Poverty and Beauty. My Trip to Ethiopia in 34 Pictures

Ever since the Live Aid events of the 1980s, the image that comes to most westerners minds when they think of Ethiopia is of a nation of drought-stricken land and impoverished children. As journalist Peter Gill says in his book [amazon_link id=”0199644047″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Famine and Foreigners[/amazon_link] that image has always been deficient as Ethiopia is so much more than its problems. Yes, Ethiopia has its poverty. But it is also a land of beauty. I saw both aspects recently when I visited to see the work of Food for the Hungry (FH).

Here is a short photo essay of my trip. I hope you’ll see in these images just how important child sponsorship is to combating poverty, and just how rich the Ethiopians are in beauty. All photos are mine unless stated.

Addis AbabaEthiopia: where the ‘big cities’ like Addis Ababa look like this.

Ethiopia 2013And the rural outskirts look like this.

Ethiopia 2013Where the daily routine includes long walks to the market and back.

Ethiopia 2013And a trip to the abattoir to sell your goats happens like this.

Ethiopia 2013When the foreigners come for a visit, all the village children do this.

Ethiopia 2013And play with you, pulling silly faces.

Ethiopia 2013And as they ask you to take their photo (because it’s so much fun to see one’s face on the other side of the big expensive camera the foreigner is holding) you realise just how beautiful the Ethiopians are.

Ethiopia 2013How immensely beautiful.

Ethiopia 2013Both the boys…

Ethiopia 2013And the girls.

Ethiopia 2013The loud, boisterous ones.

Ethiopia 2013And the shy ones.

Ethiopia 2013But the smiles that naturally come out for visitors holding cameras can mask the daily realities of life for these children and their families.

Ethiopia 2013Yes, he smiles. But how many miles will he walk today just to fetch water? Our team met a 6 year old girl who walked 31 miles (50kms) every day to do so. She left early in the morning and returned late at night, walking alone.

And see the discoloured teeth? That’s because there’s too much fluoride in the water they do have.

Ethiopia 2013Before FH came to this community only 400 of its 1500 children went to school, simply because their parents couldn’t afford pencils and exercise books for their kids.

Ethiopia 2013This village priest has two adult children living with him suffering from mental illness. He’s taken on the care of his grandson too, since his daughter can’t cope.

Ethiopia 2013He tries to earn an income by knitting garments but can only complete a jumper a week. He couldn’t survive without having his grandson sponsored.

Ethiopia 2013When Dad fled and Mum later died, these four children were left to fend for themselves. They sold cut grass to survive, and had to fight off their neighbours to protect their food supplies. An FH social worker found them, got them into safe accommodation, arranged weekly food deliveries and got them back into school.

Ethiopia 2013These three children lost both parents to AIDS and are each HIV-positive. Because of their illness they were ostracised by their community, unable even to use local toilets. FH built them their own toilet, and provide weekly food supplies and education. These children may never marry when they’re older due to their HIV status. But the care shown to them by FH workers has softened the community towards them.

Ethiopia 2013We walked into this hut expecting to find another smiley family. Instead we were confronted by a gaunt-looking father lying on the floor, his legs emaciated from having been unable to walk for four months. This Muslim family asked us Christians to pray for his healing. The result? I’ll leave that to a future post! It showed me how trusted FH workers are in their communities.

Ethiopia 2013Yes, the smiles on Ethiopia’s children will melt your heart.

Ethiopia 2013And watching them work will humble you.

Ethiopia 2013Ethiopia is just so full of beauty.

Ethiopia 2013But poverty also.

Ethiopia 2013In fact, one of the children I’ve shown you in this essay evidenced signs of sexual abuse.

Ethiopia 2013And plenty don’t have enough food to eat, access to health care, or opportunity to go to school simply because their families can’t afford the basics.

Ethiopia 2013So there’s lots more work to do to bring smiles to Ethiopia.

Ethiopia 2013I’ve been talking a lot about dreams lately. When I asked this mother what her dreams were for her son she said, ‘For him to be educated and get a job to support himself and his family.’

Ethiopia 2013Such simple dreams compared to most of ours, and within most of our reach to help see them fulfilled.

Ethiopia 2013While in Ethiopia I sponsored Biniyam, who wants to be a rock star! (Hear from him in this podcast.) If you’d like to help a child and his or her family realise their own dreams, find out more about Food for the Hungry here, or  click one of the links below:

Sponsor a child through FH US

Sponsor a child through FH UK

Ethiopia 2013Oh, and one more thing. While Ethiopia feels like a country full of children, with kids always crowding doors and streets and homes…

Ethiopia 2013It has its share of older folks also. In fact, this guy told us he was 120 years old, and the locals said he wasn’t joking.

I’m just not sure he can produce the birth certificate to prove it!

Comments:

  • July 9, 2013

    Amazing post brother. Wow.

    reply
    • July 9, 2013

      I’ve just loved your posts on the trip too, Sammy. Just brilliant, and moving, and convicting.

      reply
      • January 2, 2015
        dan dan dal

        Some lies though. A small girl travelling 50 kms to fetch water everyday. The boy I sponsor wants to be a rock dancer. It could make sense if he would have aspired to be a rocket scientist or a space engineer.

        You think black people end up rock. For your surprise the time is now for these people to take aĺl over. It has started already

        reply
  • July 9, 2013
    Roger Martin

    Food for the Hungry does amazing work in Ethiopia and elsewhere. If I am not mistaken, 98% of the FH staff in Ethiopia is Ethiopians! I too have seen firsthand how far one child sponsorship goes to enriching a community. In this post, I actually saw a couple of faces I recognized and was left in tears. Please go to FH.org and sponsor a child. I do, and several of my kids do as well.

    reply
    • July 9, 2013

      I think that figure would be right as over 90% of all FH staff are indigenous to the countries served. Great to hear your kids are sponsoring children also!

      reply
    • July 11, 2013
      John

      Thanks for the great photos and post! Of the nearly 500 staff at FH Ethiopia, only two are expat. Unless you consider Markos… then it’s 3! 🙂

      reply
  • December 30, 2013
    Americas Next Top Mommy

    Love this! Just visited there myself in August and thought this was beautifully done! It’s so good to see familiar faces…like Geleta! 🙂

    reply
  • July 2, 2014
    Hossama El Muzalim

    what the fuck is this

    i just can’t believe that you are fooling stupid Americans and Europeans that Ethiopia is a very poor country

    fuck u

    and by the way i am Egyptian who thinks giving the right information is good

    reply
  • July 2, 2014
    Hossama El Muzalim

    and this is Addis Ababa fuckstick

    reply
  • July 2, 2014
    proud Ethiopian

    Sheridan Voysey

    you must be out of your mind by begging money in the name of your fake photo showing the poor in Ethiopia just to satisfy your greed for money. You collect money this way and you use it for filling your big stomach. we will rip your stomach if you happen to come again. Your photo will be posted every where in the country and any who finds you will burn your body and give to hyenas. you must be one of the Gays kicked out of the country. You are a criminal

    reply
    • July 3, 2014
      marina

      just as i pictured it!!!

      reply
  • July 2, 2014
    Inspector. Yikomatal

    Sheridan voysesy, I am totally ofended by the pictures you posted. Don’t you think as if you are god just because your skin color is white. Yes, I am a proud ethiopian. Before you post bad things about Ethiopia or any country in this matter, you should be visiting the whole country. I’ll be posting your pictures all over Ethiopia, that should keep you from never coming back. I’ve already chosen ur pretty pics! Good luck! We Ethiopians love you sooo much that we will have you prepared for our next big festival! Kisses to you

    reply
    • July 3, 2014
      helen

      i strongly agree

      reply
    • July 3, 2014
      kalab

      firmly agree!!!!!

      reply
    • July 16, 2014

      Not sure whether this is spam or not. All the information in this post was provided by Ethiopians directly as I journeyed with them, and from social workers both within Food for the Hungry and outside of it. And I’ve tried to show that the country is astoundingly beautiful in nature, humanity and spirit.

      reply
  • January 2, 2015
    dan dan dal

    Bravo Mihret

    Whether the writer was trying to show Ethìopia has the most beautiful and genuine faces on Earth as shown in the photos or he wanted to show the few weak side, it is left to his morality. I would like to congratulate Mihret and the others who provided the true picture of Ethiopia, without any bragging.

    Ethiopia is gifted with God given resourses and a unique welcoming people. If you are plannig to visit one of the earthly paradises then you think of being there. The pleasant weather, the smiles, traditions, food with natural taste, the landscape, etc: are truly natural and enjoyable.

    The writer, who took advantage of the innocence of those who warmly welcomed him, invited him coffee have never thought he would drop such a morally wèaked essay.

    Nonetheĺess, Ethiopia is now like a lion that took rest for a while but has waken up. You can imagine what the lion would do. It will devour any animal along its way. Ethiopia’s renaissance has just started and wonders are being expected as some already being seen.

    Geneous brains you find there

    reply
    • January 2, 2015

      Dear Dan Dan. Thanks for your comment. Ethiopia is a wonderful country – I so loved my visit there! According to UNICEF, it also figures high in ranking for child poverty (see the 2015 State of the World’s Children report here: http://www.unicef.org/gambia/SOWC_report_2014.pdf). This is not opinion, but fact. And this post attempts to show both the beauty of Ethiopia and a clear way to help where it’s needed, through child sponsorship. It is in no way a complete picture of the country, and never claims to be.

      reply
  • January 2, 2015
    Ethiopian

    Home to a 3000 year old unconquered civilization and the worlds fiercest armies in history, country that treats its invading enemy captives with dignity and mercy, country that assists its neighbors during conflict with the precious lives of its soldiers, place where the worlds only active volcanic lake exists, origin of the worlds longest river, country with 13 months of sunshine, country with over 80 languages and cultures, home to 68 endemic animals and over 30 endemic birds, home to Africa’s first airlines industry, home to the AU and Africa’s capital city, one of the emerging giants (PINE), home to the afro and the shuruba (dreads), home to the injera (worlds newest superfood)… unfortunately, its also home to quite a considerable number of feeble-minded people who are always at eachother’s throats for various ethnic, religious and political differences, country with very little education and yet one where ignorance is most perceived among the educated, a union or ruinous states where many have stopped identifying themselves by their country but instead by their ethnicity, country with an unprecedented level of corruption, country with just slightly over 1% internet penetration, country that is the 3rd most repressive regime against the press, country that is still susceptible to drought and even famine… Yes our virtues have brought us here, but unless we rid ourselves of our shortcomings, we will remain where we are, behind nations that share neither our rich history nor our enormous potential… we will continue being condescended and disgraced by all…

    reply

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