University of Washington Hillel - Ethiopia – July/August 2010

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Returning Home & Raising Awareness about Ethiopia

Last week, Shoshi Fertig, current student at the University of Washington and a participant of JDC’s first-ever short-term service trip to Ethiopia, spread awareness of challenges facing young women seeking higher education in Ethiopia, at a fundraising dinner she coordinated in Washington DC.

Shoshi’s invited friends and family to enjoy injera and learn about issues facing women in Ethiopia – and the restaurant hosting the dinner agreed to donate proceeds to JDC’s scholarship fund for women in Ethiopia!

As they gathered at the Ethiopian restaurant, Shoshi shared her experiences and the importance of supporting JDC’s initiative to help rural Ethiopian girls overcome the challenges involved in obtaining higher education. All donations from this meal and future events will provide scholarship, trainings and support to young women in Ethiopia.

To help Shoshi and other participants from UW Hillel meet their goals, visit

More events coming soon to the Seattle area!

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

University of Washington: Gondar -> Addis

The Internet has been awfully fickle here. In this post, Jacob I. – our Blog Chair for our time in Ethiopia – summarizes our last day of service in Gondar. An update on our time in Addis is forthcoming!

On our final day of service in Gondar, we split up into three groups.  One group went to the JDC sponsored clinic to hand out de-worming pills to the remaining groups of kids and adults.  Because most of these families come from poor backgrounds and do not know any English, communication was the most difficult thing.  We learned simple words in the native language (Amharic) that allowed us to learn the age of the people we were administering pills to so that we could give everyone their proper dose.  It was hard for everyone to see the condition of these people and it gives us perspective on what it means to be an individual living in a third world country.  The other two groups went to different schools that served as primary schools for villages outside of Gondar.  Similar to the day before, we played with the kids and attempted to teach them popular American children’s games such as duck-duck goose and, stick ball (a delineation of baseball, except instead of bats, you have sticks). That was very fun and everyone came out of it with a positive experience.

 Today we all stuck together as a group, and took a long ride to a school about an hour south of Gondar.  The living conditions in these rural areas are truly shocking.  There is literally almost no sign of modern technology, and the farming methods are all small subsistence farms that have oxen, donkeys, and cows helping till and sift the dirt so crops can be grown.  It is basically looking back 300 years in history and seeing what farming was like back then.  Most of the people are missing shoes, proper clothing, and clean water/sanitation facilities. Seeing the difference in lifestyles between average Americans and these rural peoples has been a very eye-opening experience for everyone in the group.

Aside from the normal community service that we do every day, another important thing we do is communicate and learn from individuals who work in places like the clinic, rural schools, and students from local higher education institutions. It is from these people that we have learned a great deal about traditional Ethiopian culture.  It is extremely important to learn about the culture because we can best help these people only if we understand them.  This day was our last full day in Gondar and tomorrow we will fly off to Addis Ababa.  So far this trip has been a roller coaster ride of emotions and has impacted everyone uniquely in a way that we will all keep with us forever.

Below are some pictures from our last day of service in Gondar.  We hope to have another update up tonight!

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

University of Washington: Day 3!

Finding an Internet connection in Ethiopia can be tricky! As we begin Day 3, here are ere are Jacob I’s reflections on Day 1.

From painfully long plane flights, to teaching little Ethiopian children about the sayings of rapper Lil’ Jon, this first day had a little bit of everything. Everyone in the group has hit it off really well; it’s a cohesive, non-cliquish group which makes the experience that much better.

Africa is definitely a sight to behold. It has stunning beauty that you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere in America, and it also has the usual poverty stricken scenes we generally associate with this continent. When we landed in Ethiopia, we stayed in a hotel in Addis Ababa for a few hours, then disembarked early the next morning for Gondar in the north. Stray dogs are everywhere in Addis, so to those who are major dog lovers, it is not a pretty site.

After we touched down in Gondar, we got a little time to settle into our hotel rooms before we started our day of service. About half of us went to the JDC Medical Clinic in Gondar, where they passed out de-worming medicine to JDC clients. (some where so satisfied they came back for seconds!)

The other half of the group went to a rural village to visit a school sponsored by JDC. There, we painted a schoolhouse and and played with children in the village. Pictures from this are below.

Another highlight of the first day was meeting a fellow who called himself “The Dude” – he was very friendly and chatted with all of us about his family, his life in Gondar and his hobbies.

A reoccouring theme of the trip is flexibility. For instance, our schedule always has to be flexible because of complications in this country. Communication issues and the fact that most of us have never been to Ethiopia or Africa means we don’t always know what to expect when we travel to different places. Everything could be scheduled one way, but we may have to adjust on a moment’s notice. Example: Our plane to Gondar stopped on the way to pick up more passengers – an unannounced stopover!

After all the flights and everything we did today, it is safe to assume that we are all exhausted and looking forward to a long and well earned sleep where we can hopefully lose our jetlag and get our bodies accustomed to Ethiopian time. If the first day was this crazy, it’ll be a real gas to see how the rest of the trip goes!

~ Jacob I.

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

University of Washington Hillel: First Day of Service in Gondar, Ethiopia

We’re bone-tired from the travel and our work today. We still wanted to share a few pictures from our experience at the JDC Medical Clinic in Gondar. We split into two groups – half of us worked at a school built by JDC, playing with kids and painting all afternoon. The other half of us provided preventive care to JDC clients in the region, offering de-worming pills to Ethiopians of all ages. We have great pics and video to share from our time with the school kids, but here are some pics from the incredible medical clinic, run by Dr. Rick Hodes.

Here are some pictures from the day – more pics and videos to come soon.

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

University of Washington Hillel: SEA -> JFK -> IST -> ADD

From July 25 to August 4, students from the University of Washington Hillel will serve in the communities of Addis Ababa and Gondar, Ethiopia. Jacob, a student participating in the trip, shares his pre-trip thoughts.

So tomorrow we all meet up at the Seattle airport early in the morning and get ready for the long flight to Ethiopia.  I’m sure most of us are packing our belongings and reflecting on how we envision the trip to be and the experiences we are yet to have. It is very exciting because in less than one day we will be en route to an area of the world most of us have probably never traveled anywhere near to. Our time in Ethiopia will undoubtedly bring great stories and memories that we will have forever.  The blogs probably haven’t been to riveting yet but its about to be the real deal so stay posted!  Our next post will come after we land in Ethiopia so hopefully we all have an easygoing trip to Africa, and let’s get ready for the next week and a half!

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

University of Washington Hillel: Gearing up for Ethiopia!

We recently had our final orientation before we go on our trip.  All the preliminary tasks to have been completed, such as getting visas, vaccinations, and other little things that one must do before embarking on a trip to a far away country.

During our orientation, a group member made a presentation on the history of Ethiopia as a nation.  We had already learned the general history of Ethiopia’s Jewish community so it was interesting to learn about the history of the nation as a whole.  We also had an in depth discussion about how short-term missions and beneficiaries actually affect Ethiopia.  There is a common misconception that any volunteer work done in 3rd world country like Ethiopia is an act of service and giving.  Realistically, “community service” such as getting a group to paint a building, donate clothes, or do other tasks can further depress and undermine certain sectors of Ethiopia’s economy.

For example, donating tons of clothes can run textile companies out of business.  Indeed, often the most helpful things to do in these countries is listen and learn about Ethiopian culture and the situation they are facing as a nation. When we are there, we must always be mindful of how we are affecting every community we work with and how we can actually work to help different locales.

Everyone is very excited for this trip and now it is just a matter of time (about two months) until we will all meet again as a group and head off to Africa.

Friday, May 21st, 2010

University of Washington Hillel: Orientation #2!

In July, 15 students from the University of Washington Hillel will travel to Ethiopia with JDC Short-Term Service. Below, UW Blogger-in-Chief Jacob Isenberg updates us on preparations for the trip.

Previous post from the University of Washington Hillel: Orientation #1!

Our group learned a lot during the second orientation session. Naomi, our trip leader and JDC staff member, flew out from New York to meet with us and give us an overview of the history of the Jewish community of Ethiopia and a general agenda for the trip.

Much of the Ethiopian history that was talked about was Israel’s involvement with Jewish Ethiopian emigration from Ethiopia to Israel over the last few decades. We discussed Operation Moses and Operation Solomon, which were both huge airlift projects that brought large numbers of Ethiopian Jews to Israel almost overnight. We learned about the Queen of Sheba starting a Jewish culture in Ethiopia which remains the reason why even today many Ethiopians – whether Christian, Muslim, or of any other faith – feel a connection with Judaism and recognize it to be a large part of their country’s history.

When we travel to Ethiopia, we will spend time in Addis Ababa as well as Gondar. In terms of what the service we will perform, our group will be working a lot with the famous Dr. Rick Hodes, who serves as JDC’s Medical Director in Ethiopia. Dr. Hodes has performed many years of philanthropic work in Ethiopia and recently won the title of CNN Hero.

As part of our community service, we will be working with the physical landscape of Ethiopia, as well as non-physical work such as volunteering in schools and hospitals.  We split up into groups to coordinate who would be working with little primary school kids and who would be working with a group of Ethiopian college students.  In our groups we brainstormed certain activities that would foster an exchange of cultural traditions and knowledge. We also discussed logistics, including vaccinations and whatnot, and also participated in some ice-breakers.

Our second orientation was very productive, and I think we all agree that we can begin to conceptualize what this trip will entail in terms of physical, emotional, and spiritual involvement.

The pictures below are of us working in groups and eating authentic Ethiopian cuisine!

~ Jacob

Friday, May 14th, 2010

University of Washington Hillel: Orientation #1!

The University of Washington Hillel will travel to Ethiopia with JDC Short-Term Service in July 2010.

Sunday, May 9th was our first footstep in what will become a physical and spiritual journey to Ethiopia.

At the orientation, most people in the group got to meet one another. We played ice breakers and we got a good feel for who we would be living with in the near future.  The orientation focused on logistics.  We learned where exactly we were going, and what we needed to do before to embark on our trip.  This included information about donations, doctor’s appointments and applying for visas.

We also were excited to begin planning for future events. They include:  hearing a speaker from Ethiopia talk about the issues in the country; trying Ethiopian cuisine; and helping each other out in varying fundraising efforts.

We will learn more about the WHAT we are doing at the next orientation on the 16th.  We are all excited for this trip, but indeed, there are hoops we all have to jump through before we are able to go, and this orientation showed us clearly what those hoops are. Pictures from out first orientation are below!