Ethiopia, Day 2: A Tree for My Garden and an Education for My Child

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You know that feeling you get when words seem inadequate? When it feels foolish to try to give life to an experience that has moved you so profoundly?

Well, today I ask you to bear with me, because that is exactly how I feel.

ImageTo arrive in a village in rural southern Ethiopia that until recently did not have a school — no school at all — and to see a newly built school; to shake the hands of the beautiful sweet children who are so completely happy to be attending class; to meet the parents glowing in the joy of a child who is being educated, and proud teachers who are doing an amazing job of educating over 200 of the area’s youth — well, I have no words for that. I am simply humbled.

I fight embarrassment for every single time I gave my mom a hard time about going to school, complained about homework, but I remember that does no good, so I just offer up a deep, deep bow of gratitude for my education and every single teacher who helped me along the way.

ImageThe community has been changed by this school, which was built by Ethiopia Reads, funded by private donations from the states and our friends at On the Ground. Hope now abounds. There are still problems to be solved in this extremely poor area, and that school costs money every year to run — right around $10,000, which is why I set that goal to raise. I figure my community will do that much; they will donate $5, $10, $20, until we can keep that school open another year, or the equivalent of that.

Ethiopia can seem far away if you haven’t been here, met the people, traversed the land and felt the need, seen what truly poor is. When a $1 a day is a lot of money to you — well, I am so very humbled by that.

A sign at the school read, “A tree for my garden and an education for my child.” WOW. Simple pleasures. Education should just never ever be about whether your parents can afford to provide one for you. It’s not right — not even close.

So now I know, and now you know: The world is vast and unfair, and as for me, I have $20 in my purse right now that will send a child to school for a month. That I can do.

I have to add before I sign off how truly lovely this community is: gracious, smiling children who are SUPER eager to learn, neighbors looking out for neighbors, nothing taken for granted. Yes, they have so much to teach us from the west. But for now, I want to know all those transfixing beautiful eyes I looked into today can continue to be in school. Then I will ponder gratitude, the kind that has nothing to do with what possessions I have and everything to do with how full my soul is. I’m just so damn grateful, so, so, so full of thanks, because today, I met a beautiful community; today, I was expanded inside.

Love from Ethiopia,

Stephanie

About Stephanie Schlatter Art

Stephanie Schlatter is an Artist who draws from the world for inspiration. While she calls Grand Rapids, Michigan, home she’s often off on new adventures. For more than a decade, her journeys have taken her across the globe. She has studied art both locally and abroad, including time in Mexico, where she decided to shift her focus from photography to painting. Stephanie's travels led her to found Absolutely Art: A Project for Change in 2006. Through this non-profit organization, she brings art instruction to the children of Ethiopia while supporting their education. Stephanie's work reflects an expression influenced by other cultures which resonates a variety of influences that have given her work direction.

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