Some weeks ago we published the story of Ada and Giovanni, two NH hoteles’ employeeswho went to Ethiopia on an international corporate volunteering programme. Now that they are back and settled again in their countries, we have had the chance to have a little interview with them.
Ada and Giovanni took part on a project called the Agoro Lodge hotel project, in Tigray.Manos Unidas, a Spanish Non-Governmental Organization for Development (DNGO) aimed at fighting poverty, hunger, malnutrition, disease, lack of education, underdevelopment and its causes, has been working for a while on the design and implementation of an ambitious project: the economic and social development in the region. Framed in this objective, we are helping to create a School hotel in the region of Tigray (Ethiopia).
During the time they have been in Ethiopia they worked very hard trying to get everyone and everything ready for the day the hotel is opened to the public. But they also had time to live amazing experiences and adventures. Here you have their impressions and thoughts.
What was your first feeling when you were asked to be part of this project?
Ada: When I was asked to be part of this project I was really happy because I felt it was an important challenge for me. Once I started to think about it I thought that I was very lucky to travel to a foreign country, to Ethiopia, in Africa, where I’ve never been before, to show to the local people how to manage a hotel, in order to help contribute to the economic develop of the Tigray region, in the northern part of Ethiopia. For me, to have the opportunity of teaching the staff of the lodge what I’ve been doing my whole working life was really cool. Also they were offering me to be part of a project managed by an important Spanish NGO, Manos Unidas. What else could I expect?
Giovanni: I was very excited because I had never been to Africa and I wanted to do something with the people there. For me, I knew this would be a fantastic experience.
What are the highlights of your stay at the Agoro Lodge?
Giovanni: In the month that I was there I felt that life was going up and down because we had many problems, for example, the equipment didn’t work well. And because of these problems our work was slowed down. However we had wonderful staff so that in the end we could continue to work.I was also pleased with the passionate staff. They tried to do everything well.
Ada: During the month I spent there, I lived lots of different situations. Good and not so good experiences. We had many problems with the maintenance in the lodge (gas, water, light….) If we exprienced these kind of problems, the lodge would not be able to open when expected. Finally all the problems were been solved, but once I arrived in Spain!!
The staff is really fun. They always want to improve and to learn everything and that is very satisfactory for me. They transmit a lot of enthusiasm and I love this feeling. I had a wonderful relationship with the staff of Manos Unidas and my Italian partner of the NH Fiera, Giovanni. They are really lovely. They worked hard for those people and I like it. I really felt as if we were a family there.
The thing that surprised you the most was….
Ada: I had the impression that I had travelled in time. They used a different calendar, the Giulian, instead of our Gregorian calendar, so now they are in 2004. They also use a different time system.
I loved the markets, it seemed like I was in the Middle Ages, with lots of animals (goats, cows, chicken…) eating and living in the street. The Ethiopian people are very relaxed. They walk very slow and they drink lots of coffee, they also have a special ceremony where they drink coffee, so they may be preparing and celebrating the coffee ceremony for more than 2 hours.
And the children are always smiling!!!
Giovanni: The way of life there has surprised me a lot. It’s so different from ours that I was truely interested! Especially the market that I had to go every 3 days. It was completely strange. I saw the people who sold the live animals to cook. Although the people are poor,they smile every day for they are optimistic meanwhile we have all but we complain all the time.
Would you encourage people to volunteer abroad? What would you tell them?
Ada: Yes of course I’ll do it. To live abroad, in a different continent, with people with a culture so different as ours is fantastic. Also to have the possibility of collaborate with an NGO is a truly rewarding experience. I recommend you to participate as a volunteer because it’s a very enriching experience, both professionally and personally. And also you have the opportunity of meeting lots of interesting people and to have many new friends around the world.
Giovanni: Of course! Young people should go abroad to learn about new lives and to help the people in need .In Africa there are many people who need our help. It will be a wonderful experience in life. It will help us change the views of the world.We will complain less and thank more.