Degan is a small town located about 400 Kms northeast of the capital Addis Ababa. It is where I grew up. When, in 1996, I visited for the first time in 18 years, I had an epiphany. I had to do something to support my friends’ struggle to advance their lives.
Since my previous visit in 1978, they had experienced war, famine and several killer epidemics including cholera and new, drug resistant strains of malaria.
I struggled for several years to find a way to make a contribution from far away New Zealand. Then some things fell into place and I started to get some traction.
In 2003 my younger brother Andrew and I started the DESTA Project dedicated to pursuing health and education goals prioritised by the community. We would have achieved very little without the Degan community itself, the generous support of British Airways and our family and wonderful friends both inside and outside Ethiopia.
DESTA translates as ‘happiness’ in Amharic and is an acronym my brilliant brother Andrew dreamed up;
For us, it sums up the aims and values of our work.
Our role is to consult with the community at all levels and promote their interests to the outside world.
From 2003, when British Airways travel sponsorship enabled regular trips, I have travelled to Ethiopia 12 times on DESTA Project business. We established networks and cooperative alliances at all levels of Ethiopian society and with NGOs run by Ethiopians. This travel sponsorship ended when British Airways stopped flying to Addis Ababa.
The DESTA Project is registered with the Northern Ireland equivalent of the NZ Charities Commission. Some highlights are:
It is the policy of Ethiopian Adventure Tours to create direct income generating opportunities for local people whenever possible and where ever we go. Such micro-enterprise opportunities give people a chance to develop sustainable skilled livelihoods. There is not enough land for everyone to be a farmer in Ethiopia so new forms of income generation are growing at grassroots level - but it is not easy.
Additionally, from time to time, travellers have entrusted us with funds to use as we see fit for the benefit of the community. Most often, these discretionary funds are used to intervene in critical medical situations or in cases of extreme hardship, The ultimate use of such funds is always reported back to the donor.