Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas 2006: Partners in the Horn of Africa

Rural schools in Ethiopia defy understanding by people coming out of the North American school system. Ethiopia, a country the size of British Columbia, has more than 60 million inhabitants and a per capita income of less than $200.00 per year. Poverty is crushing and the resources available for education are scant. Schools run in two shifts: from 7 a.m. to noon and from noon to 5 p.m. In the rural areas classrooms are typically built from mud over a eucalyptus frame and usually have neither electricity nor running water. Inside between 60 and 100 kids sit on benches, often without desks, writing on notebooks balanced on their knees. Light comes from two or three window-like openings cut out of the walls. Schools in the urban areas usually have outdoor pit latrines. But in the rural areas pit latrines are rare and kids must relieve themselves around the perimeter of the school grounds. The first step in improving educational facilities is to make schools fit places to spend time.

I have quoted from the Partners in the Horn of Africa website. Partners is a small Canadian organization, based north of Kelowna, in Enderby, British Columbia. It was founded by some very caring people, including several lawyers. Partners is a registered charity in Canada, and may issue receipts allowing Canadian taxpayers to claim a tax credit. This charity works in the Horn of Africa on small projects, and requires local community participation in these projects. I assume that local participation is the reason for the name “Partners.”

Here is a little more information about one of Partners in the Horn of Africa’s projects from its website:

Partners has build pit latrines in two elementary schools in West Gojam which are novel, useful and educational. In each case two structures were built on the school grounds. The first building consists of four latrines on each side of a central wall - one set for girls, the other for boys. Waste from each latrine drains into a sealed, underground concrete tank. Another intake pipe outside the structure allows school kids to add cattle manure to the tank. The tank itself is a bio-gas system creating methane gas which is transmitted through a copper line to a second cement block structure about 100 feet away. This is a lunch room where the methane fires burners so meals can be heated and tea warmed. A large outflow trough from the concrete tank allows neutralized waste to be extracted and applied to a vegetable garden. New water lines from the town bring clean water to the latrines and to the cookhouse. Water is now available at the school; waste no longer soils the ground and threatens the health of students. And in the process methane gas is created in a living educational experiment.

I wrote about Partners in the Horn of Africa today, because I think of Christmas as a holiday that embodies a spirit of giving and of hope.
Merry Christmas.

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