“Precious work in the lives of individuals”

An interview with Steven Hofmann

by Steven Hofmann, Lina Koch,  2013/09/21

Steven Hofmann has been working for the humedica sponsorship program in Ethiopia for more than a year now. Together with his family, the 32 year-old visited his home country last month. We took the chance to talk to him about his life and his work in Ethiopia.

You have lived in Ethiopia for more than one year now. How do you feel on German ground again?

I feel very well. It is always good to come home. What is interesting about it, is that you look on your country in a different way after spending some time in a foreign country. Many things strike you anew – positively as well as negatively. The positive things are certainly the comforts you don’t pay attention to any more. This is true especially for buses or trains or the rapid and reliable Internet.

But there is also the big choice of food and clothes or simply warm water coming out of the tab. The negative thing that strikes me most is the people’s great discontent – despite their enormous prosperity.

If you think back a year, how was your start in Ethiopia? Did you get used to the new environment quickly or did you have difficulties?

Naturally, the starting time was very exciting. But I must say that I had been to Ethiopia several times before. Thus, the country and its culture weren’t completely strange for me. This helped me a lot to get used to the life there. However, you still need to get used to the new circumstances. But as I like Ethiopia’s capital Adis Abeba very much, this wasn’t too difficult for me.

What are the differences between life in Germany and life in Ethiopia?

Oh, that is difficult to compare. It probably depends on the aspect you are looking at. At first sight, I would say that the already mentioned comforts in Germany make life less complicated.

In Ethiopia you must rely more on cooperation and on help from others, because not everything runs smoothly or because you lack of the appropriate resources. Life is difficult without relations and friends. You need them for having your car repaired, for administrative formalities and so on.

You will be successful more easily, if you know the right persons. Moreover, you need much patience and flexibility in Ethiopia. This is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned, up to now.

When I think of Germany, I often have the feeling that we are somewhat losing our identity. Traditions are no longer cultivated. This begins with the fact that we refrain our dialects. I think that’s a pity. That is completely different in Ethiopia. There, traditions and customs are being cultivated and preserved.

Often, we attribute special characteristics to the people of a country. The Germans, for example, are said to be punctual. Are there any special characteristics which are true for Ethiopians, too?

They are cheerful, unhurried, convivial and very hospitable, I would say.

What can you say about the progress in the work of humedica Ethiopia? Which measures work? What needs more attention?

I would say, humedica is making good progress in Ethiopia. Personally, I think the work in the family sponsorships is very good. You can really make things change here. Naturally, we won’t be able to change the whole country, but we can do a precious job in the lives of individuals.

The growth of all our four project sites reflects our progress. Moreover, the initiative for the formation of small businesses is bearing first fruits. Thanks to the creation of their businesses, the first families could start an autonomous life. That is a milestone of our work.

Even if our help for people to help themselves is a success, we still aim to improve our work. I think, the formations of small businesses still need our great attention. But especially an analysis.

In addition to that, it is important to continue our focus on the care of children and young people and to improve it continually. In our projects, we want to pay more attention to disabled persons. I think, this is especially important in Ethiopia because disabled people lead a difficult life, there.

Is there any project which is very dear to you?

Every project is special. But if I had to choose one, I would take our program in the urban quarter Kazanchis. I have been involved from the beginning in the creation of the children’s day care center there. You always have a special relation to something you can watch growing and in which you have been involved.

But I appreciate the work in all four sponsorship programs and I am also happy about the promising start of the quite new project in Jijiga and the water project there.

What do you think about the future of this country and of humedica Ethiopia?

I think, Ethiopia is at the threshold of decisive times. It is essential to take important decisions and to find solutions. This is true for demography, unemployment figures and especially for the economy and industry of the country.

With humedica Ethiopia we can continue to do precious work, if we continue to keep a critical eye on our actions so far, if we improve and develop with the hope that the general conditions stay as good as they are at the moment.

You are married to an Ethiopian woman now and you have got a little baby. Has Ethiopia now become more a home for you than Germany?

No, not more than Germany. I would have to live in Ethiopia much longer to say so. But, in any case, it has become a bit home to me. From now on, I will have a home in both countries with my family. Wherever we live, we will always long for the other country, too.

Steven, thank you very much for your time and the interesting interview. We wish you and your family all the best and God’s blessing.

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