A few years ago, I volunteered at an orphanage called Ashley Haven in Lalibela, Ethiopia. What an incredible opportunity! I can’t even describe what a life-hanging experience that was. Also, the photo opportunities!!
I stayed at the orphanage in 2011 with the kids for 3 week and assisted the caregivers. I lived with the kids, ate meals with them, walked them to school m did lessons after school with them in their school room at the orphanage and just generally played around with them. I formed such an incredibly close bond with them, and we still keep in contact from time to time.
Lalibela itself is beautiful. It’s high up in the mountains and because of the altitude, the air is crisp and cool in the mornings and at night and hot during the middle of the day. The town (and Ethiopia in general) always smell like curry and spices mixed in with Frankincense , animals and unwashed bodies. It’s a strange mix to say the least! But it’s unique and I have never smelled another place like it.
There were so many wonderful photo opportunities while I was there. On Saturdays the kids and caregivers and cook and I all went down to the Saturday market which is where the locals do all their shopping for the week. There’s nothing you can’t buy at that market! Donkeys, chickens, raw honey (Lalibela is famous for it’s honey) still with bees drowned or buzzing around and sold by the cupful, hessian sacks of brilliantly hued spices, freshly dried chillies and garlic cloves all laid out on empty sacks, drying in the sun, ready to be pounded into Ethiopia’s national spice – Berbere. Visiting the market is definitely an experience to remember! While we were there, we gave the kids the equivalent of 1 dollar each to spend on whatever they wished. It surprised me to see some of the kids spend their money on vegetables and asked the cook to prepare them later that day. I expected the boys to want to purchase a soccer ball or other toy but instead they chose to buy cards with religious messages on them and stuck them above their beds. It was a huge contrast to what a child would buy back home if given a dollar. In Lalibela the orphaned children brought things they considered a necessity- food they knew would increase their health and religious cards they believe will help protect them in their future. I guess when you haven’t had the security of knowing your needs will be met, you don’t have head space to think about frivolous things like toys.