Getachew Wolde isn’t a big fan of rough terrain.
It’s hard on his vehicle – itself a rarity for most in Ethiopia – and that van is key to his livelihood.
But for Mothers with a Heart for Ethiopia, there’s not much that Gecho won’t do.
He will stop at nothing to get the team where it needs to go – whether that’s through a dust storm in a rural part of Soddo, or traversing across massive dips in an already precarious road.
Gecho is a humble guy, so he doesn’t take much praise for this dedication. And the truth is that he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“This work is doing some good things for people – women, kids. That is really what I want to do. You guys came from really far and so I thought ‘why can’t I do that?’ That was good for me,” Gecho said during an interview in the guesthouse at Soddo Christian Hospital during the team’s last trip to Ethiopia.
That’s the same resting ground where Gecho would fall asleep, often still in his clothes with the light on, at the end of a long day.
The work of Mothers with a Heart for Ethiopia, and Gecho’s relationship with Shelley, is what encouraged him to support more girls in the developing country. Most recently, MWAHFE was able to donate soccer uniforms, socks, and balls to a girls team that Gecho sponsors in northern Ethiopia. It’s the first time the teens have had jerseys or a proper set of soccer balls with which to play.
“I start to support the girls because of Shelley. Before, I support the boys team,” Gecho explained. “Shelley tries to find ways to support women, and I am with you. I just continued on.”
And it’s not just the soccer team where Gecho shows his love and concern. He was a fan favourite with the athletic scholars at Girls Gotta Run!
When founder Shelley Green first travelled to Ethiopia to bring home her daughter, she met Gecho at the guesthouse where she was staying.
“Even when Gecho couldn’t speak English, I knew he was a very good man. He was so good with my daughter,” Shelley said.
Gecho drove Shelley, her mom and her daughter anywhere they needed to go. Along with Biserat, their interpreter, Gecho made it possible for the trio to serve a group of boys and a group of girls living on the streets while they were in Ethiopia. That work was what motivated Shelley to start Mothers With a Heart for Ethiopia.
It’s been a partnership ever since. Gecho taught himself English – by practicing with guests every chance he got – and now he even helps translate for the MWAHFE team!
“I learned more every day. When I met somebody, I learned one word, maybe. Something new,” Gecho said of his grassroots language lessons. “Day by day I learned more and more, more and more. Now I am here.”
His commitment, dedication, and compassion make our work possible. He cares so deeply about the women and children in our projects. When visiting with partners, Gecho listens intently and observes every detail with a watchful eye. He truly wants to make Ethiopia a better place.
And he's always looking out for the MWAHFE team – at one particularly memorable moment on a recent trip to Ethiopia, he was visibly upset about the “ferenji tax” added to a purchase of water bottles (oftentimes shopkeepers will charge foreigners more than the locals, because they understand that tourists and Westerners are able to pay a higher rate).
He was so frustrated by the price – just a few cents more than the “local price” – that Gecho insisted that some of our Ethiopian friends go back and recoup the tax. For Gecho, it wasn’t about the money, it was about the principle of the transaction – and about protecting the MWAHFE team.
Serving people in a foreign country is not always easy, and without our partner and volunteer Gecho, it would be next to impossible. Examples of Gecho’s love and support could fill an entire newsletter. He is such an incredible volunteer, not to mention a great source of comic relief!
Laughs fill the van when Gecho is with the boys from our group home. He is like an uncle to these young men - a wonderful source of guidance and wisdom and fun. He is such a good role model, and they have so much fun joking around together.
Anyone who meets Gecho will quickly realize that he has a few standard catch phrases.
One of the most notable – and indicative of the relaxed Ethiopian culture – is a simple “let us see!”
You might think of this as the Gecho-equivalent of the phrase “it is what it is.”
But with Gecho’s quick wit and big heart, you can’t help but crack a smile.