Ethiopian Historical Circuit
Rich in history, culture, and wildlife, Ethiopia has been called the “land of sunshine” and “the heart of Africa.” Envoys trips in Ethiopia move from the fast-growing Addis Ababa, home to the African Union Headquarters, to the historical capitals of Gondar and Lalibela. We include extensive lessons on the dramatic history of Ethiopia, the only country in Africa never to be colonized. Our appreciation for the wild beauty of the landscape is developed through our short mountain treks, staying with local communities in specially built tukuls.
Envoys programs in Ethiopia work with both LinkEthiopia and the Yenege Tesfa Foundation to provide assistance to local communities. Following our philosophy for service learning, all projects are collaborative in nature.
Potential project themes include:
- The role of the diaspora in Ethiopian development
- The development of sustainable energy sources
- Social entrepreneurship in the Ethiopian context
- Foreign partnerships for business and development in Africa
[Envoys] knows kids extremely well…they know how to be cool with them while still commanding authority and establishing ground rules…I was incredibly impressed with the protocols established and put in place by Envoys.Micah M., Traveling Faculty Friends Seminary Peru 2015
With its emphasis on empathy and general intelligence in planning, Envoys has quickly emerged as a premier global program provider. They are well worth the attention of any of our schools.Paul Miller Former Director of Global Initiatives,NAIS
Envoys was at the top of their game from start to finish. What initially interested me was their focus on curriculum during pre-departure meetings and the program itself. Envoys cares deeply about the experience of the participants and faculty. [They] constantly ask for constructive criticism and make changes when necessary.Joe Vogel, Executive Director Global Education Benchmark Group
Envoys carefully constructed an educational trip for students that purposefully engaged them to think, reflect, act, and enjoy. The travel logistics were always well-planned, and I had peace of mind knowing that my teen-aged daughter was in safe, responsible, and caring handsAlice T, Parent Deerfield South Korea, 2015
I could not have been more satisfied with the performance of Envoys throughout the entire process of planning and executing this trip. All Envoys staff demonstrated the utmost professionalism and dedication, as well as knowledge and competence. I am so glad that [we] chose to partner with Envoys!Rick S, Traveling Faculty Hingham Japan 2015
The team at Envoys did their very best to ensure that the the “i’s were dotted and the t’s were crossed.” The staff was also quick to respond to any and all questions that arose prior, during and after the trip. My husband and I greatly appreciated the time Envoys took to provide preparation tips as well the planned activity schedules to help make our child’s South African trip a safe and memorable adventure”Regina J, Parent Dalton South Africa 2014
We had an amazing program. It was a biology teacher’s dream and Felipe and his crew couldn’t have been more thorough and professional to work with. Thanks for all of your efforts to organize an unforgettable experience for us all.Gerry, Traveling Faculty LCC Colombia, 2016
As a parent I felt the experience was well orchestrated and managed by Envoys. As a participant my daughter loved the whole experience; it is something she will treasure for the rest of her lifeLinda T, Parent Hingham Japan 2015
I don’t think it is possible to pull a trip like the Amazon and the many activities that you directed without the sense of purpose you have, without your drive for experiential learning for teenagers. All our experiences with the envoys team were amazing!Angela, Traveling Faculty RoundSquare Colombia 2015
It was not only the good times with our friends or the relationships we built but how we were after we came back, returning to this agitated society with a new view of ourselves and not just our impact on the world, but the world’s impact on us.Gabriela, Student Deerfield Colombia, 2014
The individuals we worked with, without exception, were all professional, courteous, patient, and greatly attentive to detail. As stated above, Envoys is flexible and works hard to make sure that if you have custom aspects to a trip that you want to add, they will work hard to make it happen for you.Adam H, Faculty Belmont Hill Japan 2016
I can honestly say that this was the best 10 days of my entire life. I feel as though I have grown as a person, and that I have made lifelong connections. This experience changed my life, so thank you very much to the entire Envoys staff!
Eliza C, Student Hingham Japan 2015
Every single person working for Envoys is excellent and committed to the kids and their experience, not just during the trip, but before and after. We would recommend Envoys to anyone looking for a high quality and enriching summer experience.Amy G, Parent Envoys Malawi 2014 & 2015
The Envoys staff has been amazing. I have bonded with each of them in different ways and they made the trip to Colombia nicer that I expected. Envoys helped me open myself up to interacting with the locals wherever we traveled!Illeana G, Student Deerfield Colombia 2014
My goals were to learn about post-conflict Colombia and step out of my comfort zone. These were fulfilled each and every day through activities, reflections, and first-hand experience.Julia D, Student GEBG Colombia 2016
I was incredibly impressed by the care taken by Envoys. Before we even hit the ground, there was an emphasis on comprehending impact on our destination’s environment that I appreciated..Throughout the trip, our Envoys leaders made sure that we continued to be conscious of impact. That awareness of cause and effect is something that often gets lost when traveling, and Envoys did not allow it to. During this trip, there was never a moment I did not feel safe and cared for nor a moment where I did not feel I was learning something!Keylee S, Student Dalton South Africa 2014
“Many student groups participate in ‘Voluntourism’. This trip did not attempt that, but rather funneled the collective energy of each member into meaningful, mutually beneficial cultural interactions..Thank you so much for this unforgettable and transformational experience.Altana, Student Friends Seminary South Africa, 2016
The Envoys staff were very open about sharing their first-hand experiences, which was a game-changed in terms of learning about post-apartheid South Africa. Also, having everything planned to the T made me feel very safe. I knew that I was in good hands.Gio H, Student Friends Seminary South Africa 2016
The Envoys Staff were exceptionally committed to us and to the goals of our trip. They were thoughtful, kind, caring, friendly, with great sense of humor, yet serious in their connection to the ethos of professional development that was our trip’s purpose. I was struck over and over again by how they literally RAN to be in the right place to respond to any given situation.Constance, Traveling Faculty Friends Seminary Colombia 2016
Day 1 (Addis Ababa)
We fly into Addis Ababa, the third-highest capital city in the world, and check into the Ras Hotel. After a thorough health and security briefing, we travel past the American Embassy to the top of the Entoto mountain to survey the city. We enjoy an evening of traditional Ethiopian food and dance at the famed Habesha restaurant.
Day 2 (Addis Ababa)
The morning begins with a process of setting learning goals for the trip. Working with Envoys staff, students review the content of their online courses, and identify how they will take responsibility for making this trip a life-changing experience. We set goals for learning about Ethiopian history and culture, interacting with local citizens, exploring the wildlife, understanding the larger picture of what we see, being of service to the population, and sharing our adventure with those back home.
Following this dynamic process, we set out to explore the bustling Piassa area and visit the historic St George’s Church. Lunch is at the Taitu Hotel, the oldest hotel in Ethiopia. Following lunch, we explore the importance of Haille Selassie in modern Ethiopian history while we tour the former Emperor’s palace.
After a brief stopover to “visit Lucy” in the National Museum, we head to the Jewel of India restaurant, a personal favorite of Envoys co-founder Seth Leighton from his days living in Ethiopia.
Day 3 (Bahir Dar)
We take an early morning flight to the town of Bahir Dar and check into the beautiful Ghion Hotel, situated on scenic Lake Tana. During the afternoon, we put on our “Indiana Jones” hats, and pursue the superb archaeological and historical detective stories housed inside Lake Tana’s ancient island monasteries. Students are assisted with interviewing local guides, shopkeepers, and priests about their daily lives.
Day 4 (Bahir Dar)
Today is a day of learning and adventure! We begin with a dynamic activity on hydroelectric power development in Africa, providing context for the day’s explorations. We take a bus journey to the sleepy village of Tis Abay and cross the Blue Nile by boat. Finally, we hike to the splendid Tississat Falls (“the water that smokes”), one of the most dramatic falls in Africa.
During the evening, students compose the first of their “stories for home” about their day, focusing on explaining their day to a specific member of their family.
Day 5 (Gondar)
We take a morning drive around the vast Lake Tana, and move up through the highlands to the city of Gondar, the capital of Ethiopia during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. We stay at the regal Goha Hotel, perched above the city.
Our afternoon begins with a visit to the extraordinary Fasiledes Castle Compound, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Students are individually partnered with members of the Gondar Offical Tour Guides Association, and spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the town on a more personal level.
Day 6 (Simien Mountains)
Today brings us to the “rooftop of Africa,” the famed Simien Mountains. We travel by bus to the Simien Mountains National Park for hiking and picnicking among the ubiquitous Gelada baboons. The lushness of the mountain scenery serve as the perfect context to discuss the contrasts between the poverty we have witnessed and the natural resources and wealth of Ethiopia.
On the way back to Gondar, we stop by the Ploughshare Women’s Crafts Training Center to witness a unique approach to skills development. Ploughshare teaches single mothers and women with HIV to create crafts that they can sell for income. Students tour the facilities, talk to the instructors and women, and engage briefly in making their own handicrafts.
Day 7-8 (Gondar)
The service learning portion of our trip takes place over the next two days.
As Envoys adopts the “Do No Harm” framework for its activities, each service learning opportunity is conducted under the express request and guidance of our local partners, including LinkEthopia, Yenege Tesfa, and the University of Gondar. We consider both the immediate impact of our work as well as the long-term disturbances in power relations and dependency when selecting projects.
Activities may include teaching local children, assisting with development of teaching materials, building and cleaning toilet facilities, or assisting with fundraising materials and plans.
All activities must:
1. Be proposed by our local partners and seen as essential to improving their operations.
We do not engage in re-painting murals or any other “photo-op” projects that will be repeated by subsequent trips. Envoys students will only participate in projects that result in an actual benefit to the communities.
2. Facilitate collaboration between volunteers and those that they serve.
We refuse to contribute to a culture of dependency and see collaborative projects as the best means to develop understanding and empathy.
Day 9 (Lalibela)
We take an early morning flight to Lalibela, perhaps the most notable holy place in all of Africa. Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, considered a saint by the Ethiopian church, is said to have attempted to build a new Jerusalem as his capital in response to the capture of old Jerusalem by Muslims in 1187.
Lalibela is famed for the rock-hewn churches scattered throughout the town. As we tour these architectural marvels, we discuss the role of UNESCO and the international community in protecting World Heritage Sites.
During the evening, we engage in an important and unique reflection and communication exercise. Students craft a lesson on one particular church to impart to their school classmates back home. Envoys staff guide students in using photos, videos, and short lectures to create a compelling narrative.
Day 10-12 (Trek)
Envoys students next undertake a private TESFA Community Tourism trek.
TESFA is a network of community owned and run guest houses. The TESFA program “enables local communities to generate sustainable improvements in their livelihood through the development of their own tourism-related enterprises.” The result is a “dignified and well balanced relationship between the service giver: the community, and the service receiver: the guest.”
We trek through the rugged countryside as guests of the communities, staying in traditional “Tekel” houses and visiting with local farmers. The combination of the physical trek and community interactions is geared to introduce students to a wider view of the world. At regular points during the trek, Envoys staff conduct individual and group discussion sessions to scaffold the personal growth process.
On the last day, we will return to Lalibela to relax and reflect on our journey.
Day 13 (Addis Ababa)
We take a morning flight to Addis Ababa for a final dinner and reflections on the trip.
Students return to the learning goals that they set for themselves and reflect on their progress, making plans for maintaining connections to Ethiopia after they return home.
Finally, we spend time discussing the impact of the trip on our views of ourselves and the world, crystallizing the changes that have taken place and setting goals for continuing to learn.
International flights home.