Kersa Illala is a small village located in the Rift Valley of Ethiopia. It takes a four hour drive to reach the village located about 250 km south/southwest of Addis Ababa, the country’s capital city. Three to four-thousand people reside in the village and make the area their home. There are many small farms in the region, and they are still planted by hand and plowed by oxen. Villagers carry water in buckets from a river that runs a mile and a half away. There is a small fenced in area where children can play soccer; it is their version of a stadium. The village has no modern technologies or facilities of any kind, whether it is electricity, phones, and cars or simply medical care and toilets. The nearest school is located in a neighboring village.
The village is also home to the Village of Hope orphanage that was founded by Lon and DeAnna Kennard. They provide much-needed services in the area such as education, clean water, gardens, and social opportunities for the villagers, as well as provide basic physical needs. The orphanage provides a home to children who have no one to care for them.
Domes for the World, and their engineer Wes Haws, came to Kersa Illala and built dome houses, made out of concrete, for children at the orphanage to live in. Reminiscent of giant white helmets, the EcoShell concrete houses create a circular shelter tall enough for a grown man to stand in and about 40 feet in diameter. The children can hold most of their worldly possessions on a small desk or table; they have absolutely nothing. Since MAI’s first trip to Ethiopia, some of the girls have been adopted by families in Utah. Paul Morrell has adopted three children, and his daughter has adopted six.
On Evan Maxfield’s first visit to Ethiopia, he went down to a river where cattle were drinking. There was a meager stream of water in the riverbed, but it was enough for villagers to fill up the buckets that they would carry home and use to water their gardens. Farther upriver, people were bathing and washing in the same water. A few years before, villagers also drank that water, which was the cause of many cases of cholera, tuberculosis, and other diseases.
Since then the LDS church has excavated and secured a well in Kersa Illala, which was greatly beneficial for the people of the area. Water is piped from the well to six different points throughout the area so that villagers can fill up their jugs; it’s one of the only sources of clean water in the vicinity.
This well has produced an important water source and includes a metal building for showers and taps to fill up water jugs, provides clean water for the people to drink. It has also stopped the spread of waterborne illness in the region. A metal fence around the area prevents livestock from trampling and causing damage to the well.
Some of the villagers do not even possess jugs to carry their water in. Evan Maxfield once saw a woman hauling water from the river in a tire that was tied to the back of a donkey. It could hardly have been healthy to drink, but people must make do with what they have.
A typical house in the Kersa Illala area is a small, one-roomed, round mud hut with dirt floors. Thatched roofs allow water to run off in the wet season. If sections of the walls need to be repaired, they use a mixture of cow manure, straw, and mud to patch it up; much like the pioneers did in the old western United States in the 1800s. A few houses have reasonably sound structure and are built from brick or with plaster walls.