There is nothing more valuable than education
PROJECT-E Hospitality Institute
Women from PROJECT-E Hospitality Institute talk about their development after having accomplished their second internship within the program
Thanks to previous volunteers from PROJECT-E, who are studying at the same university in Germany as I do, I heard about this non-profit organization that supports women in Ethiopia. My fellow students explained that PROJECT-E provides young women without financial means with a higher level education, always following the mission of “empowering women”. I became so impressed by this strong incentive and social approach that I applied to volunteer for PROJECT-E myself. Since May I am authorized to support the organization, the staff, and the students with my knowledge and skills as best as I can. However, I feel like I have learned much more from them than they have from me.
I have never been to Africa before. The continent, the country, the people the culture – everything was new and impalpable for me. However, what I was most surprised of was the tremendous gender inequality. I was shocked to see women carrying packages of branches down from the Entoto hill, weighing roughly 60kg. I was surprised to see women sitting on sidewalks cooking corn for pedestrians on charcoal. It made me furious to realize that women have defined roles of cleaning, cooking, and raising children while men go to work, spend money, and enjoy going out with their friends. I realized that the mission of empowering women makes sense. Here, girls are still fighting for their rights, women are dominated by their counterparts and there are little chances to become independent.
From my first day on I had to internalize that most Ethiopians grow up without owning a TV, watching the news or reading the newspaper every day. For me, that was a completely new world, but I started seeing my environment from this new perspective. I learned that different backgrounds are responsible for different results. Especially the contact to PROJECT-E’s students helped me to understand the culture much better.
Dibora and Zabiyalem are two of 17 students that form the first class of the PROJECT-E Hospitality Institute, which was launched as PROJECT-E’s second project in October 2015. On my first day at the college, I was surprised how shy the students were in the beginning and how quickly they opened up once they realized that I am just asking questions to get to know them better. When I asked what PROJECT-E means to them, the answers differed, but all girls’ eyes started shining and smiles appeared on their faces. These young women understood that there is nothing more valuable than education and they feel honored to be provided with the high-quality training PROJECT-E is delivering. One of the focus areas of this program is practical experience. Thus, I got the chance to visit some of the students during their second internship. They showed the skills and professionalism they acquired during eight months of training at the school’s facilities and if I would not have known them before, I could not have differentiated Dibora or Zabiyalem from the other staff members at the Capital Hotel & Spa. They conducted the same tasks as the permanent staff members and exude such a joy that I could not stop smiling either.
Dibora was born in Addis Ababa and raised by her single-mother with seven siblings. When she failed the university entrance exam in the 12th grade, she was desperate and disappointed, “I could not think about a future because I already failed once. I was afraid of failing again, but PROJECT-E took this fear away from me”. PROJECT-E provided Dibora with a new opportunity. She left her family to share a dorm with the other students and became a full-time hospitality student. She was taught that there are many different career opportunities she could take if she was eager enough to follow them thoroughly. The internships showed Dibora that she is very talented and that she is respected and valued for her performance. By the time, her motivation and self-confidence improved tremendously as she explains: “In ten years? In ten years I want to have accomplished level 5 in the hospitality education and I want to be the general manager of a famous hotel.”
Zabiyalem’s parents passed away when she was little, leaving her as complete orphan. When she grew up, she dreamed to become a doctor. She wanted to help not only other people but also the countryside to develop. She did not have many friends back in school and when she failed the university entrance exam, her world seemed to fall apart. “Luckily”, she says, “I heard about PROJECT-E. I applied and got accepted after passing the four steps of PROJECT-E’s specific selection process. The program changed my life.” She developed from being a passive person with no friends and only little social interactions to an open, self-confident woman with great communication skills. Zabiyalem understood that she was provided with a valuable privilege: “PROJECT-E is the way. I meet people, acquire life skills and I am engaged in social communications. I try to have a good score in every subject because I want to become a hotel manager.” Furthermore, she still wants to support other people. “I want to help girls in the same way PROJECT-E helped me.”
When I heard the students saying these words, it touched my heart. I had tears in my eyes and I realized something:
PROJECT-E is a chance.
It is a chance for young women to develop, become self-confident and financially independent. It is a chance to show the industries that Ethiopian women are highly-skilled and motivated employees if they are provided with the right education. It is a chance to reach gender equality and satisfaction in a quickly growing economy. Therefore, I hope that more people will support those initiatives in the future. At least I will.
Written by Helen Kasten
If you are now eager to support the organization as a fulltime volunteer or if you just want some more information, please contact us. We are always looking for support in terms of partnerships, funding, experience sharing etc.
T: +251 929 103 735