Ian Madigan’s Ethiopia blog: ‘I've just heard about Drico and Jamie and I'm lost for words'
“I woke up in the very early hours of this morning with nerves jangling about our visit to Buramino refugee camp in Dolo Ado, south-western Ethiopia. Since signing up for this trip, I thought today would be the toughest.
“When you hear the term ‘refugee camp’, you think of starving children, grieving mothers and just the worst kind of hardship imaginable. That’s what I was expecting to see. Breakfast at 5.30am with Leo and the GOAL lads helped to take my mind off it a bit, but, mentally, I was preparing myself for the worst.
“The fact that we were travelling in an eight-seater plane to get there, didn’t help matters!
“The plane actually turned out to be an amazing experience. Because it was so small, it couldn’t fly too high, or even above the clouds for that matter, so we had incredible views of the Ethiopian landscape all the way there. It also presented us with one of the stand-out images of the whole day. As we descended towards Dolo Ado, we could see the five massive refugee camps surrounding the town.
“With a population of well over 200,000, it was like landing in a city the size of Cork, but knowing this was home to one of the world’s largest refugee settlements, it was a truly stunning sight to see.
“Leo and I met a lot of locals on our walk around the camp. Most of the locals described their long walk to get here, how they arrived starving and dehydrated. One woman I met had walked for more than a week with her family with no food and barely any water. I simply can’t imagine doing that in these temperatures.
“They also describe how things have changed over the course of the last two years. There is still so much to do for these people, but those who live here are not in real danger of starvation, the amount of babies dying is a fraction of what it was, because of the work that GOAL does. From what the locals say and from what I’ve seen the progress has been fantastic.
“I didn’t miss a chance to throw a rugby ball around with some of the local kids before I left, which was great fun.
“Speaking of rugby, with barely any contact to the outside world in the past 24 hours, I’ve literally just heard that Drico and Jamie didn’t make the squad for the Lions on Saturday. I assumed Brian would be captain, while Jamie played really well last week. I’m lost for words, to be honest, but I know the two lads will act like the gents and professionals they are and get on with helping the team win the series.
“Anyway, I’ve another big day tomorrow. We are visiting a factory where GOAL has helped some of the street children they have worked with find employment. I’m looking forward to it already.
Ian and Leo’s trip to Ethiopia with GOAL is being sponsored by Bank of Ireland. Keep up to date with Leo and Ian’s progress on GOAL’s Twitter account on @GOALIreland.