For eight years I lived in a small mud hut on the edge of Gonder city with my Ethiopian husband, Asenake Eshete. In 2010 we moved to a bigger mud hut in a remote village just north of Debark, near the Simien Mountains, which is the area where Asenake spent his childhood.
Born Catherine (Kate for short) in Cheshire – a county in the north-west of England – in 1961, I am the elder of identical twin sisters. Our family moved to Scotland when my twin and I were five. At 17 I left home to travel.
Five years after completing secretarial training, I was Senior Personal Secretary to the Director of Computing at British Telecom, London. I relocated to the maritime city of Plymouth in the south-west of England in 1990 and worked in Marketing as a Project Controller.
In 1994 I made my first visit to Ethiopia to help street children. Five years later I walked 500 miles across the northern Ethiopian Highlands from Addis Ababa via Lalibela to Gonder with my donkey Dinkenesh, celebrating the Millennium near the remote Tekeze River in an area where (I was told) no white person had ever been before.
Asenake (pronounced ah-se-na-ke) and I met in Gonder in 1998 and married in 2002. Four years later we adopted two abandoned babies – a boy (Tom) and a girl (Menen).
I founded two English charities: The Kindu Trust
for needy children in Ethiopia (1998) and The Dinkenesh Fund
for needy animals in Ethiopia (2000).
In early 2005 Asenake and I opened the Tara Centre
in Gonder and ran it for five years. It was a community centre and base for The Kindu Trust and The Dinkenesh Fund, and integrated projects to help people, animals and the environment.
We set up a small school at the Tara Centre in 2007, moving it to our new home in Debark Woreda (county) in 2010. For the next nine years we continued to run Empress Mentewab School
as a non-profit social enterprise to benefit our community. The school is temporarily closed at present (2021) but I am continuing to fundraise in preparation for its re-opening after the covid and Tigray War crises have passed.
In 2016 I was diagnosed with cutaneous leishmaniasis (a tropical disease) in Ethiopia and received treatment at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London the following year. Unfortunately, the side-effects of the aggressive treatment I received led to complications, and I was ill for a long time. While convalescing in Scotland, I did a BA in Creative Writing.
I talk to Asenake and the children (who are not yet computer literate) fortnightly by mobile, as well as sending money by bank transfer and posting letters and parcels to them. It has been very hard for us to be separated for so long. We look forward to the day I have the money to fly home.
A Note about my Name
Ethiopians have just one name and use their father’s name as a second name. For a third name, they use their paternal grandfather’s name (for example, Shura Kitata Tola, who won the 2020 London Marathon). They do not have family surnames and women do not change their names after marriage.
When we married, I added Asenake’s second name to the end of my name to give myself the customary three names. However, I use 'Fereday Eshete' as an unhyphenated surname (ie, I am Mrs Fereday Eshete). In Ethiopia I am known as Katy or Katy-ay (the suffix denoting affection in Amharic) or Katy-shoo (the suffix denoting affection in Oromo).