Update From Nicole Bellefleur
It’s just after midnight on Monday, and the power is out in Addis Ababa. I’m typing this blog entry on my little netbook by the light of my upturned mini-maglite. I’ll write until the battery on my laptop dies (soon); hopefully I’ll find a place to upload this to the VCS blog at some point this week (if you’re reading this, you’ll know I did!).
Today, I met Bisrat, who is Canadian Humanitarian’s Country Representative for Ethiopia. He came to my guest house, where we sorted all the school supplies I brought with me. He recommended that we take only some of the supplies to Canadian Humanitarian’s education center in Gindo tomorrow, and save most of them to take with us to Guder later this week, to stock the soon-to-be-constructed education center there.
Afterwards, Bisrat and I walked to a little courtyard restaurant nearby, and shared a pizza for lunch. He told me about Canadian Humanitarian’s current projects, and his vision for the future. He and his colleagues are doing such important work, and I’m thrilled about our new partnership.
Later in the afternoon, Solomon – yes, THE Solomon – came to fetch me for a shopping expedition (he’s every bit as awesome as everyone always said he was!). All of us on this trip will be filling the space left vacant in our suitcases by the distribution of school supplies with handicrafts and other items produced in Ethiopia, to stock our little VCS online shop (another fundraising venture).
First, we made a quick stop at Alert Handicraft Shop, where the Berhan Taye Leprosy Disabled Persons Work Group produces (among other things) the cutest wooden toys (all proceeds from the sale of products sold in the gift shop are reinvested into the center). I didn’t purchase anything, as Arnica will be shopping there later this week, but I loved the brightly coloured wooden toys.
Next, we visited the Addis Ababa Former Women Fuel Wood Carriers Association Project, where women (and men) weave the most beautiful scarves. This cooperative was formed as an alternate income generating activity for women who previously climbed up and down the hillsides fetching firewood to sell at the local market (I still see them doing this – it’s backbreaking work). I bought a dozen colourful scarves – everything from rich, earthy tones to bright purples and indigos. When I was admiring them at my guesthouse afterwards, I realized that these are going to sell fast, and that I probably should have bought many more, so I’m going to try to return and pick up at least a dozen more before I leave.
Our last stop was at a coffee shop, where Solomon and I enjoyed little cups of coffee and I picked up ten bags of Ethiopia’s famous Tomoca coffee (my room at the guesthouse smells like a coffee warehouse now!). This is good stuff, so I know it will sell fast too.
We have a few more things to pick up for the VCS online shop before we leave. What I love about our merchandise is that for the most part, we’re purchasing it from projects that reinvest proceeds from sales into the cooperatives or assocations that produced them. So, when you shop from us, you’ll not only supporting our work, you’ll also helping people in Ethiopia become economically independent.