When a group of 11 Corvallis residents fly to Ethiopia later this month they’ll have fairly loaded bags, carrying 24 soccer balls, a pair of hand pumps to fill the balls, Frisbees, 10 laptops donated by Oregon State University, old classroom flashcards, small gifts for local leaders and stacks and stacks of books.
Enough, hopefully, to start outfitting a new school with some of the basics needed to educate the approximately 80 students who will enroll in it.
The trip, organized by the Corvallis Sister Cities Association – Gondar Council, is timed to coincide with the opening of a new school the group helped fund.
The group is heading to Ethiopia Oct. 23 and had a planning meeting last week for the trip at which they talked about the logistics of transporting all the materials.
Maxine Prickel, who is on the council, said in 2016 elders in Saina Sabia Kebele, a village near Gondar, one of Corvallis’ sister cities, asked the council to help them start a kindergarten program. Walaj School, the village’s existing school, has more than 1,200 students in grades first through eight, but kindergarten-aged students just went to class alongside the older students.
Prickel said the village applied for and received a $12,000 self-assistance grant from the United States Embassy in Ethiopia and had assistance on the project from Link Ethiopia, an educational nonprofit. However, she said, the sister cities group also contributed $11,500 to help construct the new building. And the village itself supplied all the labor and furniture for the classrooms and is supporting the salaries of the two teachers who will work in the school.
“They have sweat equity in it,” said Prickel.
Prickel said the visit also has another purpose — establishing the new school as a sister school to Corvallis’ Wilson Elementary School.
The council will bring a photo book showing life and students at Wilson as well as a special set of books that have text in both English and Amharic, the local language in that part of Ethiopia. The books include illustrations drawn by Wilson students. Most of the books the group is bringing are in English, which the students study as a second language.
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The council will also return with photos for a photo book to give to Wilson.
The group will include a Wilson student, an OSU student and two Corvallis High School students.
Silas Hadlock, a Corvallis High School senior who is part of the group, said he’s looking forward to gaining a perspective on what life is like outside the United States.
“I think it will be a really good experience,” he said.
Hadlock said in the meeting that he’s planning to bring some hacky sacks to give to kids he meets and introduce them to the game.
He added that he’s looking forward to seeing the students having the opportunity to start at the new school.
Prickel, who will be going to Ethiopia for sixth time on the trip, said she’s expecting the experience to be powerful.
“It’s going to be something like joining a family,” she said.