My favourite photograph of our entire Team Trip to Ethiopia in April was this one of a young mum and her child thoroughly enjoying each other’s company during the drop-in centre Easter Celebration. I have used many images to depict the work we do but this photograph really does encompass ALL that we are about.
It is such a different image from the one I took in 2010 while holidaying with friends living in Ethiopia. When I met the courageous little group of Dorcas women they were mostly desperate, alone, suffering, sick and trying to find help for their terribly sick babies. Other than a place to come once a week and perhaps help with some medicine, there was little could be done in those days. Efforts were being made of course and there were some great ideas to train volunteers and provide a care and education programme for family health especially.
PovertySwap was founded in 2010 with those ideas in mind. It has been our greatest joy to enable people to connect with this project and donations during these years have saved children’s lives, providing nutrition and medicine, training and business grants to improve and empower mums in their community. It has always been our aim to share the skills, resources and knowledge of so many people to make some great ideas into reality and during Ethiopia 2014, our first PovertySwap Team Trip, it was clear that the theory is a winner.
One of our first ports of call when we arrived in Awassa was to say hello to the staff and volunteers at the Dorcas Centre. They weren’t expecting us that day and were delighted that we just showed up. Our visiting Team impressed me as they sat with the dedicated little group and enthusiastically asked them to teach them their crafts. It wasn’t as easy as they made it look, after years of repetition and practice, but the Team persevered and were given tutorials by their sometimes stern often laughing teachers. There was to be no waste, this was no hobby. The crafts and materials were too precious to be spoiled so accuracy was essential. Coffee was roasted, ground and boiled – by hand of course, no electric grinders here – and our 10 minute visit became a 2 hour Ethiopian cultural experience which did more to join the hearts and minds of our two groups than anything any of us could have planned. All of us that day knew the impact of the PovertySwap mission statement “Transforming lives through relationship”. There may have been very little ability in common language but those relational partnerships ran deep and just one week later when all were saying their goodbyes every person felt the strain of leaving someone they had given a piece of themselves to!
Of course we were able to share the Team’s skills, knowledge and resources during our times at Dorcas too. Our youngest member, Emily, discovered that her hobby of turning embroidery threads into colourful bracelets was a big inspiration for so many young women. They liked the attractive bracelets but very quickly, as is their way, they took the idea and made it their own. Within a few days they had developed the idea into a variety of clothing trims, household items and even a full set of jewellery, with earrings, headband, necklace and bracelets to match. All of this is achievable with their own materials and is limited only to their creative imaginations. For some Emily’s hobby may even be the means to a creative business idea and we were able to deliver a basic business workshop that can help to develop those ideas. Even some rolls of coloured felt that had been donated with best intentions by a foreign donor some years ago was pulled from its dusty shelf and our team had the knowledge and ability to pass on their skills in picture making to the Dorcas women and staff who now have that knowledge in their hands, with, once again their ability only limited by their active imaginations.
On the Friday of the Easter Celebration there was such a joyful atmosphere. Just under 50 women crammed into the small room with their children of all ages. There was singing and dancing, inspirational bible teaching, some action songs and an impromptu puppet show by our team, food and even gifts for the children donated by a local group of friends from the USA. I smiled as I noted that a few of the children were even wearing the carefully knitted sweaters our volunteers send out with every trip. Very smart they looked too!
During my solo visit last November only a few women were gathered at the Friday drop-in and life in the months before had been extremely tough. Now, the same women, their friends, family and fellowship groups were rejoicing that clearly they have come through yet another storm in their lives, but they are not beaten! The Dorcas Women’s Centre is like a healthy little tree sapling. Carefully planted, nurtured and growing well. With courage and care they will provide a great tree of shelter and hope for hundreds of families in the years to come. They are shortly planning to move to a new building, built for them by another organisation who has seen the shoots of their growth come up strong. There they will be able to reach out to so many more of the isolated, sick and abandoned families that populate the dark corners of the city. We are humbled to be able to be a part of their life-saving work.
If you would like to help any of the children or families who come to the Dorcas Centre we are happy to help you share your skills, knowledge or donations with them. Donate online or Contact Us.