We have recently returned from our first Humanitarian trip for the Pangaea Foundation. We had a great team consisting of Jan Eshete, Oromia Eshete, Lalise Eshete, Amy Sorensen and Emily Hunter. The trip was approximately two weeks long (including travel time) and besides spending time at the Hundee Ibsaa School, we also did some site seeing in the capital city and a tourist area called Hawassa.
The highlight of the trip of course was giving out all the uniform packets and backpacks filled with school supplies to all the children. I think the best part for the children was being able to watch the slide show we made for them of lots of photos and videos of them at recess and lunch and a few in their classrooms. It’s just invigorating to watch children who are so thankful to go to school and whatever we can supply for them.
We also really appreciate both our teachers who literally walk along a trail (that is sometime like a hike) that takes almost 2 hours back and forth to school everyday. On our last day there, we walked home in the rain with our teachers and I’ll just say that I am out of shape!
If you would like to be a part of our humanitarian trip in the future years, please contact Jan Eshete for more information.
by Oromia Eshete
It’s funny how fast you can adapt to whatever culture that you’re immersed in. And it’s funny how fast you can begin to love the people that you didn’t even know weeks before the trip. Going to my father’s home country for the second time now, it was surprisingly nothing like the first trip but it still felt comfortable and had a noticeable and somewhat surprising sense of “home” to it.
There are so many things about Ethiopia that make you reevaluate the mentality you have about life and gives you an overwhelming sense of gratitude and a fresh new, humbling outlook on practically everything. From the chaotic traffic, to the disparate spices and mouth-watering meals, welcoming marketplaces, and truly unapologetic beauty of the people, Ethiopia is genuinely unforgettable.
Doing service with my family and friends was so fun and effortless that we would always leave the elementary school glum and looking forward to the next day when we got to go back. Hanging out with the kids- playing soccer, making bracelets, playing with toys, or just making them laugh- was so rewarding and I didn’t realize that this is what my life was missing. I didn’t realize how many things I could learn from these kids. I think the most rewarding experience that I had in Ethiopia was following some of the kids home and walking with them after school to see where they lived and to see how long they have to walk to get to school. Nothing is more humbling than walking home with two little newly orphaned siblings, in their new baggy uniforms, being embraced by their grandma and modestly showing us their home.
Traveling to and from the countryside of Oromia in a big, disheveled van on a bumpy “road”, sitting in the seat-less back with my sister and friend was also another favorite pastime of mine. Admiring the beautiful landscape, every once and a while waving to the shepherd boys and their cattle, was such a fulfilling, captivating experience.
I learned so many things from the trips I took to Africa and was, in the end, life-altering. I learned that we, as humans, have a lot in common. We tend to focus on the differences we have— between cultures, traditions we practice, and what we look like. But in the end, we all feel the same emotions, we all have troubles, insecurities, loves, and fears. I also learned that education is so important and is a fundamental right that everyone should have access to. Although it’s not perfect, I love Oromia with all my heart and am so honored to be named after this place.
Things are always changing! Six more students have joined our school despite the fact that the classrooms are already bursting at the seams with children. We sure appreciate our teachers and their concern to educate as many students as possible. Our teachers have a natural knack for getting the children to respect them while also showing love for these precious little ones.
Mootii Darajee Age 6 Sponsored by Kadie Howell
Yooseefaa Gadisaa Age 6 Sponsored by Kemp Smithson
Beekaa Sarbeessa Age 4 Sponsored by Chris & Alia Family
It was not long after Jan and Rundassa married each other in 1995 that they knew some day they’d make it back to Rundassa’s home country of Oromia to help his relatives. Jan has always been adventurous and open minded and Rundassa is very business oriented with determination to create or accomplish any and all goals he sets out to do. Between the two of them, they were bound to starting up a non profit organization with their family.
Life went on and kept Jan and Rundassa busy raising a family and creating work for themselves. It wasn’t until after Jan took all five of her children back to Africa to meet the family and understand more about the heritage of their father, that they were able to pin point one of the needs of the area where their grandmother lives. So many young children were out and about just helping their parents with farm work or the daily duties of cooking/cleaning/hauling water and other things other than going to school. The nearest school was several miles away and it made it impossible for young children to attend school. This felt like an area that they could help and make some kind of difference for the community.
Once the family returned Lense, took on the job of creating the non profit organization and completing all the paperwork to establish the company. This took a while but was finally completed in 2014. By 2015, efforts to get the ball rolling to construct the one room school began even though the organization had not began its fundraising efforts. The Eshete family was willing to contribute and was blessed by donations of their American grandparents, Ann and Wesley Vorwaller and by the end of 2015, the dirt floor, mud and stick walls classroom was erected. Meanwhile, the Eshete family began collecting donations for school supplies, a school sign and books while, Rundassa’s sister Buzu hired two teachers.
December of that year, Jan and Lense took their second journey back to the Bojjii, Ambo to deliver the supplies for the school and finish preparing the one room school house. The day of the school open house, when children from all directions came running with excitment in their eyes, made all the hard work of creating and taking action with the Pangaea Foundation organization all worth it!
The Pangaea Family Foundation hopes to keep sustaining the Hundee Ibsaa School and expanding it to provide the foundation of education to the children of Bojjii. In addition to this goal, Rundassa and Jan Eshete hope this organization will provide a foundation for their children to always find ways to serve others and contribute to society. The one room elementary school is just the beginning step to more goals and projects in the future for Pangaea Foundation.
Not many people have the opportunity to escape poverty, it is something that only a few exceptional people achieve. My story doesn’t begin with me but instead with my exceptional uncle. Born in poverty like the majority of the population of Ethiopia, it didn’t take long for my uncle to realize that education was his only way out. With this realization, he spent every possible minute studying. Eventually, his dedication paid off and he received a full ride scholarship to Russia and eventually to the United States of America. Finally out of the cycle of poverty, my uncle was able to adopt my brother and I and provide us with the opportunity of a better, brighter future.
In 2012, I had the opportunity to go visit Ethiopia and try to provide help to those in need. Shortly after this trip, I realized that I needed to do something to bring awareness to the fact that through education, we can progress and eventually leave the cycle of poverty. This is something I am very passionate about. With the money I plan to raise, I want to build a small elementary school in the countryside of Ethiopia, Oromia. Here there are no educational institutes available. Children who want to learn have to walk 14 kilometers in order to reach the nearest school. Many of the younger kids under the age of thirteen can’t make this long journey. Due to this, by the time they are old enough to walk to school, they have already missed the fundamental concepts thus feel frustrated and stop attending altogether. I plan to build a school near the village so that the younger kids, who can’t make the walk, are taught the fundamentals. This way when they are old enough to make the walk to the nearest school, they are not behind in their educational path.
It was due to an exceptional man that I was able to escape a life of poverty. Now I feel it is my turn to provide that same opportunity for others. And as much as I would love to go build a school, I can’t do that all by my self. It is also up to you to donate to this cause so we, tougher, can provide these kids with the opportunity to escape the cycle of poverty that they were born in.