Saturday (July 30, 2016) was a cold but yet a refreshing night. Piazza, the area we chose to implement our project is a very old part of the city. The name of this infamous neighborhood is in fact Italian meaning public place or market place. There dwell a consider amount of female sex workers, (one which was wearing a hijab caught me by surprise. How can one be religiously observant and yet take up this kind of work?). Attracted by a large number of hotels and bars one can find them in large numbers and with diverse demography. The hotels while usually being small and thrice or four times older than the average age expectancy of the average Ethiopian seemed to be packed with people dancing and merry making. The streets, narrow and with varying slope together with some age old beautiful houses reminded everyone who wishes to admire their beauty, the glorious past of the city: the beauty it had during the Italian occupation of Ethiopia and imperial times. I said to myself, “If a tourist is not going to see it while in Addis then he/she should ask for their money. Being the central part of the city, piazza has been also the center of Addis Abeaben culture, where the identity of the “Ye addis ababa lij (addis abebean)” similar to what we call a “new Yorker” originates from. It’s the Brooklyn of Addis.
Unfortunately it is not affluent as the some neighborhoods like bole. It is packed with people living on the street, street children who have either run away from their homes or orphans, street vendors with different goods ranging from fruits to old books and magazines. Its overpopulated, rundown, and has been the main target of urban renewal programs carried out by the cities administration. One can see a number of demolished houses there. Such a neighborhood easily attracted our members to do an outreach donation of clothes and shelter bags.
We first assembled at one of our members house found in that neighborhood, sorted all the materials we have. We had used clothes and used shoes. We also brought plastic bags that can be used for sleeping or constructing a makeshift house. They were bought by willing members of our club and were fit to be used as both sleeping bags and shelters. In order to do that, we had to go to tailors have them redesigned. We sorted them by their size and proceeded to Tayitu hotel. This is a hotel opened by Empress Tayitu, wife of Menelik II, to host foreign diplomats. From there we discussed how to spread our materials, once we came up with our strategies; we went in different directions and gave what we have to the people whom we thought were the most deserving. That’s where the problem started. The some people saw we were holding clothes, everybody thought he/she was the perfect candidate.
We went through quarrels and misunderstandings on different occasions. Yet we also had to protect ourselves from those who wanted to rob us. The most painful experience was, however, to see people who have literally hit rock bottom, those who have nothing absolutely nothing. There were some who were very peaceful, those who just wanted to be helped. Even when we passed them by, they showed no sign of contempt. We were amazed by their humility and disgusted by their poverty. In all honesty the things we did will not make contributions to the current state of their lives. We were the ones who were the most beneficial, for we got the chance to exercise our humanity and such a wonderful experience it was. I was thinking, if in the future one of us becomes a leader our country, will he/she not be a great leader? Will he/she have no problem defying his/ her ego? For that is the essence of rotary: to serve our community, to really know what our community is going through, to experience suffering of other and o grow fro it as leaders and professionals. We then headed to dinner after we finished giving away our goods and had some laughs. All in all it was a fruitful night worthy or remembrance