Today was the day! Up early we ate and quickly mobilized for this much longed for day of work. Even though we quietly rode most of the familiar route to Arbegona, I sensed that each one of us was excitedly waiting to see the children and begin the first day of building the new classroom. The contractor was waiting and the building materials had made it, we were ready.
As we got closer to our destination, the dry rocky roads got muddy and more taxing for our small bus. The remoteness of the village and the steep roads could prove to be too much sending us back to Awassa defeated for the day.
We made it to Arbegona needing only to pass through the village and up the now familiar steep 2 mile, 2000 foot climb to The Davis Moon Project School. Our driver, Siri who had so carefully driven us everywhere, said we could go no farther. If we wanted to make it to the school to work, we’d have to walk the rest of the way.
We put our mud boots on, hoisted our heavy packs on our back and started our walk.
The mud was at least 4 inches deep and the altitude winded us a bit. Along the way, a few villagers joined us. After about 20 minutes the most amazing thing happened. I heard the familiar voices of “our” children singing joyfully, we must be getting close I thought. Turns out we weren’t close but the 410 children and their teachers, had come to greet us. The sight was awe-inspiring; all the children in their brand new Davis Moon Project uniforms had trekked through the mud to help us make it to their school. Words cannot fully describe this amazing moment. The children carried eucalyptus branches to put down for us to make the mud easier for us to walk through. They took our hands and walked us the final mile, singing and smiling the whole time. Most of these children walked barefoot and those who had shoes on had to take them off to make it the rest of the way.
When we arrived at the school we were delighted to see the contractor had already begun work on the new classroom. Everyone on the team jumped right in to help with the building process. The primitive but sound building style while foreign to most of us, made sense and even though physically challenging was easy to understand even through the language barrier. The men working with us were gracious, helpful and extremely patient since most of us were out of our element but trying our best. Some of the team helped nail the structure together while others had the back braking job of making mud for the walls.
As we worked, the children, their parents and the village leaders looked on in approval. Not only had we shown up as promised with books, uniforms and supplies, we were working side by side with the contractor. Trust was being built and all of us could feel how vitally important this was to our mission.
The teachers and administrator took some of us around showing what they needed next. While the brand new classroom would be helpful, the deterioration of the buildings The Davis Moon Project had inherited was heartbreaking to see. Shaking off emotion, the list was formed: concrete for the dusty floors, glass for the windows to keep out the wind and cold, new blackboards and all the mud walls to be sealed. New blackboards were taken care of immediately with bids for the other items to follow soon.
The only disappointment of the day was the arrival of the “Government Education Representative” who in a closed door meeting with Sonja, Halley, the school administrator and our guides, Habtu & Mr. Balay insisted that the monies budgeted to help this project should go to him first then he would pay the contractor. “Absolutely not” was Sonja’s reply and after some heated debate, the Education Representative walked away defeated!! All projects paid for by The Davis Moon Project would require a rigorous bidding process, vetting of the vendors with quality approval by the village leaders, school administrator and teachers.
After a long and rewarding day it was time to say goodbye for this trip. The progress made on the classroom was amazing and within 48 days the children will be using this safe classroom wearing their new uniforms, reading their books. There is still a long way to go but the progress is exciting and the reaction of the students, teachers, village leaders & parents priceless. “With Out Education No Development No Change” Today I was so proud to be part of The Davis Moon Project as it clearly is changing lives, one child at a time. It was truly a day none of us will ever forget.