Inspire Ethiopia Project
Mar 14, 2019 6:30 PM
Emma Nitkin
Inspire Ethiopia Project

My name is Emma Nitkin, and I am presently 12 years old. As the occasion of my Bat Mitzvah approaches, I have begun to think about my responsibilities as a young adult and how I could contribute to my community. I have decided to launch Inspire Ethiopia, an organization to bring education to a rural Ethiopian village where schools are scarce and resources almost nonexistent. I have come to realize that, although I am young, this will be my legacy project. I hope to leave behind a better world and the inspire others to engage in public service.

I am passionate about helping others, and I became involved in charitable causes at a young age. When I was only two, I started accompanying my family each month to Sophia House Women’s Shelter, in Rockville, MD, to provide meals for homeless women. Later, I worked with the Potomac-Bethesda Rotary Club at the Manna Food Center, in Rockville, MD, to provide non-perishable food items for low-income families in Montgomery County, as well as with the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes in their annual project of rehabilitating group homes. In addition, my father has shared his experiences doing humanitarian work in other countries with me. I have seen pictures of the places he works and the people that he serves in Liberia, Sudan, Uganda, Haiti, Guatemala, Myanmar, Nepal, Cambodia, Indonesia, and many others, and through this have learned about human suffering and need. However, my perspective completely changed two summers ago when I was fortunate enough to travel with my family to my mother’s homeland, Ethiopia.

Until that time, even though I knew I was fortunate to live in an affluent area and attend the private Jewish Day School, I never experienced in any real way how privileged I actually am. Until I saw the situation there with my own eyes, I never fully understood the impact that your place of birth has on the outcome of your life.

We traveled several hours to Wadeye (pronounced: Waadehyee), a beautiful rural village nestled in the majestic green mountains of southwest Ethiopia. Despite its outward beauty, my heart broke when I saw the living conditions within the village itself. There is no electricity, no running water, and no proper sanitation.

Despite our differences, I quickly became friends with the village children – we bonded instantly and became connected. The children are so loving and kind, even though they have no shoes and very little clothing to cover their bodies.

What impacted me the most was I learned that they do not have a proper kindergarten or primary school, despite the fact that there are approximately 400 children in the village. The little schooling they do receive at the primary school level does not begin until at least the age of eight. So, from birth to seven years old, they do not have any exposure to reading, writing, or literature of any kind. In addition to this, the school is in a poor setting that does not have enough room, has only wooden slats for walls, no real seating areas, no desks, a mud floor, and no bathroom facilities or water available. There are no trained teachers, no library or science center, and there is a severe lack of necessary educational materials. Because it is not possible for most children to attend school, and because the schooling that is available is not of high quality, many families become discouraged, and send their children to Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, to live. However, this means they are separated from their families. In addition, they often end up being exploited as a cheap source of labor, never making it to the school they were promised.