Letter from Shalev Netanel, our Volunteer Photographer and Yoga Teacher
In November, 2015, I left my home in Los Angeles to backpack solo around the world. Nearly two years later, I arrived in Addis to fulfill a promise to myself-- not to cease my peregrinations without volunteering for a substantial period of time.
Working with the Global Family Initiative’s Betasab Project was a natural choice, given my connection with Claudia as a family friend in addition to my longstanding, preternatural fondness of Ethiopian cuisine. Moreover, having recently traveled in Cambodia, where fake orphanages that exploit children rake in big bucks from angel-headed tourists, I was instilled with an acute sense of responsibility when it came to choosing a worthwhile NGO to volunteer.
It didn’t take me long into my month-long stay in Addis to realize that that the Global Family Initiative is doing something quite special. While spending time with the kids in their homes, I observed how Betasab creates material improvements in their children’s lives, providing housing, school supplies, delicious and nutritious food, and most importantly, a space where the children know that they are safe and loved.
I was not only struck by how much the staff adored the kids, but also by how much the kids loved and respected one another. Therefore, it didn’t surprise me in the least when several members of Love and Care, a local organization that sends volunteers to Betesab and other organizations like it, independently told me that the Betesab Origins Home children are the best behaved and adoring of any organization that they work with. (But I could have told you that myself!)
Working with the Claudia, Ephrem (the Program Director at Betasab Ethiopia) and the rest of the staff on the ground in Addis was truly a highlight of my two-years of travels. Not only because I finally found it in myself to put some effort into “giving back” to one of the countries I was visiting, but chiefly because the experience showed me what can become of an idea when inspired people put it into action. What a privilege it was to participate in this organization and witness first hand how they are changing lives!