The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at the University of Gondar organized the second summer camp for Scholars between July 13 and 27 with the active support of its partners in Cheshire Services Ethiopia (CSE), Special Support Unit of Addis Ababa University (SSUA), Bahir Dar Physical Rehabilitation Center (BDPRC) and Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development (ECDD). The 33 Scholars were fully committed to the camping objective, and shared their life experiences with others. This had created opportunities to hone in on their communication and discourse skills as well as renew their pledge to the service of their communities. The unique aspect of this year’s summer camp was the fact that the Scholar Council assumed a prominent role in managing the schedule – with the support of the Scholars team.
This year’s Summer Camp had a theme entitled, ‘learning to serve and transform their society, and grow as socially conscious and capable leaders of social transformation’. The Summer Camp involved journeys through Bahir Dar and Debre Markos with the final destination being Cheshire Homes, Mengesha in Addis Ababa. It started with a debriefing session on the morning of July 13 overseen by Scholars Program staff – Dr. Solomon, Dr. Mikyas, Mrs. Adina, Mr. Nega and Mr. Tewodros. The schedule and itinerary of the Camp was presented and discussed, with the Program staff delivering additional motivational and inspirational remarks and what to look for during the Summer Camp.
On the 14th, 33 Scholars and two Program staff – Ms. Adina and Mr. Tewodros – set off, in two Coaster vehicles, to the first destination i.e. BDPRC, where they spent a day-and-half serving beneficiaries of the Center. The Scholars Council collected 1,140ETB from all Scholars and Program staff to donate to the Center. Upon receiving the donation on behalf of the beneficiaries, the Center’s Director Mrs. Belaynesh received the donations with an open heart.
Scholars met and had inspiring discussions with residents of the boarding school for visually impaired youth at Debre Markos.
On the 18th, the travelling team arrived at Cheshire Homes, Menagesha, which would be their home and base until the 23rd of July. The Scholars managed to visit landmarks in the city including Addis Ababa University (and its Special Support Unit), National Museum and ECDD’s IGA initiatives, among others. In addition they also enjoyed the hot weather and springs of Debre Zeyit and Sodere.
As a well-organized and managed institution, Cheshire Homes manufactures prosthetics, shoes, crunches, wheelchairs and more for children with physical impairments. It also houses many children who undergo surgery or medical treatment at the Homes. During a week’s stay at the Homes, Scholars had the opportunity to interact, learn and draw inspirations from a range of individuals including Dr. Desalegn Mengesha (former President of UoG and current Associate Director of Ohio State University’s One Health Initiative), Dr. Asrat Atsedeweyn (President of the University of Gondar) and Mr. Kedir Kassim (Manager of the Homes). Program staff and consultants also took to the stage to discuss leadership and community giveback experiences and lessons for Scholars.
When discussing with the President of the University of Gondar, Dr. Asrat Astsedeweyn, the Scholars shared that the camp was very much worthwhile. Some of the scholars gave their reflections about their summer camp program and, resoundingly, all of them responded that they attained “adequate knowledge” of leadership, “improved their confidence”, got a chance to bond with one another and gained a “new lease on emotional intelligence” and time management and increased their knowledge on disability issues.
On the morning of July 26, 2019 the scholars started their journey back home to Gondar.
The Scholars themselves had nothing but good things to say about their experience in the summer leadership camp. According to Sisay Agegnehu, a postgraduate scholar, the camp allowed here to prepare and to brain storm on how she would run future facilities in order to give back to her community. “The ECDD training on community give back and observing a rehabilitation center inspired me in many ways,” said Sisay. In the future, she looks forward to opening up her own and feels experiences like this brings everything into perspective.
In addition, one reoccurring theme that was raised when alluding to the camp was the bonding amongst Scholars. Kalkidan Ferede who is an undergraduate scholar brought up the fact that the scholars were separated between their classes and different disciplines and hardly got the chance to interact with one another. “The best part of the camp showed me how to be united for a common cause and how to work together to solve pressing issues of the day” stated Kalkidan.
All the Scholars who shared their thoughts on the camp felt that their knowledge on leadership and community give back has been sharpened. They expressed their gratitude to mentors like Mr. Yifokire Tefera for their inspiring leadership training and overall guidance as well.
The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program was launched in 2017 and it will educate 450 talented youth with disabilities and disadvantages from five East African Countries, which include Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Eritrea (refugees in Ethiopia) and South Sudan. The partnership also aims to build UoG’s capacity as a center of excellence in rehabilitation education in East Africa with 60 faculty members studying at graduate and postgraduate levels at Queen’s University (Canada).
By Samuel Malede| Public & International Relation Directorate