One Mum’s Story: Volunteering for Bristol Charity For-Ethiopia

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Today on Bristol Mum a local mum called Gwyneth Rees explains how she came to volunteer for a Kitchen-Table charity called For-Ethiopia.

For-Ethiopia is a local charity that focuses on improving three areas of life for people in Ethiopia: health, education and water. The charity will be holding a fund-raising event called “The Big Push: Mums for Mums” at Ashton Court on 5th July and all Bristol mums are invited to take part.

Please read on to find out how Gwyneth got involved with For-Ethiopia and about The Big Push: Mums for Mums.

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“There was nothing altruistic about volunteering – it was purely, very selfish.

I’d been a stay-at-home mum for two years, and a freelance writer before that, tapping away solitary on my laptop. Tap, tap. Oooh, time for another cup of tea. Tap.

I was sick of it. I WANT COMPANY! I screamed to myself. I WANT TO LEAVE MY HOUSE! I WANT TO MEET PEOPLE!

So I googled things to do in Bristol. Choirs. Bands. Reading groups. Tantric yoga (what?). Instead, I lighted upon a local charity called For-Ethiopia, doing good things in, well, Ethiopia.

I emailed them. PLEASE CAN I HELP! I’ll do anything. Dig wells! Build schools! Nurse sick children!

Actually, I couldn’t do any of those things. But they took me under their wing anyway.

They let me come to their meetings, they fed me biscuits, they let me chip in with ideas… they let me speak.

For-Ethiopia is a delightful little charity. There’s only a small gang of us. It was set up in 2004 by an Ethiopian lady, Tigist Grieve, who lives up in Fishponds. She asked locals back home what they needed, and set about trying to deliver.

Now, ten years on, it focuses on education, health and water – the basics. It builds wells, sponsors girls through secondary education and improves the rural health posts.

It’s difficult to comprehend how poor rural Ethiopia still is. Some of it is so very grim. Girls get abducted and raped on their way to school – then, they’re married off as ruined goods. The knowledge of western medicine is near non-existent. Locals haven’t even heard of conditions such as Epilepsy and Down’s Syndrome. They believe serious ailments can be cured with a drop of holy water. There is often no access to clean water, no electricity, no lights. It’s incomprehensible that such a society exists, when we here in the UK have so much. The Ethiopian government is doing what it can to make changes, but more help is needed.

Now, every week or so, I meet with the other volunteers around various Bristol kitchen tables, to come up with and implement new fundraising strategies.

I’ve learnt how complicated running even a small charity is. The Ethiopian government don’t let any Tom, Dick or Harry work on their soil. Instead, they carefully select their NGOs (and have kicked out most of them) and they want detailed proposals, with cost and time estimates of any planned projects. They’ve also got strict criteria – not allowing charities to buy cars, for instance, to stop wastage; instead, the money has to go directly to tangible projects. It’s an enormous amount of work, with enormous hurdles and hoops to jump through, but it’s also tremendous fun.

This year is our tenth anniversary and we’re focusing our fundraising efforts on mums and babies.

Tragically, the maternal death rate across Ethiopia is woeful. According to the World Health Organisation, some 13,000 mums died last year from childbirth complications. Largely, these were all young women, mostly in their teenage years, with their whole lives and futures ahead of them.

These women gave birth, pretty much exclusively, in their own homes, without clean water, equipment, lights, electricity or – fundamentally – a trained midwife to help with any complications. Would you fancy doing that? What do you think your chances would be? It would be like giving birth alone in your garden shed.

In the Ejere district of Ethiopia, where we work, there are three main health centres with basically-trained midwives and nurses (though, sadly, no doctors – not one for an area of 150,000 people). We want to buy a motorbike ambulance, which can transport women who are having difficult labours to one of these health centres, so the chance of them and their babies surviving are greater.

As such, we’re putting on an event, on Saturday July 5th called “The Big Push: Mums for Mums!”


It’s a simple idea – it’s a buggy push, where mums push their buggy up from the bottom café of Ashton Court to the top one, making a bit of effort for the mums in Ethiopia who are not so fortunate.

There will be cake and coffee, and balloons in vibrant Ethiopian colours. And although it’s aimed at mums, all are welcome – older kids on bikes and scooters, dads, friends, dogs…. Push a wheelbarrow up for all we care.

We’d love it if as many families as possible could come. After you’ve done the “push” up, we’ll give you a drink and a certificate. You can then enjoy Ashton Court, or meet us all down in the bottom café for more cake and tea.

Please join us for this fun event, or just come along to see what we’re about. We’re asking for a donation of between £5 and £10 per family, but we’re a flexible bunch. If you do plan on coming by car, do arrive early so you get a space.

For more information, email me, Gwyneth Rees, at, phone 0781 759 8689, or visit

With many thanks from For-Ethiopia, and the mums and babies out in Ethiopia.”