Amlaku is a somewhat famous name in the Parish of Pohangina, but he’s only visited once. Amlaku is an Ethiopian man who ran away from his remote village at the age of 12, so that he could get an education. Sleeping on the streets of Lalibela, the nearest town, and attending school for half the day while working the other half in order to eat, he did his homework by street light. But in order to complete his schooling, he needed to give up work, and therefore his livelihood.
Crying out to God, Amlaku asked for a way forward. By His grace, Amlaku’s prayer was about to be answered.
The very next day, he met Ric Foxley – a member of our Pohangina Parish whānau, who was in Ethiopia as part of his work with The Leprosy Mission. Amlaku was Ric’s guide as he toured a 900-year-old church. Amlaku approached him and courageously asked: “please sir, I want to go to university.” His dream was to get educated so he could bring his community, still using centuries-old agricultural techniques, into the present age.
Both Ric’s and Amlaku’s lives were about to change.
That was nearly ten years ago. Ric and his family and friends supported Amlaku through university, where he obtained a plant science degree with great distinction. But that wasn’t the end of the relationship. Ric continued to use his fundraising skills to support Amlaku in his quest – with people from all over the country joining the effort to bring about modernisation and better outcomes for Amlaku’s community. In 2017, Ric brought Amlaku to New Zealand to allow him to study farming techniques here, and to meet some of the people who had been supporting him for so long.
Bishop Justin met him, and said at the time, “[Amlaku and Ric’s] project is such a beautiful example of the marriage of skills and resources resulting in a beautiful relationship which is transformative for both parties and for the wider communities involved.”
In the course of their relationship, Amlaku’s community has benefitted in the following ways:
- A 24/7 supply of pure drinking water, with water piped to a tank from a spring which people and animals used.
- Improved seed and fertiliser which has led to an incredible increase in their main grain crops. Yields have been quadrupled, meaning that they have more than enough food for the whole year. Previously they used to run very low several months before harvest.
- A diesel-powered grain mill, which will do in 15 minutes what used to take a woman 10 hours of back breaking work.
- Reusable sanitary towels, which mean that girls and women don’t have to withdraw from school or work for a week every month. These last for more than 3 years.
- A series of canals running from the river which bisects the village have enabled the villagers to grow vegetable cash crops which they sell to the hotels in Lalibela, while also improving their diet.
- Major input into the village primary school, established there by the Government a few years ago. 430 pupils attend classes, half in the morning, half in the afternoon.
- Many of the villagers have built sturdy new homes, while all families now have bank accounts.
Late last year, Amlaku did a 2 week course in Uganda, learning how to make and market the Days for Girls reusable sanitary towels. With generous gifts from supporters here, he has now established an enterprise to make these in Lalibela, where there will be a huge untapped market for the product. This is providing employment for 20 youngsters from the village, youngsters who would otherwise struggle to find work.
Amlaku’s dream is in the process of becoming reality. The transformation in his life from a shy, but determined, young man to confident community leader has been nothing short of amazing – and his community are reaping the benefits. He has grown in his faith through this journey, as in fact have his New Zealand family, as they have watched God working out His purposes for the people of Baregota Village.
Ric rightly exclaims: “To God be the glory, great things He has done!”
If you would like to help with the next phase of this ongoing relationship, here’s what’s needed:
In order to enable them to build up some reserves in their bank accounts, we want to fund fertiliser for one more year – to the tune of $460.00 per farmer. Money in the bank for them means that from now on they will be able to purchase their own improved seed and fertiliser, as well as meet other needs that they have.
They have also asked that we provide each home with a solar panel, so that they can have lighting in their houses. This is particularly important for the children doing their homework. A panel costs $250.00.
You can see the project’s progress at www.bricks.org.nz, and you can phone Ric on 06 326 8887 if you would like to know more. Please note that Ric is overseas for five weeks from ANZAC Day, but is available by email on email@example.com.
If you wish to donate, you can do so into the Bricks for Life bank account, an organisation established by Ric to support Amlaku’s development work. The details are: Bricks for Life Inc, account number: 06-0729-0613936-00. Cheques, made out to Bricks for Life Inc (Reg. Charity Number CC 55204), can be posted to Ric Foxley at 100 Worcester St, Ashhurst, 4810.
Ric advises that all donations are receipted (provided address details are provided) but regrettably cannot be used for a tax refund. Bricks for Life costs come to about 5% of the total monies given.