Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live and work "in the field" for WFP?
Join Allison as she takes you on a journey out of Addis Ababa and into the field to catch a glimpse of the people's lives WFP is helping to change.
Allison is based in the WFP Ethiopia Country Office and works in the Public Information Unit. She has worked with WFP for six months. During that time she has travelled throughout Ethiopia gathering the stories of people affected by WFP's work.
It's a little misleading to say I'm "in the field." I live in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a city crisscrossed by roads with a skyline punctuated by tall buildings and neon signs. I work in a normal office, with normal hours. I spend a lot of time doing normal work - checking email, making phone calls and writing stories on my computer. In fact, the only fields I usually see are football pitches! But sometimes, when I really get to go "in the field," my work gets a lot more interesting.
Last week, I went on a six-day trip to see four WFP projects in Amhara Region, in northwest Ethiopia. I was accompanying a professional photographer and meeting with beneficiaries to collect their stories. Some of them will appear on the WFP Ethiopia website soon!
Sometimes being "in the field" can be difficult. We spent three of the six days driving over unpaved, rocky roads, up steep, curvy mountains to get to the remote areas where WFP's projects operate. Because we were in such remote areas, the only food we could find was Ethiopian. And while I love injero, traditional Ethiopian bread, and tibs, goat meat with peppers and onions, it gets a little old after a week! As we looked out the window of the car and saw fields of wheat and maize as far as we could see, we also saw difficult things, like people living in mud huts with dirt floors or old or sick people. When we stopped in small towns along our route, we drew a lot of attention because we looked and talked and acted differently. People called us "Ferengi! Ferengi!," which means "foreigner."
But it's also a lot of fun bouncing around a car with your colleagues. We listened to a lot of Ethiopian music, and I learned about the country from our driver and the local WFP field worker accompanying us. I also got to see parts of the rural countryside that very few visitors ever get to see. We stopped in a small village called Sokota to speak to two women benefitting from a project called Leave No Woman Behind, in which WFP and other UN agencies in Ethiopia provide rural women with credit to start a small business. We listened to Kiros talk about how she used her 2500 birr (US$150) loan to buy a cow, two sheep, and a goat, and hopes to open a shop someday. She wants to call the shop Desalegn, which means "makes me happy."
We followed Kiros and her children down the mountain to a large clearing where the community was celebrating Timkat, Ethiopian Epiphany. Hundreds of people had gathered in their best clothes to sing and dance. Many of the boys carried long sticks they hoisted into the air as they danced . The women clapped and sang, and we watched as Kiros entered the center of the circle and began doing a traditional Ethiopian dance, rhythmically shrugging her shoulders to the drumbeat.
I might not feel like I'm "in the field" every day, but at times like this, I know I'm lucky to experience these glimpses of people's lives and tell their stories to the world.
Written by Allison Bream, Princeton in Africa Fellow in the WFP Ethiopia Country Office