his father was
watching television, a program on autism was on and he realised that his son had most of the symptoms described on the
show. When Jojo turned 8, his mother – Mrs. Zemi Yunus - took him to England where he was officially diagnosed with
Jojo's older brother Billal had always wanted to help other children in Ethiopia living with the same condition as his
brother. So, with his humble donation that consisted of items such as video games and a television, the Joy Centre was
able to open its doors. Billal was able to pave the way for the NIA foundation which started with the Joy Centre and has
expanded to accommodate other community welfare organisations.
The name “Joy Centre” is a derivative of “Jojo” and the name also works as a place that brings joy to children who would
otherwise be considered lesser than their counterparts. The centre started with 4 children, then 9, then 12 and today, it
has over 70 children enrolled.
When we visited the Joy Centre we had the chance to sit with the children in various classes. I sat with one particularly
cheerful boy – about 11 or 12 years old as he strung beads together to make a necklace and I also made the acquaintance
of a young girl who communicated primarily in song and welcomed me with a kiss on either cheek.
My friends and I also met a group of young volunteers who had chosen to dedicate their Tuesday and Thursday afternoons
to helping around at the Joy Centre. Though we were not permitted to take photographs within the centre, the memories
of that visit will stay with us for a long, long time.
Gate to the Joy Centre
“Powerful African stories captured in images”
(While in Addis Ababa, I manged to come across something I do not think I will ever forget, perhaps you will agree with me, this was
On our way back to Mexico from La Scuolina we had so much to talk about. We were all excited from all the running
around we had done with the kids and all the fuss they had made about us – it's nice to feel so appreciated.
A group of donkeys (what's the collective word for that? Hmm...) all alone ran past us – they looked like they were in
quite the hurry. The ran all the way down the hill, turned the corner and were gone. Needless to say, these seemingly busy
donkeys became the topic of discussion and stemmed several jokes as we continued our walk down to the bus stop.
Unfortunately, I hadn't had my camera out to film the donkeys as they ran past – a sight like that is something everyone
should see at least once, I think – it was hilarious. So I quickly reached into my bag and took out my camera. I pressed the
record button as we strolled along, determined not to miss any more interesting happenings that day.
I was walking absentmindedly along including everything and nothing in particular in my film when I captured what would
be my epic moment. A small shop stood by the side of the road. It had all the usual things a neighbourhood kiosk would
have. The shop owner stood inside the shop and on spotting us walking by, he raised his fist up and yelled, “Africa United,”
in our direction.
The two interns who had been working at La Scuolina (and were walking with us) and had been coming up this way for the
past month explained to us that that particular shop keeper had done that every morning and evening he had seen them
We all laughed, raised our fists and yelled back, “Africa United!” This was
much to the shop owner's amusement. I didn't think about it again until
later on when I was watching the video. To have captured that shop
keeper at exactly that moment seemed like such a blessing. With all the
sincerity of his words – they came from himself and were not coaxed out
of him. He had obviously realised that we were foreigners (this whole
time our cheery-tourist-disposition had made us stick out like sore
thumbs) and those two words, for me,
were just the perfect welcome. Even though I had been in Addis Ababa
for several weeks by then.
I don't know what he was thinking of exactly that first time he yelled, “Africa United,” to my fellow interns. Or why he kept
saluting them in this way without fail each time they walked by. I figure, thinking about magical moments like that too
much ruins the aestheticism.
Let us conclude that this particular fellow is just a bit too awesome and leave it at that.
“Playing for a purpose”
(Though my friends and I did not get to organise a sporting event in the community around us, we sort of fulfilled this
Africa In Me activity. This, we did when we went on that hike I had mentioned earlier with the kids at La Scuolina.)
UP THE HILL
So, we didn't get to the school as bright and early as we had promised, but we must have apologised to Mr. Kaleb and the
rest of the staff like one thousand times (figuratively). In their usual polite manner, they insisted that it was alright and
asked us to sit and watch the kids as they continued to make preparations for the journey. That morning all the school
children were out in the playground. They sat quietly as a few of the older children stood before them and acted out a
drama skit. It was in Amharic and I did not understand much of it - all I had to go on was what I saw. Afterwards, they
arranged themselves into rows and began to sing nursery rhymes and played a couple of games. That day, the kids were
even more energetic than on the previous day, if you can believe it. I think they were all very excited to be going on the
hike. Soon enough, w e were off.
Outside the school's gate, Mr. Kaleb showed me the mountain peak, sorry, “hill top” that we would be climbing up to. He
said that it looked pretty far, but the walk up would be quite short using a pathway he knew. “Okay!” I said. I was ready for
this. I was well rested and I had on proper shoes. This would be easy.
Goodness, we walked. And walked. And walked. All the while, the kids tugged at our clothes and encouraged us to race
them up (I remember thinking how old we had become). Occasionally, we passed a berry bush and you'd see lots of the
little people crowd around and pluck some. One of the little girls I was walking with offered me some of the berries. They
didn't taste much like anything. But they were good, I suppose. I myself used to savour these exact berries back in my
lower primary school days. Bushes just like those had been all over the school compound.
It was not long before a few of us were left behind as the more eager ones ran ahead. More power to them, I say. One of
the staff members walking with us started to sing songs as we walked. In Amharic and in English. We all sang along and
danced when they could. The singing really was a lot of fun. It made the rest of the hike shorter, I think. A little while later,
we got to a clearing with a large- big, huge – open field. The kids didn't even need to be told, they just ran out there and
started to play. Like we hadn't just been hiking up a steep hill for the past 40 minutes. After we had rested for a bit, we
joined in. We taught them how to play, “three sticks” but only the older ones really got it, we had a dancing game, we
raced and jumped and hid and found and laughed and ran some more.
Soon, we were on our way again. We still had not got up to the hill top Mr. Kaleb had shown me. About 10 minutes of
walking and we were there - the hill top I never thought we would see. From way up there, we had a stunning ariel view of
the whole of, I kid you not, Addis Ababa. It was magnificent. Suddenly, the walk up here did not seem so long anymore. It
was worth it.
We couldn't stay up there too long, though, it started to rain. It was so funny – us making our way back down the hill again
- using another route that no one seemed to be completely familiar with. We tried to be as fast as we could, but after a
while, my friends and I just stopped and looked at each other and laughed. We all looked pretty helpless up in a hill forest
in the rain. When we finally got back down the hill, the rain had stopped. We were surprised to find that most of the
children we had been on the hike with had long gotten home, changed out of their school uniform and were now playing
with their neighbourhood friends. I knew we had been slow going up the hill and coming down, but had we really been
Me and two of my hiking buddies – this is “the slow team”, by
the way. :D
We finally caught up with the others at the clearing
STORIES FROM OTHER INTERNS
Stefani Johanna Antonia De Roover
(Tilburg University, Netherlands)
She is 21 years old and came in all the way from Europe, ladies and gentlemen!
To her own admission, she is not a member of AIESEC and is only an exchange participant. She learned about the exchange
opportunities from fliers put up in her university. She was a volunteer at the Joy Centre and says she chose this particular
opportunity because she has a cousin who is autistic – it did not matter so much what country the opportunity to work at
a centre for autistic students was in.
Stefani worked at the Joy Centre for 5 weeks during her exchange experience. She says that she had a good time there,
interacting with the children and the friendly staff members helped her adjust. She also learned a little Amharic to help
her communicate with the children there.
She also says that at first she was a little taken a back because the autism cases she saw at the Joy Centre were not as
serious as the ones she had encountered back in her home country. The staff members at the Joy Centre have received
special training on how to deal with autistic children, and because Stefani had not, she sometimes felt like she could not
make much of a difference – but this reporter begs to differ. I saw Stefani play and chat with the children on my visit to the
Joy Centre like they were old friends. She has definitely imprinted on the lives at the Joy Centre.
Once she returns home, Stefani plans on trying to encourage a partnership between the Joy Centre and one of the autistic
organisations in the Netherlands.
She is also planning on officially joining AIESEC.
(Zhongnan University of Economics & Law, Wuhan – China)
Chen xi (Short form, Cece) has been working at Promise Keepers, a school for underprivileged children in Addis Ababa, for
three weeks now. She is teaching spoken English to grades 1 through 4 but occasionally takes over the grade 5 to 8
classes. The children she teaches, she says, are very attentive and eager to learn. Sometimes, they even try to mimic the
basic Kung Fu demonstration she gave them when she first got there. Cece says her time in Ethiopia so far has been good.
She commends AIESEC Ethiopia and would recommend Ethiopia as a destination for exchange.
(Daystar University, Kenya)
Rebecca is a twenty one year old from Kenya who has been working on the EduPower Underprivileged project in La
Scuolina. She has been a member of AIESEC Daystar in Kenya for the last two years and this is the second exchange she
has been on so far. Her experience in Ethiopia, in her words, has been full of ups and downs (and not just because of the
From how she speaks about her job, you can tell that she loves it. She smiles as she mentions the children at La Scuolina
every time without fail. Her colleagues were friendly and the children, she says, gave her a very good reason to get up
every morning. Besides being her duty, the work was rewarding in its own way. Before she got to the gates, the kids would
run towards her excitedly, take her hand and walk her to school. At the end of the day, the children would follow her from
the school giving her hugs and kisses as if saying “well done!”
This is her second exchange so far and she didn't think she would learn as much as she has so far. Although she will be sad
to say goodbye to such warm and loving people as the ones she has met in Ethiopia, she is looking forward to many more
exchanges in the future.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
While in Addis Ababa, we moved around a lot. It was a bother – packing, unpacking and then packing again – but at least I
can say I lived all over the place while I was here.
Our first afternoon in Addis Ababa, we met with other AIESEC interns from Italy and Ireland. We all sat and had a meal
together. All of us had been in the country for only a day at the most and we still didn't know what to expect, what we
should have expected was a lot.
While in Ethiopia, I got to visit many places.
The museum in Addis Ababa – is home to “Lucy.” Lucy is the oldest human fossil to be discovered, yet. The amazing thing
about Lucy is that, though her remains date back to 3.2 million ago, she appears to have been walking fully upright.
Also in the Museum, we saw other human fossils that had been discovered in Ethiopia as well. Not as impressive as Lucy,
but interesting still.
We also saw a lot of earthen wear, jewelry and weapons that were used in ancient Ethiopia. Some of these things dated
back to the BC era.
In the main area of the museum, we got to see a few of Emperor Haille Selassie's possessions. His musket, his royal army
robes, his crown and his gigantic throne.
Also in the museum, we saw a lot of art work done by Ethiopian artists. Some of them were fairly recent, others were as
old as 70 years.
Outside the museum, we got to see one of the first cars to ever be brought into Ethiopia. Save for a little rust and the
interior looking worn, it seemed to be in good condition. Unfortunately, I am not a car-guru in the least sense so I can't tell
you what make and model the car is. Perhaps, you should come down to Addis Ababa and see for yourself?
Our fourth week here, a few of us interns went on a trip to Haramaya under the AIESEC Ethiopia MC. The purpose? It was
time for AIESEC Ethiopia's National Planning Conference. Haramaya is an old Ethiopian town located East of Addis Ababa.
We were told that the journey would take about 9 hours including a rest stop. I like road trips, though, so I didn't mind and
on the bus we were with all these other interns from all around the world who had come to Ethiopia under AIESEC for
exchange as well. The way to Haramay is pretty basic. Just follow the road East, out of Addis and drive on for about 5
hours. You will get to the base of some hills. Proceed up into the hills and stay on that straight road for another 4 hours
and you're there. We were travelling in an old rickety bus, though. And it kept breaking down so the trip ended up taking
16 hours altogether. Over the next few days, however, I really got to learn what AIESEC is all about. Making an impact in
the world one life at a time. Encouraging youth leadership. Encouraging friendliness and appreciation across cultures.
Being a Kenyan, Ethiopia has always seemed like that distant relative you have come to all the family gatherings, but never
says much. I literally had not the faintest clue of what life was like for our neighbours up north.
Now, I know a few things about them. The like to eat bread and they like to eat a special traditional fermented bread
called injera – which is made from “Teff” - a grain native to Ethiopia. Ethiopians also like to eat with their hands and
always invite the person sitting next to them to share their meal. They even go further in their “brotherly-ness” by feeding
the companion they are eating with. This is known as, “Gursha.”
Ethiopians like to dance and are very proud of their heritage. The women still wear their hair in traditional hairdo's and
the men still wear traditional Ethiopian clothes. For a foreigner, though, purchasing these garments is quite expensive.
Ethiopia also has the largest per capital density of cattle in Africa.
Ethiopia is the home of the Black Jews, known as the Falashas, or Beta Israel. Ethiopia adopted Christianity in the 4th
century, making it one of the oldest Christian nations in the world. Islam also appeared early in Ethiopia, during the time
of Mohammed, when his followers fled persecution in Arabia and sought refuge in Ethiopia.
Emperor Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia, is worshipped by Rastafarians as a devine being. In fact, their name
comes from Haile Selassie's birth name, Ras Tafari, which means "Prince Tafari".
There are more than 80 different ethnic groups in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is the only country in Africa with its own unique
script. Ethiopia claims to hold the Ark of the Covenant as well as a piece of the True Cross on which Jesus was crucified.
Ethiopia remains one of the only nations in Africa never to be colonized. It was occupied briefly by the Italians from 1936
The best thing I learnt about Ethiopia, though is that they love foreigners. Those who can speak English are always ready
to translate signs and messages for foreigners and they are always curious to know, “Where are you coming from?”
If you happen to say you come from Kenya, they will go, “Ah, Kenya! Our brothers.”
So, there it is.
My Ethiopia story.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed experiencing it.