Children sit in their new desks at the Gish Abay pre-school in Bahir Dar

Victoria senior provides 53 desks to Ethiopia school

It’s a country that’s the size of B.C., but has a population close to 100 million people scattered throughout a landscape.

It’s a country that’s the size of B.C., but has a population close to 100 million people scattered throughout a landscape that’s wild and untamed.

Sharing borders with Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia, tensions are often running high in Ethiopia, but it’s also a country that’s incredibly strong, according to Victoria resident Jeremy Hespeler-Boultbee.

The 80-year-old and his Ethiopian-born wife Alemie Atanaw recently returned from the northwestern city of Bahir Dar, where he had made and delivered 53 desks to the Gish Abay pre-school.

The school is located in an extremely low-income area of the city and is in need of a number of basic things. Previously, the children had been sitting on a concrete floor in one of the school’s three classrooms.

“It was incredible. They (150 kids) ran up to us and were hugging our knees,” said Hespeler-Boultbee about the moment the desks were delivered to the school. “The staff were ecstatic. Now they’ve got a school.”

A former journalist for several Canadian publications, including Maclean’s Magazine during the Portuguese revolution, Hespeler-Boultbee wound up living in Bahir Dar for two years, studying Portugal’s influence on the culture and architecture in the highlands.

The country had a big impact on the North Park resident, calling him back more than 10 times to continue work in his field. But it’s not only the work that called Hespeler-Boultbee back to Ethiopia, it’s the need to help its citizens.

Throughout the years, Hespeler-Boultbee has helped put several children there though school and the couple managed to raise about $6,000 from generous Victorians to build and deliver the desks.

The gesture went a long way in a country that has a crying need for everything. Just days prior to his arrival, South Sudanese gunman crossed the border and carried out attacks on more than 20 villages in the western region of Gambella, killing more than 200 people. About 100 children were abducted and livestock was snatched as well.

The attack rocked the country, but posed no threat to the region Hespeler-Boultbee was staying. The country is also dealing with one of its worst droughts in decades, creating a shortage of food, but international aid has come to the rescue.

Despite its ongoing troubles, Hespeler-Boultbee has seen much progress with Ethiopia’s economy, which boasted the highest GDP in Africa a few years ago. He’s not sure whether he’ll return for another visit, but is happy to see Victorians step up to lend a helping hand to a part of the world that’s often forgotten in B.C.

“I do love the place,” he said, noting the country has one of the biggest armies in Africa. “It’ll be a while before people mess with Ethiopia I think. It’s a strong country.”

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Garden-sharing map connects Victoria landowners and gardeners

U-Map created by Young Agrarians after COVID-19 created uptick in garden matching requests

Saanich wins award for climate plan cut from 2020 budget

‘It’s truly an exceptional plan,’ says councillor disappointed with lack of funding

Oak Bay Grade 8 students end time at Monterey with drive-through goodbye

School holds socially-distanced completion ceremony

CRD warns of toxic algae bloom at Thetis Lake Regional Park

Visitors advised to avoid swimming in lake, keep pets out of water

Saanich police, pound respond to possible cougar sighting

Cougar possibly seen in area of 4500-block of Chatterton Way

VIDEO: Musqueam Chief captures captivating footage of bald eagle catching meal

‘This is why we have chosen to live here since time immemorial,’ Chief Wayne Sparrow’s nephew says

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Stop enforcing sex work laws during COVID-19, advocates say

There are provisions in Canada’s prostitution laws that make workers immune from prosecution, but not from arrest

Liberal party finished 2019 having spent $43 million, raised $42 million

All political parties had until midnight June 30 to submit their financial reports for last year

B.C. teacher loses licence after sexual relationships with two recently-graduated students

The teacher won’t be allowed to apply for a teaching certificate until 2035

Most Read