News from Cass Business School

Hanna’s orphans love Cass

Recent MSc graduate, Donal O'Shea, discusses his summer charity work in Ethiopia

Wednesday, 22 September, 2010

In 1994 Hanna Teshome was asked to look after Samson, a baby that had been orphaned by HIV. Fast forward to 2010 and Hanna, with the help of an army of 20 staff, now looks after more than 200 children across Ethiopia. In August this year two Cass students and a member of staff travelled to Ethiopia to teach in Hanna's orphanages as volunteers.
In April 2010 staff and students at Cass were challenged to submit a proposal for how they could raise money for Hanna's Orphanage*, the entrants with the three best proposals would have the opportunity to spend two weeks teaching at Hanna's Orphans' Home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The winning entries came from Michael Feeney, MSc International Accounting and Finance; Donal O'Shea, MSc Mathematical Trading and Finance and Charleane Smith, Cass Elearning Support Officer. In the text below Donal shares his experience of the trip:
Leaving London after a final day of dashing around, I was both excited and somewhat apprehensive; just what I had signed up for? The previous few weeks had been stressful for all of us, juggling house hunting, exams, fundraising and the all important lesson planning before departing. Although it was a relief to be finally going, the trip got off to a bad start when Michael had a last minute ear infection which ruled him out of flying. He managed to see us off in the airport and caught up with us in Addis a few days later.
Jenny (the founder of the Hanna's Orphanage charity) had warned us before departing that things don't always go to plan in Ethiopia. On the morning we arrived, we found this out for ourselves as it transpired we would be teaching much older students then we had expected. I was fine with this until we walked into class and were greeted with a board containing Newton's Laws of Motion. My lesson plans with numbers had involved a far more basic level of understanding (a few games of bingo!); I had to quickly improvise that evening.
Our first impressions of the children where how happy they all were and how well they interacted with each other. They were very confident kids, who all had big aspirations for the future which was testament to the work being done there. Their eagerness to learn and constant smiles were truly remarkable. Meeting the famous Hanna was also a brilliant experience. I had imagined a serious lady, barely finding time to relax running so many different orphanages and ensuring everything didn't fall apart. However, the complete opposite was true, she was one of the warmest people we had ever met and all the kids loved her.
During the mornings Charleane, Michael and I would alternate between the grades, teaching the energetic (and noisy!) grades 5 & 6 all the way up to grade 10. Charlene had more of a calming influence on the younger kids, keeping them entertained with everything from stickers to clotheslines. Michael made it his mission to insure that every orphan in Addis knew the history of Ireland, drawing detailed maps on any blackboard he could lay his eyes on! The afternoons were mayhem with everything from rapid-fire draughts games, volleyball & football matches, darts and card games all taking place in the small 40sq meter courtyard where the orphanage was located.
During our time there we had the opportunity to travel to a small rural school in Lalibela, North Ethiopia, where Jenny had taught for a year. From meeting with Jenny's friends and the locals around town we were all struck with how warm and welcoming the Ethiopian people are. Although it took me two weeks to learn how to say 'thank you' in Amharic, it's very tricky, there was one line which we had all picked up within days as it's every Ethiopians' default phrase "chigger'ellem" (no problem!).
I feel very fortunate to have been granted such a great opportunity and it's an experience I'll always have with me. Although the trip was wholly about the orphans, it's impossible not to gain and learn something about yourself on such an advernture. I would strongly recommend anyone thinking of doing something similar to apply this year, should the opportunity become available. Someday we all hope to return to Addis and see how everyone is getting on.
Find out more about Hanna's Orphanage and how you can help.
Charleane and Donal talk about their experience with Alex Ritson in this week's Cass Talks. These interviews are an opportunity to hear Cass faculty and prominent alumni give their perspective on current business and finance news stories, global issues affecting the business world and new research coming out of the School. Listen, watch and download Cass Talks and see other Cass academics share their opinions*'Hanna's Orphanage' is the name of the UK charity, founded by Jenny Higgins, that raises money for the orphanages established and run by Hanna Teshome in Ethiopia.

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