Meki Catholic School is located in the east-central region of Ethiopia, about 92 miles south of Addis Ababa. My CNEWA colleagues Argaw Fantu, Christopher Kennedy and I met with Abba Yisehak Gebrekirstosin, a 2007 alumnus of Meki High School who now serves as the school director. Argaw commented that the “fruit of the land (Abba Yisehak) is now serving others.” What a testament to the quality of education of the Meki Catholic School! After completing his minor seminary at the Catholic Apostolic Vicariate of Meki, Abba Yisehak was a seminarian at Capuchin Franciscan Institute of Philosophy and Theology in Addis Ababa. However, as he walked us through the school grounds, he declared that being director of the Meki Catholic School was his greatest honor and challenge thus far.
Serving students from kindergarten through high school, the school had recently moved to new grounds to accommodate a growing student body of 2,628 students. Most of the students were in kindergarten through eighth grade, and less than half of them seemed able to make it to high school. However, the students in grades 10 to 12 work hard on completing their studies and taking the National Exam. Almost 200 students were preparing to go to university, a challenging feat from those often coming from families with limited resources and funds. Even about a dozen students were attending the minor seminary, which Abba Yisehak fondly recounted was his own pathway more than a decade ago.
In order to attend Meki Catholic School, students take an entrance exam during the summer, and those who qualify are accepted — which was about 10 percent of students taking the exam for entry into all grade levels. However, as is common in Ethiopia, Meki Catholic School is not free, a challenge for many students who excel academically. Recent long-standing droughts have devastated crop yields in Meki, a region that relies heavily on agriculture. Through community organizers and outreach, Meki Catholic School tries to reach these students to provide them with assistance for education and nutrition. In particular, CNEWA directly assists 108 of these students, though many more could use help in this impoverished region. Ultimately, Meki relies on donor support to offer access to education to the children of low-income families — children who have the potential to succeed and bring development to their region and help break it out of the cycle of poverty and missed opportunities.
Abba Yisehak thanked the team from CNEWA for our generous support. I felt much gratitude for the kindness and hospitality of our host. Indeed, throughout the entire trip, I experienced the incredible friendliness of the Ethiopian people and their beautiful and sincere expressions of faith. I saw throughout my journey not only the poverty and suffering, but also the joy and hope of these strong-willed people.
How can I sum up my thoughts at the end of all this? I knew that coming here, I would face many surprises, but I have had my horizons stretched far more than expected.
God never calls us to stay in our comfort zone!