Ethiopia, Day 11: What Separates Me from You?

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Do our children in the West matter more than the sweet ones I work with here in Ethiopia?

It’s a question that plagues me as I see children who cannot go to school here. Or my sweeties I teach who would not be in school if not for generous people donating anything from $5-$20 and more.

day11-7Those donations don’t just show up. People who give a voice to these precious ones have to pound the pavement asking. I don’t consider this aid; I consider it equality. To me, it is saying my child in America does not matter more than one born in a place where education is not for all. It’s saying you — these dear, sweet children in Africa — DO matter.

What makes you alive? What separates me from you? These questions are forefront in my mind when I work with kids so poor you truly can’t imagine. I know many parents in my home country, and I have a wonderful set myself. There is little they would not do for their child; the bond is inseparable and remarkable. I think of what it must feel like for a parent to not be able to send a child to school or provide for their beloved one for a variety of reasons, from death to where and to whom they were born.

It is not my intention to be dark about the situations I see — there is so much we could learn from these precious little ones and their community — but I’m simply sharing my thoughts. You cannot come here to Ethiopia and not be changed and moved by the duality of the beauty, joy and loveliness and the extreme poverty and injustice.

No matter how much time I spend here — and this is my eighth trip — every time is new. I am never used to it or unaffected. I am as moved by how lovely, kind, open and generous in spirit the people are as how it makes me feel to see a parent want basic human rights for their child.

day11-6These are my experiences as I work with the children, my thoughts. But I cannot sign off without telling you the incredible joy of sharing, exchanging and creating with them. It’s done with an innocence, a lack of entitlement and a desire to learn that I cannot stress enough is a contrast to what I have seen in my own country. That makes me sad for us, sad for America, and I wish Ethiopia could offer us aid in these ways.

The children were brilliant, and I felt joy about my partnership with Ethiopia Reads. They are really doing amazing work here in Ethiopia. Education is hope. May you all be grateful today, not for what you have but for the opportunity to author your own life, an opportunity that is not a foregone conclusion. It’s one your education played a large part in, and may we all pause to consider that things do not bring happiness — only attitude can do that!

With gratitude,
Stephanie

Interested in supporting education in Ethiopia? Click here to donate, or “like” my Facebook page to see daily featured SSA items, 100% of proceeds from which will go to Ethiopia Reads!

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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