Our return to Ethiopia

In November 2022, the Orbis Ireland team returned to Ethiopia. And it was incredible to be back to join the Great Ethiopian Run and witness the development of the Orbis project.

Diane Weatherup tells Orbis Ireland about her experience in Ethiopia.

"All funds raised in Ireland go a long way to improve basic eye care in the region. However, the fundraisers who travelled with us to Ethiopia went the extra mile as they committed their time to see where and how their money is spent. I am, as always, humbled by their efforts, and I am proud of Orbis’s significant impact on the ground."

Busy Addis Ababa

After training and fundraising for months, the day finally arrived for the team of 35 to depart for Ethiopia. Nerves were high as the groups from AerCap, Falko Regional Air and Espresso Solutions gathered at the airport. However, as those returning relayed their stories from previous trips, the nerves soon turned to excitement.

The weekend in Addis Ababa was packed with activities, from visiting museums and parks to sampling Ethiopian culture. On Friday evening we were treated to live music and had the chance to taste the traditional cuisine at Checheho Restaurant. On Saturday, we got to see Lucy – the most famous early human ancestor, found about 3.2 million years ago – at Ethiopia's National Museum. We also strolled around Shola market, where you could find everything from shoes to live chickens. Afterwards, we had a delicious cup of coffee in Tomoca, Ethiopia’s first Coffee shop.

Some say they were slightly out of their depth during the 6am training session with elite Ethiopian runners on Entoto Mountain. Still, this experience was the highlight for many - a unique opportunity of a lifetime, never to be forgotten.

6 AM Training Session in Entoto Mountain with elite Ethiopian runners.

Great Ethiopian Run

Finally, the morning of the Great Ethiopian Run arrived, and nerves, excitement and infectious enthusiasm filled the hotel as we set off for the start line. The Great Ethiopian Run attracts 40,000+ people who “pound” through the streets of this vast city. It is a city of potholes and bottle-necks. It is a city of steep, curving hills. It is the highest capital city in Africa at around 2,500m above sea level, and it is hot.

As ever, many in our group had high hopes to set personal bests and compete against the elite, but in the end, everyone settled with just enjoying the wonderful chaos - running, trotting, or walking while attempting to take a moment to take it all in.

The run – actually it’s not a run, it’s a carnival, it’s a party, and everyone is just having an incredible time. That’s what it’s all about” - Alex Bunyan (Falko)

The Work of Orbis

After an action-packed weekend, it was time to say goodbye for a few. They headed home with full hearts and compelling stories while the remaining group travelled 500km south to Arba Minch. Although the group had initially travelled to Ethiopia to participate in the run, the second part of the trip, the visit to the Orbis projects, was truly humbling, eye-opening and, for many, the highlight.

From the moment we landed in Arba Minch, it was a treat for the senses. From stunning landscapes, the warmest of welcomes, and the strangest of smells, it truly is a unique experience, and no matter how many times I return, one I will never tire of.

We were invited to the primary school in Chencha to see the school eye clubs set up by Orbis. As the gates to the school opened, we were overwhelmed by the sound of singing. Hundreds of school children had lined up to welcome us with beautiful songs and impressive dance moves.

Orbis is a well-known charity in these parts due to the widespread eye care activities across this region of 3.6 million people. Throughout the day, we met several people eager to tell us about the treatment they received or their loved one and how it changed their lives.

After learning about ways to eliminate and stop the spread of eye disease through a selection of songs, plays and dances, we met with teachers and health officials who screened children for refractive error. It is impressive to witness how something so straightforward, such as providing glasses, can change the world for a child. They can finally see the blackboard and play with their friends.

Thank you to the AerCap, Falko and Espresso Solutions teams and everyone who joined this memorable trip.

The visit to the local health centre was the most striking part. Here the group met with Orbis-trained Integrated Eyecare Workers. And also had the opportunity to meet with patients suffering from TT, just before their surgery. It is an indescribable, heart warming feeling being able to talk to the patients and to hear their individual stories.

We also witnessed the simple surgery which reverses the effects of trachoma by stopping the eyelids from turning in and scratching the cornea. This experience really is not for the feint hearted, as the health centres and operating rooms are very basic - yet they are very effective.

More Information

Close the modal
Sorry there was an error.
Try again