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UAW Local 2069

Local UAW 2069 Member Represents in Ethiopia

 “Another Lifetime ago: Kurupung District/Guyana, South America - I was alone in the rainforest. It was my first day in the bush and the small propeller plane just dropped my backpack and I off on the mountaintop airstrip. This was the beginning of a two year mission to build a road through the virgin forest to establish a gold mining operation where none existed. I stood in the humid, heavy air watching the small plane lift over the ocean of green, the sound of its propeller getting fainter and fainter; then the sounds of the jungle crept in. Heat waves radiated off the cracked cement tarmac and streams of yellow and lime colored butterflies returned to their daily feeding migration across the clearing. It was mighty lonesome seeing the plane recede into the clouds but I knew then it was ‘get real’ time – no turning back. I had a job to do and there was only ‘promise’ ahead – new people to meet, sights to see, foods to try, and a whole new world to explore. It was exciting and, admittedly, a bit scary.
That’s how I feel right now. Instead of a plane, this time, it was my wife dropping me off at Roanoke airport here in Virginia, USA. I’m excited but new butterflies are in my stomach all the same…
Ethiopia – in my wildest dreams, going to Ethiopia was never part of the plan. This is truly a once in a Lifetime opportunity. Earlier this year, three Group Truck Operations (GTO) employees were hand-picked from volunteers worldwide to represent Volvos ‘Moving Society Forward’ pilot project. The first volunteer, Selma, has already landed at Ndola in Zambia to start her work. I’m the second and am starting my seventeen hour flight to Addis Ababa this morning. My mission is to work with the Heavy Duty Equipment and Commercial Vehicles Academy, known as HEDCOVA, assisting in educational training, safety and environmental awareness and possibly even teaching English language…” from my blog, Oct 24th, 2015
In June, 2015 Volvo Group Truck Operations solicited for volunteers interested in going to Africa as part of the ‘Moving Society Forward’ pilot project. Three volunteers were eventually selected out of thirty-two applications from around the world: one was from Sweden, another was from France and the third was from the USA – me!
In October, I started my two month tour of duty in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia working with the trainers and students at HDECOVA. My primary focus was to train-the-trainers on modern educational methods such as online Learning Management Systems (LMS) and how to put together training materials using modern techniques. I also got to work with the students directly by conducting ‘Technical English’ classes. The most significant challenge to training was the language barrier. Amharic, the official language, is an ancient language closer to biblical Hebrew than any Latin based modern tongues so learning daily used words was a challenge. The majority of students understood some English but, being kids, were very shy about speaking it – especially in front of their friends.
The vocational school, HDECOVA, is in its fifth year of joint United Nations International Development Organization (UNIDO), Volvo, and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). When the project ends this June, HDECOVA will have to be self-sustaining so besides my brief educational assistance, there are a number of specialists still onsite in Addis Ababa providing needed assistance and guidance.
The vocational schools fall under the umbrella of the Selam Children’s Village, a local orphanage, dedicated to nurturing and providing almost a thousand children training which will allow them to become contributing members of society. Besides HDECOVA, there are metal working, wood working, Information Technology, and restaurant training schools.
Because of the concentration of making useful citizens, the schools don’t provide any training in music or art. I’m certainly not a musician but I am an artist and so wanted to give the budding artists at Selam Village an introduction of the Art world. Before heading to Ethiopia, we purchased art materials and supplies locally that quickly filled suitcases to their weight limits.
Initially four talented kids were identified by the village teachers and together, we established the first Art Club from Selam. After many Saturdays together, the number of artists had grown and continues to grow from the seeds we planted. I continue to stay in touch with the artists through emails and material resupply shipments.
In the end, my two months in Ethiopia were well spent and I’ve grown new perspectives - both personal and professional. While the company’s investment in Ethiopia won’t directly benefit Volvo or UAW immediately, it will pay off as Volvo’s market share in Africa grows by having mechanics trained specifically on Volvo systems using Volvo Tools guided by Volvo technical manuals!


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