Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Building New Relationships in Ethiopia

 “Our deepest fear is not that we are weak. Our deepest fear is that are powerful beyond measure…As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people the permission to do the same.” Quote on the walls of AHOPE Children’s Center

            One of the compelling elements of Project Prepare that drew me into the work is its central emphasis on grassroots implementation, to take the time to know and build relationships on the ground with local people and use their ideas to strengthen the Transitions Initiative. Thus far, meeting with individuals and spending time with the kids associated with our partner organizations has been the most enriching part of my experience. Last week, we visited Children’s Heaven to introduce ourselves to the girls. Children’s Heaven is an organization that provides services and ongoing support to girls whose parents have been affected by HIV/AIDS. While our visit was short, it was quite memorable.

As we came in, the girls sat in neatly organized rows and said Selaam (Amharic for hello). The young ones eagerly waved and welcomed their new visitors. Their warm smiles were contagious and you found yourself smiling and laughing, wanting to take part in their fun. We went around the room and greeted each girl, asked them their age, their grade in school, and what they liked to do in their free time. We quickly learned that soccer, volleyball, and reading fiction were among the most popular activities. The older girls quickly took an interest in our personal lives, what we liked to do, where we were from, and whether we were married or had boyfriends. The young girls who were full of energy, taught us hand games, while they sang traditional Amharic songs about love and beat drums twice their size. The music that filled the room overpowered the ongoing thunderstorms outside. You momentarily forgot the cold winds that came in through the open windows and the puddles of water on the floor from the leaky roof. Among these girls, you could not help but feel a strong sense of community, a sense of support that an organization like Children’s Heaven could provide.

As an outsider, I could not have guessed the struggles and challenges that these girls have encountered or are currently persevering through. Rather, their faces show young women with an invigorating sense of strength, courage, and beauty. The need for a successful transition out of care becomes even more critical, so that the girls can continue to have the strength and community support to live a healthy life. As we continue to work with the girls from Children’s Heaven in the upcoming weeks, we hope to further build our relationship with them and provide any support possible. 

We look forward to include our IOFA audience in this relationship making process!

Amharic Word of the Week:
Conjo (kon-joe) Beautiful

Aatifa Sadiq
Program Development Intern, Ethiopia

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