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Winrock International

Volunteer Post

International Day of the Girl Child

Jen Snow

October 11 is the (first ever) International Day of the Girl Child. Over the years, our volunteers have made a difference in the lives of many girls, whether it be by providing agricultural, entrepreneurship, or skills training to youth (girls and boys), or by increasing incomes and food security at the household level –to ensure that girls (and boys) have food to eat and money to pay for school fees or healthcare.

Last month, two volunteers – Hans Schmitz and William Horan from Purdue University –traveled to Ethiopia to work with girls and caretakers at Sebeta Getesemani Nunnery/Orphanage in Oromia, Ethiopia. Established in 1961, the Nunnery is situated on the premises of the former Palace of Empress Menen. There are approximately 85 Orthodox Christian nuns and 215 orphans at the nunnery – all women and girls. Many of the orphans have lost their parents to HIV/AIDs, famine, or civil wars. The nunnery has cows that provide milk as well as dairy products (yogurt and butter) that the women and girls use for self-consumption and for sale to the local community. Likewise, the nunnery has agriculture fields where they grow a variety of cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables.

While Hans conducted an informative training on dairy cattle management, Bill got the nuns and students excited about agriculture and life skills learning (demonstrating how to conduct practical soil fertility and pH tests, how to make compost, and aspects of conservation agriculture). Although the trainings took place during the rainy season, the skies were mostly clear, and Hans and Bill were able to mix their classroom training with hands-on field training. (See photos below)

Volunteer Hans Schmitz talks with Sebeta Getesemani Nunnery/Orphanage staff and youth about improved dairy practices
Volunteer Hans Schmitz talks with Sebeta Getesemani Nunnery/Orphanage staff and youth about improved dairy practices

The manager of the nunnery, Emahoy Firkter Mariam, is grateful for the support that they received.

“These two training sessions helped us to know the type of soil in our garden and what the dairy cows need from us to give us back good milk yield,” she explains. “My fellow nuns and youth gained life skills on soil testing techniques and dairy cow management. Looking at the committment of these volunteers from USA, we learned how much volunteerism means to members of the orphanage community. Thanks for coordinating and materializing this volunteer assignment!”

Hans and Bill were fortunate in that their assignment happened to overlap with the Ethiopian New Year holiday celebration. Both first time visitors to Ethiopia, they celebrated the day at the nunnery. The orphans performed dances, and Hans and Bill were offered a feast of Ethiopian food. Towards the end of his trip, Bill commented, “It was neat to see a new culture.”

Today, we celebrate the efforts of Hans and Bill, along with so many other volunteers who have dedicated their time to make the world a better place for girls around the world.

Happy International Day of the Girl Child!