TWELVE Santa Maria College students will give up part of their summer holidays to travel to Ethiopia and volunteer at a school for children far less fortunate than themselves.
Led by Amanda Huxtable, Santa Maria College’s head of drama and dance, the students will work with Ethiopian teachers at the School of St Yared.
Founded by Yared Wolde, the school provides free, bilingual education to talented but impoverished children from the poorest areas of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa.
Mr Wolde, who was orphaned at six, spent three years fending for himself on the streets of Addis Ababa before finding his way to an orphanage where his time living rough manifested itself in a serious heart condition.
Noticing how sick he was, a visiting doctor arranged for then 12-year-old Yared to fly to Israel for open-heart surgery.
Mr Wolde has never forgotten the kindness shown to him in arranging the life-saving operation and the School of St Yared, established in 2009, is his way of passing on that gesture to others.
Ms Huxtable first visited the school in December 2011 and has spent part of her summer there every year since.
“What I love most is being with the kids,” she said.
“They come from hardships and poverty that I could never imagine, yet they are so positive, resilient and motivated to change their circumstances.
“We have children who are teaching their illiterate parents to sign their names, some of our older students are going home and teaching their siblings and the students are also teaching their families about key health issues and concerns and helping to build community.”
Since Ms Huxtable’s first trip five years ago, college students have raised more than $20,000 for the School of St Yared, but this is the first time students will go to Ethiopia themselves.
“The girls will be sharing their learning experiences from Australia with the students and teachers in Ethiopia in order to make the curriculum more engaging and student focused,” Ms Huxtable said.
“From my experiences it is what takes place outside of the classroom that will make this an enriching and rewarding opportunity for the Santa Maria students.
“It is the games played, the songs sung, the dances danced and the sharing of culture and conversation that will open minds and hearts.”
Founded by Perth woman Jacqui Gilmour, Hope for Children has been operating in Ethiopia for over a decade and oversees the School of St Yared project.
The school currently caters for close to 220 kindergarten and elementary level students and there are plans to expand all the way to Year 12 level in coming years.
Yared Wolde spoke to the Rotary Club of Attadale last year and the club is now spearheading a push to raise $250,000 that will go towards building new classrooms for the students.
The Club is in the process of building a house in Beeliar that will be sold early next year with all profits going towards the project.
Anybody interested in joining the fundraising push can contact Rotary Club of Attadale president John Sharp on 0419 833 953 or international service director Mal Bennett on 0413 833 747.