If you're just finding the Ethiopia blog, and want to read more, scroll back to 11-7-08, and read on from there. Or read it in any order. It really doesn't matter. Thanks for being here. Thanks for your comments. I like knowing I'm not just talking to myself!
I want to tell you a little more about the Bead Room - the studio - and the beadmakers I spent most of my days with. Many, many hours were spent there, teaching, coaching, encouraging, and getting to know those six beautiful young women. Again, here they are: Asnakech, Hana, Alfya, me, Denbele, Bzunesh, Tirunesh.
I felt like sort of a mom to them, sort of a friend. Dare I say, even sort of a mentor? I think if I had more time with them, they could do some really great things. Of course, they'll do great things anyway, because they are who they are. I'm just so pleased and honored to have had a little part in it all.
They were generous with their time and skills too. We had lots of visitors come through, just to say hi, and to see what we were up to, but usually we'd get them on the torch, making a bead of their own. Every time someone tries their hand at melting glass, they become even bigger admirers of the artists who do this for a living. We make it look a lot easier than it really is!
And this is the little Bead Room, much more magical on the inside than the outside.
Laurie Maves, an amazing artist who lives in Denver, and who was also there with the Cunningham Foundation, spent a late evening with the girls, painting big heart murals on the walls of the studio. They surprised me with it the next morning, and I just burst into happy tears. It looks so beautiful, and so inspiring for these growing artists.
I was confused for years about the who's who of all the different organizations involved. Project Mercy is the baby of Marta and Deme. It's based in Indiana, because that's where they were for a while, when they had to leave Ethiopia in the 70's, when the communists took over and their very lives were in danger. The Project Mercy compound is where we stayed. It became "home" to us because of all the lovely people there. The Cunningham Foundation is Noel and Tammy Cunningham of Denver. They do a lot of work to support Project Mercy, as well as other organizations, and we were there as their guests this trip, because of the HOPE Bracelet Project, which is one of their many fundraising efforts.
I started with the HOPE Bracelet Project about four years ago, initiating the Beadmaker Challenge as a way to bring in more donated beads for the project. What I finally got to see on this trip was how much we've actually been able to do with all those beads. It finally sunk in. Beads are changing lives. Beadmaking is becoming a worthwhile vocation for anyone who's interested in learning to do it, and the first big step for the HOPE Bracelet Project is the dorm for the kids. It was built entirely with funds from bracelet sales. This is the House That Beads Built...
It's not fancy, but it's clean, warm, dry, comfortable, and now has a live-in House Mom. The kids sleep in bunk beds, and each one has a small cupboard for their things.
This is one teenager's stuff. Not a lot, compared to our kids here in the states, but it's treated with a lot more respect, and every little thing has value.
Where to begin... where to end...
This will be the last of the Ethiopia Blogs. Of course it will come up in other contexts, probably for a very long time. But I think I've about exhausted the pictures and stories that are best for the internet. There's more to tell, of course, and if you come to my house, I'll probably blather on until you beg for mercy. When we travel, the places we go and the people we meet become part of who we are. I'm not the same as I ever was. I'm more myself than ever before...
This was a life changing adventure for both Rick and me, as I suspect it is for anyone who goes that far out of their comfort zone. Africa was never on my list of places I wanted to see. It was about the scariest place I could think of going, and the most foreign. Turns out I was right and wrong, mostly wrong, which so often happens. If I can go back, I will. The sooner the better. And if I can stay longer, I'll do that too. I sure didn't see this coming. Isn't life amazing?
What to do next? We really don't have a clear idea. We're bumping through the days, "waiting for further instructions", as usual. We've registered the "Milagro Network" as our very own, budding non-profit, which we'd been planning to do for a long time. Now we need to put it all together in a coherent package, build a website, and see where we feel drawn to help. The knitted bag project? New shoes for the Project Mercy kids? Equipment for the beadmakers? Something closer to home too? Yes to everything, I guess is the answer. Stay tuned. I know you'll be able to help!