Ada Pérez: Learning at Tigray Project

By Courtney Imel | 17:14

Ada and GiovanniToday we will meet a very special person who has lived a great solidarity adventure in Africa through NH Hoteles and the NGO Manos Unidas.

Ada Pérez began working at NH Hoteles in 1997 when she was just 18 years old.  She started as a trainee and then worked as a receptionist in some hotels. Nowadays she works as a front desk manager at NH Les Corts, in Barcelona. Ada, along with her colleague Giovanni, received the proposition to travel  to Ethiopia in November 2011 to collaborate with the NGO Manos Unidas to help create a school hotel called the Agoro Lodge in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, as a part of our Up! For Volunteering program. The Learning at Tigray Project was an ambitious corporate volunteering project aimed at guiding and teaching those most in need while providing them with the know-how and support required in order to earn a living and create wealth for their community. 

We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Ada in an exclusive interview where she filled us in on what exactly made her experience in Tigray unforgettable! 


How was the selection process to participate in the project Agoro Lodge?

My manager called me one day and asked me if I wanted to participate in a corporate volunteering project with an NGO in Ethiopia. Of course I said yes, even though I still did not know what would be my task. When NH accepted my candidacy  I received several phone interviews from NH and Manos Unidas and had to submit a business plan. At  the end of the process I was  chosen. I could not believe it! 


What were your duties at the Agoro Lodge in Ethiopia? 

My main task was to train the hotel manager, the accountant  and the local partner in terms of business management, human resources management, teaching them the applications they would have to work with…

I also had to train the other departments: reception, restaurant and housekeeping. I participated in the development of processes and patterns of work, trained them in quality service and taught them how to work between departments…

Giovanni was in charge of the kitchen, taught them what and how to purchase  based on occupancy of the lodge, precooking and cooking…

Both Giovanni and I also helped choose some decorative items for the lodge. We did it with Penny, Tere and Chapela. We bought many things in local markets.


Are you still in touch with Agoro Lodge workers or with your colleague Giovanni?

Communication between us is not easy, internet is slow and it is almost impossible to have a phone conversation because of the problems with the national telephone company. But I do have communication with the wonderful team of Manos Unidas who stayed with us during in the country, and I have been catching up on the Lodge news.


How has your volunteering experience in Ethiopia marked you? What  have you taken aways from your experience in Ethiopia?

I had never been in Africa before and had never participated in a volunteering project before, so I was ready to live 1,000 experiences and give my all. It was like that. Living for a month in the most rural part of Ethiopia and made me appreciate many things. I’ve noticed that whose that have the most possessions, are not happier, and I’ve seen that it’s very easy for them to smile. I have become richer, valuing more the little things that we have here.

I have a lot of memories, experiences and stories from Ethiopia. I made ​​new friends and I increased my personal values​​. I have also helped a group of people to be able to build a hotel and therefore to be able to develop economically and socially. What else could  I have ask for?


Ada helping a worker at lodgeHave you, or would you consider doing a similar volunteering project? 

I would love to participate in a volunteering project, corporate or not. If it is corporate it would be also great because I have the good fortune that I love my work, so working together with both NH and  an NGO, Manos Unidas or another one, would be a dream.

If it is not corporate, I also would like to. So much to do in the world, so much to help….

When I was there I had the good fortune to be able to speak and understand the tasks done by other volunteers who collaborated with other NGOs. I think it’s a very interesting world, besides enriching and fulfilling.

The truth is that I’d love to come back to Adigrat to do some monitoring of the project in which I participated, because we had little time, but lots of things to do, some things inevitably remained unfinished.

I also would love to return to Ethiopia to visit the girls. Some of them  had been moms since I left. I’d be so happy if I could visit them…


If you could highlight a memory from this experience, what would it be? 

It is impossible to tell you only one thing. We spent a really good time there  and we lived so many anecdotes that it’s impossible tell you just one. Instead I will tell you many:

I remember the evenings we spent, Tere, Penny, Chape, Giovanni and I at the reception after dinner, discussing the day, drinking some Gin and Tonics…

I love to think that I helped some girls to overcome their shyness and insecurities with customers (we did some games in which they were dying of shame at first, but then we had just laughter).

I loved going to local markets in nearby villages and towns where locals took pictures of us with their phones. They did not understand why a group of white people (farenji) were there.






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