The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

Supporting Schooling in Lalibela

Author - Pat and Philip Alker


Our first visit to Ethiopia was Autumn 2006 and we had no idea what to expect - but what an experience. Like many before us, we just fell in love with the people and the country. We have experienced the hospitality of the people, the delights of the highlands, historic churches and awe inspiring scenery, the tribes of the Southern Nations and the city of Harar and so much more in between.

Dagnachew and Makonen in the Lal Hotel, Lalibela, March 2009
Dagnachew and Makonen in the Lal Hotel, Lalibela, March 2009
Photo © Pat & Philip Alker

Mekonen and Dagnachew both had to live in Lalibela in order to finish their education as their home village was a seven hour walk away. On some Saturdays their parents attended the local market and brought food to the boys. When we met the boys they only had the clothes they were wearing and lived without electricity or running water or adequate sanitation. On our return to the UK we held a raffle and then started giving talks to help pay for accommodation, food and schooling. Mekonen's father Hailu is a subsistence farmer in a remote village who finds that he can never harvest enough food to feed his family and every year has to rely on food aid.

Talking to local women's groups in and around the West Yorkshire area, we try to raise awareness of the plight of people living in Sub Saharan Africa and continue to fund raise. Dagnachew is now living with family in Addis Ababa. Mekonen is still in Lalibela and we have raised enough for him to complete high school, plus two years at the local college where he has learnt about the ladies' garment trade. This September he started up his own ladies' garment business and is busy trying to earn enough to support himself. In 2007 and again in 2009 we returned to Lalibela and have met his father and younger brother. It has been a privilege to help him and his family.

Almaz and some of the orphans outside the grade 3 classroom in Dukem
Almaz and some of the orphans outside the grade 3 classroom in Dukem
Photo © Pat & Philip Alker

On our visit in 2007 we were taken to the Children and Women's Aid Organisation school for HIV/Aids orphans in Dukem and met Almaz who runs the organisation. The school was virtually without equipment, so in 2008 we sent 3 boxes of educational material. With the help of a local school in Kirklees, funding has been sent to help pay for lunch for the 100 children; most arrive at the school each day with an empty stomach. On days when lunch is not provided many of the children do not attend school but sell vegetables or shine shoes instead! In April 2009 we spent two delightful days at the school, entertaining the children and brightening their classrooms with school posters. Money raised has also paid for a cold water tap and electricity.

More talks are booked for 2010 and money raised will continue to be sent to Mekonen and the orphans in Dukem. We hope that it will not be too long before we return for our fourth trip, when we hope to visit Dallol.

First Published in News File Spring 2010

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