… is one of the phrases in my new Amharic phrasebook that hopefully I won’t have any need for whilst I’m away. Hopefully it shouldn’t be too hard for me to pick up some useful phrases, though I think it’ll be harder to get to grips with the Ethiopian alphabet (syllabary)… 33 basic characters, with extra strokes depending on which of the 7 vowels follows, so by my maths that’s 231 characters. Wikipedia has a table showing them, well, I assume it does, my browser only displays ‘?’ for each one – seems a font needs to be installed to display.
In terms of other progress… this evening I had a photographer from the local paper (Northampton Chronicle and Echo) come to take a few pics of me in my VSO t-shirt, for an article that should be in the paper in the next few days. This came about as a result of VSO writing a press release (see below) for me and sending to the local paper – hopefully it might encourage a few people to have a look at my blog and make a donation.
Local man heads to Ethiopia to share IT Skills
Alex Little, 34, of Northampton is about to head off to Ethiopia to volunteer with international development agency VSO. The organisation, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, sends skilled and experienced professionals like Alex to help in countries where their skills are most needed.
Alex first heard about VSO through some friends who had volunteered and were hugely enthusiastic about their experiences. It wasn’t until he did some voluntary environmental conservation work in Romania last year that he decided to apply. “There were two people from the US Peace Corps coordinating the work there for two years,” says Alex, “it was their work that really inspired me to apply.”
The placement will run at Mekelle University in northern Ethiopia for a year initially, with the option to stay on for another year, either in Mekelle or another similar placement in Ethiopia. Alex will be working as an IT advisor and trainer in the computing faculty of the university, and he is relishing the chance to use his skills to help others, “I will be helping to train teachers and trainee teachers in various aspects of IT, but also helping to maintain and improve their IT infrastructure. This fits well with my current job in the UK where I work for the IT team in a faculty at the Open University.”
It’s an exciting time for the 34 year old who has always wanted to spend time living abroad, not just as a traveller, but as someone with the opportunity to experience a different way of life. “I’m most looking forward to living and working in a completely different environment and experiencing their culture and way of life,” says Alex.
Volunteering for Alex seems to run in the family: “All my friends and family have been very supportive, my brother is currently doing voluntary work in the Philippines, and my parents (both now retired) are looking forward to having an adventurous holiday when they visit!”
Though it’s not without apprehension that he Alex heads into his new role. “As with any new job,” says Alex “I’ve thought about how I will I fit in, whether or not I’ll get by with the language and how easy it will be to make new friends.” Luckily for him, he has a strong network of friends and family to support him whilst he is away, “hopefully some will make the trip to come and visit me. I’ll miss cups of tea, cheese and Yorkshire puddings. I certainly won’t be missing the daily commute down the M1 though!”
Alex is also keeping a blog at: http://alexlittle.net/vso and a justgiving page at: http://www.justgiving.com/alex-vso where he is raising money to help support the work that VSO does and to ensure volunteers like Alex can continue to do so.
VSO is an international development charity, which works through volunteers. Using the skills and experience of volunteers it helps tackle poverty in nearly 34 of the world’s poorest countries. Currently celebrating its 50th Anniversary, VSO is now the largest organisation of its kind in the world and has 1,500 volunteers working overseas at any one time.
VSO is currently looking for new volunteers. For recruitment information and details on how to support fundraising initiatives, phone VSO on 020 8780 7500 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.vso.org.uk