BTC Ethiopia – In Our Hearts, On Our Minds
Images of Ethiopia
July 4th, 2012
It’s midday here, hot and surprisingly quiet except for the occasional goat bleating, or the distant sound of a plane or vehicle. Tucked in African Village, it is easy to forget that we are staying in a town of over 300,000 residents. There is some construction going on just outside our window, but it too is relatively quiet. Just like most tasks in this part of the world, the building is done by hand; so only a hammer once in a while, or the sounds of hand mixed cement being smoothed. The man in charge has a small boy helping him. The sheets and towels for the guest rooms are hanging on a line outside my other window. No machines involved. Everyone works hard here.
We are starting to absorb the images of rural Ethiopia, for they are fairly constant. Present everywhere, the goats, thousands of goats, walking the dusty streets, tethered to storefronts, or roadside huts, or being urged to move by a long branch. There are donkeys too, some cattle, a few camels and the dogs that sleep in the streets, confident that the traffic will move around them. All of the animals are scrawny, and constantly gnaw at whatever green they can find in the dust. Almost always next to the animals are the children, the brightly clothed, smiling, skinny, and always walking children. They are so young. Children as little as five can be found guiding their goats up the road. The younger ones follow their mothers or older siblings in the eternal search for water. Not necessarily clean water, just water. Yellow cooking oil jugs seem to be the container of choice.
Yesterday we traveled a long way, up rocky mountain roads to see the coffee fields, into the ancient city of Harrar, and then back down the mountain late in the evening. The full moon was spectacular, and it illuminated the faces of Ethiopians, including the children, and their animals, still headed somewhere, walking in the dark, carrying their jugs, firewood, and tea kettles.
We came here to spend time with one another, learn about the work of Global Hope Network International, and to try to make a difference where we could. Led by Jeff Power, Pangeo Coffee CEO & GHNI International Director & his team, this organization works with the poorest villages in the world. Their model is to create self-sufficient communities that survive without aid. Jeff and his team of local managers, Zerihun, Lemi , Aduena & Alix are not just Changers of Commerce- they are changers of lives.
The images of the children are being imprinted on our hearts, and will be carried long after we leave here. In many respects, these kids seemed to have lost the birthplace lottery, and yet they smile, they are so curious and seem to trust. They love the very smallest things- having their picture taken, a sticker, a Be The Change bracelet, a smile, a handshake, a hug. My colleagues are simply amazing. From the first hours of our arrival Amanda, Kat, Jim & Wally have just jumped in to connect however they could. Taking pictures, singing, dancing, teaching, playing games, sharing their warmth, sincerity, smiles and genuine empathy. They have truly inspired me, and I know have brightened the lives of so many children. Days are spent working, crowded bumpy truck rides spent learning, evenings spent brainstorming the answers to the big “so what?” and “now what?” This is a complicated situation. The government is not always an advocate. Big development comes at the cost of the poorest of its citizens, yet is necessary to move forward. The region is politically unstable. The average age is 48. You do not see older people. So at night we wonder – what will become of these children?
In the US, all of us are advocates and activists for Share Our Strength, where the strategy of “No Kid Hungry” guides our work. We believe that if we can improve the lives of the children, then many other complicated issues can be solved. We are learning that it is no different here.
Joni Thomas Doolin
Joni Thomas Doolin