No. 21 – Photography Services for An Amazing Woman

On a side road off the crowded and dusty streets of Bole City sits a quiet and beautiful place filled with art, history, and kind-hearted people. In one room men weave fabric in the traditional local method. In another area a group of women turns blades of grass into decorative baskets and platters. Flowering vines and trees throughout the courtyard somehow drown out the noise of the city outside the compound’s walls, transporting visitors to a much more natural place.
Toshome on the loom
Women making baskets
Courtyard at Salems

This is Salem’s Ethiopia and it’s become one of the girls’ favorite places in Addis. Owned by a smart, kind and beautiful woman named Salem, this local business is run with the goal of giving back to the community. Salem’s co-op provides local craftspeople a space to work and a steady income. She is dedicated to keeping traditional craftsmanship alive and supporting fellow Ethiopians in need of a helping hand.
Tracey with Salem and Amy
Earrings at Salems
Blankets and scarves displayed at Salems
Traditional Ethiopian baskets

One particular area of humanitarian focus for Salem has been training and employing women recovering from fistula. Growing up in the western world where this traumatic female health problem has been virtually eradicated through effective obstetric care, I didn’t know about fistula until just recently. It occurs as a result of an obstructed labor or violent rape, and its effects are devastating. Fistula is more common in developing countries where poverty and its resulting malnutrition lead to stunted growth in young girls, increasing the chances they will have difficulty in childbirth later in life.

Fistula is treatable and over the past several decades a number of facilities in developing nations have been established to help women suffering from it. Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital is one such place giving Ethiopian women a second life after this traumatic and isolating disorder. However, many women suffering the effects of fistula are rejected by their families and communities. Even after they’ve had the procedure to repair it, these women must find their own independent income to survive. Some of them find their livelihood through Salem. With her help they weave fabrics, make baskets, design jewelry and create hand-sewn toys. Salem’s store helps give them a new life.

For service project #21, Brian lent his photography skills to Salem, who also serves as a committee chairman for organizing the annual Addis Arts and Crafts Bazaar. This was an easy and fun volunteer opportunity to do something he already loves. Brian had an official event badge as he made his way through the bazaar getting photos of the different craftspeople and their wares.
Brian the event photographer
Crafter at the Addis Arts and Crafts Bizarre
DSC01410Addis Crafts Bizarre wares
Shoe man at the bazaar

I’m sure we’ll be back to Salem’s a lot before we leave Addis. Emily and Liv have befriended Teshome, one of the weavers who has taught them a little about weaving and the local Amharic language. Alison  loves sitting and watching the basket makers. Many of you reading this back home will wind up with a gift from Salem’s shop. It’s hard to leave without buying one or more of the many beautiful things she and her artisan colleagues have for sale.
Emily at a weaving lesson

About the Author

Tracey Carisch

Mom, wife, friend and change agent traveling the world with my family to learn our place in it. After spending a career in organizational change management and community initiative implementation, I put my career on hold for our family's trip around the world. In April of 2014 we sold almost everything we own, put the rest in a storage container, and departed on this journey. While my husband continued his software development work to financially support our trip, I planned and documented our adventure, homeschooled our three daughters, and found volunteer work opportunities for us to do in the communities we visit. Now that we've returned to the U.S., I'm completing book about our family's adventure and our lessons learned.

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  1. I must be feeling emotional today – for some reason this post made me cry. I not only admire you and the choices you’ve made but am just in awe of the witness you are providing to so many who, like me, live with relative unawares of the world’s plights. My life is so “busy” doing things that I dare say aren’t terribly important in the grand scheme of things and you are living out a life of interest, passion and modeling that for your children. ….reaching for another tissue now. Love (and MISS) you…

  2. In Ethiopia there are a lot of amazing handmade artisan works like Ethiopian traditional dresses, handmade fabrics, scarves, shawls…
    Thank you for your article.

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