CEF Goes to Africa - Dan Rogers Reflects on Ethiopia and Zambia Part I

by Rey Buenaventura, CEF Social Media Manager As our CEF board members begin to wind down the first part of their journey through Africa - it's become clear to CEF's Chair, Dan Rogers, that their work is far from over.  Dan takes a moment to reflect back on the group's trip through Ethiopia and Zambia and shares his thoughts on what has been both a humbling and enlightening past two weeks.


"It is Saturday July 14th and we are sitting at our hotel outside Lusaka awaiting the next leg of our adventure. In a sense our CEF "mission" is done although in another sense it is never done.

Our stop in Zambia has been remarkably different than the Ethiopian stop although some of the emotions have been the same. One of the reasons is that in Ethiopia we went days without encountering another Westerner .. in fact once we left Addis Ababa, we didn't encounter any until we went on our "tour" of the historical aspects of Ethiopia. It was a wonderful immersion for us in the country and the culture.

Zambia has been somewhat different first because there are Westerners around and there were about 35 or more from UK and Canada who had come for the school opening. We had the pleasure of getting to know these people who were in some way connected to the Twitti school particularly the O'Callaghan family... all twelve of them!  As we prepared for the opening and shared meals together, I've developed a deep affinity for these amazing people and their many friends who have accomplished so much.  

 I know their appreciation of CEF is deep and abiding as evidenced by the fact that CEF clearly held a special place in the opening ceremonies yesterday.

We have had the opportunity to share the CEF "mission" with these interesting people, who were quite impressed and very inquisitive. I expect that to continue as we head off to Kilimanjaro (sadly minus Robert Brown who will be sorely missed a he heads off to Italy for other business). In a sense we are off on a personal adventure but I know we will be asked, "... so what have you done in Africa?" and then we will happily tell the story again and again. The "reason" we came to Africa is over ... our mission is not.

Zambia has been different ... there is a major highway beside the place we are staying with cars and trucks whizzing by night and day... something we really didn't see in Ethiopia. Almost every vehicle in Ethiopia was either a truck, a bus of some sort or an NGO Landrover type vehicle. We also passed a casino and a mall on our way from the airport.

But just off the road the issues are very very similar. We saw villages and homes, which were in a difficult state to say the least.  There was clearly a lack of educational facilities, medical care, and basic services. And effectively there is no social safety net like in Canada. While there is grinding poverty in Canada that desperately needs to be dealt with, in the two countries we have been in, there appears to be no social safety net of any kind. If you are poor, you take care of yourself. And as a result, despite current economic growth, they still rank very much in the lower third in the Human Development Index and Ethiopia ranks last or near last in life expectancy.

There is great need here and while many groups are doing many wonderful things, much more needs be done.  I know CEF can offer a hand here and there and it is extraordinarily rewarding to do so but we should never lose sight (and our partners here don't) that the solutions need to be created, implemented and maintained locally.

...More to come.  Stay tuned for part II.