As a Programme Funding Executive I have regular contact with the teams in Africa over Skype and email as we work on generating funds for projects, but nothing beats meeting people face to face and seeing them laugh and smile.

This was my first time in Ethiopia. We arrived after a long flight and we were straight into the office for a three day workshop with the team in Addis. The main reason for my visit was to work with the team to start planning the next big project in the country programme. Despite huge progress being made in Ethiopia, 25 million people are still living in extreme poverty, so there’s plenty of work for Send a Cow to do to help improve people’s lives.

Having been in the office for three full days I was so keen to see the sights and sounds of the city and it didn’t disappoint. A sprawling construction site, new buildings, new railway lines – it is most certainly a city in development. Dusty but colourful, traditional yet modern. I loved it but soon it was disappearing and we were on the long road to Wolayita – our destination for the next few days.

The bumpy and dusty ride didn’t detract from the breath-taking scenery – being the dry season, the land was yellow and dry. Mountain ridges, small farm houses dotting the landscape, the road blocked with donkeys and carts. The journey took 5 hours and the sun was setting as we arrived in Sodo – our base for the next 3 days. Sodo is the main town and busy, set at the bottom of a mountain.

We spent the next few days meeting farmers all at different stages of their journey with Send a Cow. I have worked in in international development for 10 years and visited many projects around the world and I have always been worried about intruding in people's lives. This experience was quite different.

Any nerves I had quickly disappeared in the face of the overwhelming happiness and pride each farmer had as they showed us around their homes and land. We spoke to farmers about their lives before the project and got a real sense of transformation, not only in their land and crops but in their families and hearts too.

But I think the thing which I found most powerful was their new-found self-belief in what they can achieve; each farmer we met was clearly very confident in their abilities and had a real vision for the future. Many farmers have drawn pictures of their aspirations – a bigger farm, a better house, a motorbike. They were proudly displayed and I left each home confident that every hope and ambition will be fulfilled.

Ethiopia has certainly left its mark on me. Despite being at Send a Cow for several months and working closely with the team on different projects, seeing it for myself and meeting the families that are benefitting from training, livestock and support has given me a much deeper appreciation of the significance of the work we do.

The words I use to describe our work are now a reality in my mind. The statistics have become the people I have met, who are inspirational.