5 Oct 2011

Parasitic Volunteers

 Many times I’ve wondered over the volunteers that work in the third world.  Recognising without doubt the immense value of some there are however some that exist as parasite volunteers.  I’m talking about a species that resides in the countries of the third world, having no concrete project, without really being known.  During our last trip we encountered some in Sebeta.  Two of these we recognised from our trip in June.  They are a European couple that have been living in Sebeta for over a year and will probably live there for some years to come.  This couple have done nothing for the children of Sebeta.  They pass their days and receive their wage, which I assume would be more than they would receive in their home country and of course have much less expenses.  As a result of the creation of the Messi room and the reparation of all the bathrooms in Sebeta by Mediterranea they have become enthused.   They have told us that they have now painted the dormitories of the children…more than a year to eventually do something concrete.

There’s another volunteer from North America, who is also claiming merit for painting the walls.  This young man has also lived there for a year and will be there for at least another year.  He says that he put together the playground of one toboggan, a wheel and some swings.  This must have taken a day or maximum two days to do.  We don’t know what he does for the rest of the time, perhaps some painting but without fixing the cracks in the walls or the broken windows.  We saw the blind children passing their hands over these broken windows while orientating themselves.  I asked this young man whether his NGO could install new ones.  He told me that it would be very difficult.  I asked him if they could repair the cracks and he gave me the same answer.  To repair all the broken windows in the school, and there were many, I went to Sebeta village and paid 1000 birrs (42 Euros) to a glazier who fixed them all the same day.

But here’s the best part: the two Europeans arrived back from their holidays to their home country.  They left during the Ethiopian rainy season and returned when it ended and the cold weather arrived in their home country.  They didn’t bring anything for the school or the children.  We know this because we asked them, their answer, looking towards the Messi room was that there were already many flags, referring to the Argentinean flag that Virginia and Debora left, the only one there is.  One cannot avoid being cynical.  The best of all is that they are parasites of the Messi room spending every afternoon in there, but contributing nothing.  It is Mediterranea that has created, furnished, supplied all the toys, learning materials and pays for the three monitors, they haven’t brought even one pencil.

Will they report to their organisations that the Messi room was their doing?
What will they demand from their organisations?
How will they justify their stay in Ethiopia and their expenses to their organisations?
Questions without answers.  Perhaps we should make a small notice in English indicating that it is Mediterranea that has created and maintains the Messi room.  Sebeta receives visitors and the first thing that the useless director of the school does is take them to the Messi room, the only dignified place in the school.
This is why parasitic volunteers sicken us.

The photo shows the reparation of the toilets at Sebeta.  We repaired all of them; there were 13 bathrooms with 24 toilets and 33 basins, none of which functioned and all needing new parts.  This cost Mediterranea 1300 Euros.  No one had ever been concerned enough to repair them before and it’s impossible to describe the horrendous state of these toilets.  Do we have to put small plaques on each of them to state that they are the work of Mediterranea?

4 Oct 2011

Returned from Ethiopia

Hello Followers of Med

We’re already back in Mallorca.  We had some intense days and some intense feelings.  Some achievements and satisfaction but also we have some big challenges ahead, our biggest being the Sebeta School for the Blind.  They have 340 children some of whom are blind, others can see with one eye, others are simply myopic, as I was when I was small.  If I had been born in Ethiopia I may have been brought up in Sebeta.  On the first day of school a lovely young girl of 7 arrived.  She has poor long sight and so is probably myopic.  Her brother who has more serious problems is already living in Sebeta.  It is touching to see her with her brother; he cares for her and guides her despite having much poorer vision.  The future of this young girl, as with many like her, is to live at Sebeta until 17 learning Braille in a very boring and repetitive fashion, living in horrible dormitories and without any human warmth except that given her by her brother, his friends (they have strong relations between them in Sebeta) and the monitors of the Messi room.  We are going to try to improve the living conditions and quality of life of these children (we have already started) but we’re going to need a lot of help because they need so much.

Photo: Children in the Messi room using material brought over by Olga, a Med volunteer.