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Dessie, Ethiopia

December 18, 2010 to December 31, 2010

This is a trip for the learner, the explorer, the wonderer and the wanderer and those with a passion to work with others. Habitat for Humanity is about building relationships to build houses for those in need. The winter holidays are a season of giving and receiving and of sharing and making memories with families and friends. This trip is a wonderful opportunity to combine all of these purposes. Come, and celebrate the holidays on a working vacation, giving and receiving with those in need.


A typical shack made of scrap metal and wood in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Ethiopia country profile

About Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a land of dramatic variations—from lush mountain highlands to low-lying deserts to one of the highest peaks on the African continent. The Nile River winds its way through this country in the Horn of Africa before flowing to the Mediterranean Sea. Ethiopia’s Rift Valley has been called the “cradle of mankind,” due to the discoveries of large numbers of hominid fossils there.

Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world with the majority of its population leading destitute lives and living in poverty housing. A recent United Nations survey ranked Ethiopia No. 169 (out of 175) in quality of life. Ethiopia’s problems are mainly attributed to frequent famine, civil conflicts, political turmoil and foreign aggression.

About Dessie
Dessie is located about 400 kilometers northeast of Addis Ababa and lies in a small valley between the lowlands and the plateau. Due to the long distance and bad roads, it can take up to 12 hours in a bus to get to Dessie. It is one of the largest cities in Ethiopia. Approximately one-third of the citizens are migrants from the neighboring rural communities and internally displaced people from the port of Assab.

Habitat started to build in Dessie in 2004, and the affiliate served as the pilot project for a shift in construction technology within HFHE. In an effort to reach lower-income families, HFHE tested more traditional chika, or mud-plastered houses. It was the success of this project that spread the technique to the rest of the Ethiopian affiliates, reducing house costs by up to 60 percent.

About Habitat for Humanity Ethiopia
Habitat for Humanity Ethiopia began construction in 1993 and has since expanded to build houses in 11 communities. HFHE has attempted to integrate its operations with those of community-based organizations, in order to be more effective in its work.

There is a great need for simple, decent and affordable housing in Ethiopia. HFHE defines substandard housing as a home with dirt floors, leaking roof, breaking chika, no windows and doors and lack of sanitation. A staggering 90 percent of the population has no access to decent sanitation facilities, and 73 percent of the population does not have safe drinking water, causing disease to run rampant.

Types of construction for volunteers
Your participation is vital to HFHE’s ministry. Volunteer manual labor helps the national program to reduce house costs by 10–20 percent for partner families. Typical work for a GV team includes mixing mortar and concrete; carrying construction materials; fixing chicken wires; digging foundations; making bricks; and carrying water.

HFHE’s houses vary from 22 to 36 square meters and are built from a number of different materials, including stabilized soil blocks, hollow concrete blocks and fired bricks. HFHE also constructs improved traditional style “chika” houses, which are built mostly of wood, soil, sand and stone. All houses have a latrine in a separate block and are built in such a manner that families can add rooms in the future.

Standard itinerary
(14-day itinerary)

Day 1(typically Saturday)
: Depart home country.
Day 2 (Sunday)
: Arrive in Addis Ababa; dinner and overnight in Addis Ababa.
Day 3 (Monday)
: Breakfast at hotel; travel to host project site; welcome and orientation with local staff and dinner with homeowner families.
Days 4–8 (Tuesday–Saturday)
: Breakfast served before traveling to work site; work from 8 a.m.–4 p.m. with lunch on site; free time in the evenings; dinner; team activities.
Day 9 (Sunday)
: Visit a local church and enjoy other cultural activities.
Days 10–12 (Monday–Wednesday)
: Breakfast served before traveling to work site; work from 8 a.m.–4 p.m. with lunch on site; free time in the evenings; dinner; team activities. Farewell celebration on day 12 with homeowner families.
Day 13 (Thursday)
: Travel to Addis Ababa; free time; dinner and overnight.
Day 14 (Friday)
: Depart for home.

Note: There will be other opportunities for cultural activities in the evenings, during free time and during days off.

Accommodations vary depending on project locations. Teams will spend their first and last nights at a hotel in Addis Ababa. At project locations, GV teams will stay in simple lodging, often sharing rooms and bathrooms. Most rooms have their own bathroom, and hot water is usually reliable. Electricity, however, is not always reliable so flashlights are necessary as a precaution.

All three meals and bottled water will be provided each day.

Trip cost
(For more details about what is included in this cost, visit Global Village trip cost.)

There will be opportunities to extend the trip and spend the new year in Ethiopia. This will be at additional cost.

Team leader
The team leader for this trip is Sandra J. Schmidt, who says the African continent is becoming her second home—a place near to her heart, even when she is far away. Sandra has led previous teams to Kenya, Malawi and Lesotho. She has also spent time as a teacher, researcher and learner in Sudan, Uganda and Malawi. She is a high school teacher turned university professor currently living in Columbia, South Carolina and working to expand the minds of future social studies teachers. She is also a runner and will help team members find great places to run if the work site is not exhausting enough! As a team leader, Sandra enjoys watching others make meaning of this wonderful journey and facilitating their growth and insight.

Fore more information about this Global Village trip to Ethiopia, contact Sandra at 517-775-4696 or

To apply for a GV trip, please follow the Application Instructions.

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