We had never met Desalegn in person, but we had corresponded considerably via email. Desalegn is a 29 year-old man from a village called Shanto. Shanto is in an area called Damot Pulasa, about one hour's drive from the city of Soto in southwest Ethiopia. Shanto's population is about 8000 people. Desalegn is one of two people in the HISTORY of the village to graduate from University.
Even though Desalegn has an engineering degree, he has chosen to return to Shanto, with the hopes and goals of saving the orphans there.
We experienced so much during our time with Desalegn. The village is in a very remote and beautiful area. Apart from Desalegn's efforts, there is no opportunity for education for the children of the village. We didn't see any vehicles in the village. We were the first white people the children had ever seen!
Dave became acquainted with FOVC after an economist with OxFam (a UK development organization, similar to World Vision or USAID) confirmed it is a legitimate and worthy organization. There is no end to the amount of support and help needed by FOVC. Desalegn has been reaching out to the west since 2006, but we are--to date--the first people who have responded to his pleas for help. Dave is trying to help by serving on FOVC's board, and by trying to get a website going for them.
Desalegn has put together a comprehensive and extremely well-written plan for FOVC. (If you are interested, I would love to send it to you! Please?) He is well-regarded by local government, and FOVC has been given almost 2 acres in Shanto. He has already erected a primitive school building, and hopes to be able to add an orphanage.
FOVC's goal is to keep the children in Ethiopia. Desalegn wants to accomplish this by providing education, health care, job training for widows, stipends for local families who take in orphans and etc. (Much like Hanna Fanta's model for Children's Heaven....but far-removed from Addis, and with none of the connections to people and resources that Hanna has been able to develop.) FOVC is currently serving about 25 orphans and a handful of widows. Of course, there are more children who need help. If Desalegn can find a way to construct the orphanage, FOVC will be able to help many more orphaned children.
Here are some pictures (well, lots of pictures) from our incredible days with Desalegn:
we passed a troop of baboons!