In just a few weeks, I will be heading to Ethiopia. It will be my fourth trip, my second with some folks from Ethiopia Reads plus some new friends, Ethiopian and American, all of whom are artists and writers.
Here’s what we will be doing:
Creating art and photographs that we will transform into books for Ethiopian children. The books will be fun and colorful; they will also be culturally appropriate and respectful. They will be translated into local languages for Ethiopia Reads’ schools and libraries. Books are a big deal. Books for children in the local language spoken by the children are rare; I am thrilled to be a part of making them more common, and getting them into the hands of children who have no books.
Traveling some 500 miles south of Addis Ababa to Maji, a beautiful, remote area with no electricity. Yes, indeed. We writers, artists, and photographers will spend a week in Maji taking pictures, drawing, painting, and listening to the stories of the people there. I and others will be donating our photos and paintings for several 2016 exhibits across the US, to raise funds for Ethiopia Reads’ libraries in southwest Ethiopia.
Preserving the stories of marginalized, vulnerable people. In Maji, we will be talking with and listening to people who live without electricity, who are working to hold on to a language that could disappear, and whose stories will become part of books and other materials for the children.
I am also planning to continue a project dear to my heart: collecting, preserving, and sharing the stories of Ethiopian first mothers, those who gave their children up for adoption. Theirs are among the most silent and silenced voices in the adoption community, and their stories deserve to be told.
I look forward to visiting with dear friends in Ethiopia, and once again enjoying the vibrancy and beauty of the country. There is great upheaval there as well: economic, environmental, and political. I am not ignoring that reality. Children and women are often among those who suffer most in times of strife. Literacy (including books in local languages) can make a difference. So can electricity, and, I’d argue, art.
For more information about this adventure, please take a look at Ethiopian Odyssey.