NH Hoteles collaborates in launching a Hotel School in Ethiopia

By Courtney Imel | 11:42

Today 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! 

Ada training with Desta the manager

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! 

How was your experience there? What struck you most? A story you remember? What did you teach them? What did they teach you? 

It was the first time that I participated in a corporate volunteer program and my first time traveling to Africa. Too many experiences together! On arrival I was surprised how friendly people were and that they were smiling all the time. Everyone there smiles! They are very happy people and I felt envious. 

The truth is that we spent a month in the great company of Teresa and Penny, two volunteers from Manos Unidas in Madrid and other colleagues.  We worked hard because we had some problems in the facility’s lodge, in computer applications that we had to teach them … So we had to organize the time in the best possible way to do as much work in the one month that we had. It was a pleasure to work with the girls in the different departments and to train them in hotel operations. Most of all it was fantastic to see them evolve and to see how they were improving day by day, which was one of the most satisfying thing for me. 

I was struck by the transparency in which they speak to you. They look you in the eye and tell you about heart. They talk a lot between them and dance and laugh. They take advantage of any situation and learn from it. And the coffee ceremony is the star ceremony. No one can miss it!

I taught them everything I could, how to work in a hotel, how to serve customers, and how to participate in teamwork. We did all of this with games and role playing, putting ourselves in real situations so they would know how to solve them. The truth is that for women who had never worked in the world of tourism, it was a relatively easy task, given their willingness and desire to learn.

From them I learned to be more humble. I came back valuing, richer inside, valuing much more the little things that perhaps before I didn’t give much importance. 

I remember fondly the day of my departure. One of the cleaning ladies gave me a bracelet which she was very fond of. I don’t know how long she had been saving to buy it, but she gave it to me and I will not forget it. I tearfully told her that I would never forget her, and that she didn’t need to give me anything. She still insisted, and since that day wear it everyday.

Ada with the Agoro Lodge staff

Why do you think this project is important?

It is the first time that NH Hoteles had participated in a Corporate Volunteer project in Development Cooperation and it was a pioneering and  brilliant idea. Employees who have been involved are very fortunate. Both partners who have worked from Madrid and those who have moved to Ethiopia like me have offered all our knowledge, our desire and enthusiasm to carry out the implementation of the hotel school. We have been involved a lot and now we are happy to see the result.

Why would you recommend visiting Agoro Lodge? 

Life in Ethiopia is not easy, and less for women. All employees are eager and very excited to show what they are capable of, and best of all they are happy doing it!

Visiting the Lodge is totally recommended. You may find it a  place to relax, enjoy the spectacular views from the terrace, which is handcrafted s by local artisans, and you can aso try the delicious dishes prepared in the kitchen by chef Timnit and her team. Furthermore, the area offers several options for excursions and sightseeing. The setting is ideal for trekking and visiting churches, there are some wonderful temples carved into the rock (Rock Hewn Churches) which are not far away.

If you have never traveled to Africa, as in my case, you’ll enjoy it as soon as you set foot on the soil. The smells, the colors, the sounds, the people … Everything is special. You will be surprised how happy they are, children will steal your heart with their smiles...

This project, which was recognized in the Codespa Awards in late 2011, is included in the book which now features the Codespa Foundation. A book containing case studies of companies that have managed to successfully address various challenges that arise during the design, implementation and evolution of Corporate Volunteer initiatives for Development.

Moreover, NH Hoteles will continue to work with Manos Unidas and also support AECID solidary initiative projects such as this one. 

If you want to read more about Ada and Giovanni’s experience  in Tigray, please visit the Learning at Tigray blog

  • posted by bon plan | 18 March 2013, 12:10,

    Nice approach from nh hotels to help these developing countries.

  • posted by Courtney Imel | 19 March 2013, 10:19,

    Thank you very much for the comment! We are very honored to collaborate in this project in Tigray. Be sure to visit our blog daily for more interesting posts. Thank you!

  • posted by berihu fitsum | 25 April 2013, 14:42,

    am called berihu fitsum am from mekelle ,after reading the above paragraph’s of the project and the lodge i develop an interest to work there in the lodge and with the project manege’s.so if you are also interested to get me in there i am hopefully waiting your acceptance. i have a bachelor degree in tourism management from Gondar university. contact me ….berihu.fitsum@yahoo.com

  • posted by Courtney Imel | 29 April 2013, 12:57,

    Hello! Thanks for the comment. The Agoro Lodge project is now finished but feel free to have a look at our job offers at NH Hotels around the world: http://corporate.nh-hoteles.es/en/job

  • posted by Click reference | 22 May 2013, 11:50,

    Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know
    a few of the pictures aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why but I
    think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same results.

  • posted by Courtney Imel | 23 May 2013, 9:11,

    Thanks for your comment. We’ve just double checked the post and it seems to be loading properly. What type of error are you receiving? Thank you.


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