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MHA Students Meet the Ambassador on the Global African Day

Presentation by the MSc Humanitarian Action (D062) Students 2022-23

May 25th, Addis Ababa, Embassy of Ireland

Your Excellency Madam Ambassador, Professor Takele, honourable members of the diplomatic mission, my dear professors and colleagues.

I was asked to say a couple of words that encapsulate the past ten days since our arrival. I would like to begin by saying that few words are truly inapt to express the appreciation we feel for the experience we were granted.

Monday, May 15th, 7 students boarded a plane to Ethiopia. Equipped with curiosity, a healthy dose of humanitarian naiveté, as well an unhealthy amount of mosquito repellent, we embarked on a great adventure.

Eager to finally employ the language and concepts learned throughout the academic year, and to feel just a tad bit closer to the reality of humanitarian action, we stepped out of the plane in Arba Minch and were immediately welcomed by the warm and humid embrace of the continent.

Once we got into the bus to Sodo, we were bombilating with anticipation. Every goat, donkey or false banana tree coming our way made us exude excitement. The faranjis were waving at every child that happened to be on the side of the road. If only the children knew that those same faranjis were broke university students eager to finally make some "money money" too… but I digress.

A meticulously planned and executed schedule brought us to the reality of humanitarian action closer than any academic paper we have ever read. One conversation with a young and brilliant health officer in a Kebele who with pride shed light on the daily challenges he faces in and solutions he develops for caring for his community brought us closer to the intricacies of public health than any WHO report.

A meeting with the Wolaita Development Association made us realise what localisation means in practice. It exemplified what working with rather than working for translates into. It humbled and excited us at the same time. We came to learn, respect, and develop a mentality that promotes cooperation. One that trusts in local knowledge and capacities. To come one step closer to a humanitarian ideal that breaks with a decade-long mindset redolent of paternalism and sordid practices.

A visit to a school established by and for the local community representing an entire continuum of the social strata, once again, made evidently clear that capacity development is not something outsiders import. All we were able to bring with us were ideas never stress-tested before. Humble and at times naive suggestions marked by a paucity of contextualisation. Capacity was always all around us. At all times. Either patiently waiting to manifest itself or displayed in full force in Wolaita people's grace and resilience. We read a lot about the link between education and development before coming here. But it was only upon arrival that we for the first time felt the link.

A visit to an international NGO active in the region felt like we were finally able to speak the language acquired over the course of our masters. A sector-specific vocabulary that we employed outside of the context we were taught and socialised in. It felt like a discovery. Terms and concepts gained a life and shape of their own.

It was obvious. Despite a multitude of reports read, assignments written, and projects completed in the comfort of our campus at the University College Dublin, we only truly became humanitarian action students when coming to Ethiopia. You can read about Africa all you want. To really know Africa, you need to feel it, smell it, taste it. Fully embrace its unlimited potential to teach you.

We perceive the relationship between the University College Dublin and its partner Wolaita Sodo University as one of mutual benefit. The staff of Wolaita Sodo granted us unmatched insights. Their kindness, patience, and benevolence nurtured our engagement and curiosity. They granted a reformed understanding of the world. We sincerely hope that all students coming after us get a taste of what we were fortunate to experience.

Of course, no great adventures are ever smooth. We came lacking an understanding of the volatility the area is prone to. With the benefit of hindsight, I can say that we were quite oblivious to the risks permeating our location. This, however, is only partially owed to our naiveté. Our professors and the Wolaita Sodo University staff created an atmosphere of safety and comfort. Like a cushion shielding our every move, they took all possible measures to guard us. No movement escaped their eye. The notion of risk mitigation acquired a whole new meaning when Professor Gibbons and Dr Gonfa became involved. (Shortly, I would like to give my colleagues the stage to share their perceived challenges with you).

On behalf of the humanitarian action cohort 22/23, I would like to thank every party involved in granting us an experience that will shape the trajectory of our careers.

As we are about to step into the planes back home, we are taking with us an appreciation for Wolaita’s colours: red, yellow, and black.

Thank you.


UCD Centre For Humanitarian Action - Research Seminar, Thursday 24th March

The UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science Research Seminar Series returns this week and on behalf of the school RIIC Committee we are delighted to announce details of the first seminar for 2022: University College Dublin – Wolaita Sodo University, Ethiopia: Building Resilience Through Education (BRTE), which will take place online this Thursday, 24th March at 11am.

The aim of the research seminar series is to communicate to a wide audience the extensive research taking place across the school and is also an excellent opportunity to highlight our collaboration with partners both in Ireland and around the globe.

Each seminar will feature two speakers, one internal and one external. Speakers will first present on their current research and will then participate in a 15–20 minute joint Q&A discussion.

This week’s seminar will address one way that University College Dublin and the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science is contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a partnership with a peer university in Ethiopia and with the support of Concern Worldwide and several private sector companies. 

Contributors to the seminar are:

  • Prof Berhanu Kuma,  BRTE Programme Co- Ordinator, Wolaita Sodo University
  • Prof Pat Gibbons, Director, UCD Centre for Humanitarian Action
  • Dr. Deirdre O’Connor, Associate Dean for EDI, UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science (chair)

For more information and to register visit: (opens in a new window)https://bit.ly/3KSrZg3.

Contact UCD Centre for Humanitarian Action

University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
T: +353 1 716 7793 | E: noha.dublin@ucd.ie