On today’s A to Z April blog challenge, A Field Trip Life is visiting Ethiopia as part of my Kids Read the World Book Challenge. I am sorry this post is long but it involves issues that are dear to my heart.
The picture book that I’d like to share today is one that touched me deeply.
A Thirst for Home A Story of Water Across the World
Written by Christine Ieronimo (author) and Eric Velasquez (illustrator)
This beautifully illustrated book is about much more than water. It tells the story of a young Ethiopian girl named Emaye, whose mother was unable to care for her and relinquished her for adoption to give her a better life. The conditions of Emaye’s life and her longing for her mother are difficult and sad. She eventually meets her new mother and travels to the United States where life is very different. The comparisons between life in Ethiopia and life in America are profound. To obtain water in Ethiopia one must walk far to an often unreliable source. Girls are the ones who usually go for their water which is so time consuming that it often prevents them from going to school. In America, one just turns on the tap. There are books, shoes, and plenty of food. There are no hindrances to getting an education.Yet, Emaye, now called Eva, never forgets her original home and family. The book ends on a hopeful note as Eva states: I am Eva Alemitu. I have traveled far but am always close to my homeland. I know what it is like to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and hold water in my hands. It is the same sun that shines on the other side of the world and the same water that connects us all.
The story behind A Thirst for Water is fascinating. Christine Ieronimo was inspired to write the book when she found her young daughter drinking from a puddle in the driveway after a rainstorm. When the author traveled to Ethiopia, she saw the poverty that forces people to make difficult and unthinkable decisions. Her compassion has led her to go back to the area where Eva is from to help bring water, power, education, and medical care to the people of the region. She and her husband have started a organization called The Gimbichu Project which works to solve the problems faced by people in Eva’s homeland. She also has great resources for teachers and families on water and Ethiopia here.
Here is a quote from Christine’s blog that really resonates with me:
How can I live everyday knowing this. It can sometimes be excruciating. What can I do, what can I do. In the end, I know the best I can do is promote education for girls in Ethiopia through the building of schools and libraries. Sadly for me and other than that, my hands are tied. That is why raising awareness is so important to me. That is why I can’t wait for the release of my book. I want to stand in front of a microphone and shout to the world……Look, look what is going on on our tiny planet…..
But again, education is the key and makes me think of the overused saying that is so popular with teachers, and now with my own little twist goes like this, Give a girl a fish, feed her for a day. But teach a girl to fish and feed her and her children for life!
This story is very personal to me. Adoption is a wonderful way to build a family. But, for each child that blesses an adoptive family, there is a story of loss. Often a birth mother makes a difficult decision in order to ensure her child can live. In other situations, children are abandoned or their mother dies and the remaining family can’t care for them. There are questions and worry that the children always carry with them. The adoption process is difficult and often impossible which means that many children will be raised without families of their own.
Like Christine Ieronimo, I cannot get the children left behind out of my mind. There are so many children around the world that are separated from their birth families for many reasons. My family has made a commitment to work toward the goal of enabling children to be raised in families where they are loved and cherished. The priority needs to be on ensuring that birth families do not find themselves in a situation where they feel they must relinquish their children. We are involved with Holt International Children’s Services which is the agency that facilitated the adoptions of two of our children. Their guiding principle is “What is best for the child?”
Through Holt International, I have been given the opportunity to travel and advocate for vulnerable children in many countries. A few years ago I traveled to Ethiopia with Lauren,my oldest daughter, to celebrate the opening of the Mother and Child Health Center in Shinshicho, Ethiopia. We loved the people we met, the landscape, and the coffee!
We believe that this is one of the best ways we can work toward making positive changes in the world is to help to provide an education to those who lack resources. This is Meklit, our Ethiopian “sister” who we met while traveling. She is a poet and we were very impressed by her intelligence and her desire to further her education. She has completed high school is in medical school now. It is our hope and prayer that she will be able to assist many families in Ethiopia.
One of my favorite blogs is Becky Morales’ Kid World Citizen. As an educator and the mom in a multi-cultural, bilingual family, she brings together information celebrating the diversity of the world. On her site you can learn about customs, geography, food, literature, games and much more about many places. She shares activities and resources for families and teachers. I encourage you to bookmark her site and visit often.
Becky has graciously allowed me to share one of her posts on Ethiopia which I am including in its entirety so you can learn more about this beautiful country.
Let’s Learn about Ethiopia
You might have read that our son was born in Ethiopia. Because we want Ricky to have a connection to his heritage, as a family we try to learn as much as we can about Ethiopia: the food, traditions, history, language, music, religion, and more. Ricky loves to learn about and talk about his birthplace! There are many ways to incorporate culture into our children’s lives, and the easiest way to start is by locating it on a map. All of the pictures are © Becky Morales unless otherwise stated.
When you look at a map of Africa, Ethiopia is near the east coast of the continent, in what is called the “Horn of Africa.” My kids find it easily because they think it looks like a rhino’s horn. Ethiopia does not have any coastline, and is surrounded by Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, South Sudan, and Sudan.
Learning the geography of the country is another way to learn about the country. Ethiopia is very mountainous, and several types of endemic animals are found in the mountains, such as the Gelada Baboon, the Walia Ibex, and the Ethiopian Wolf. There are many types of monkeys and birds, and also in certain areas there are endangered black rhinos, cheetahs, gazelles, zebras, lions, and even a few elephants. Besides the mountains, the country is divided by the Great Rift Valley, where there chains of lakes with abundant wildlife. In these lakes, in the south of Ethiopia, you will find hippos and crocodiles.
Flags are symbols of identity, and a source of pride. We learned that the current Ethiopian flag has 3 horizontal stripes: red is for strength, yellow symbolizes peace and hope for all of the many ethnicities and religions in Ethiopia, and green stands for the land. You might have noticed similar colors in other African flags; Newly-independent countries in Africa, as well as the Pan-African movement admire Ethiopia because it was not colonized by any European nation during the colonial era, except for a brief occupation by the Italians.
This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for your support!
Religion is a very important part of Ethiopian culture, and yet the religious groups live peacefully as neighbors throughout the country. About 60% of Ethiopians are either Orthodox Christian or Protestant, and a third are Muslim. Ethiopia has a rich religious history, with Christianity arriving in the 1st century, and Islam in the 600’s. Some of the most popular tourist sites in Ethiopia are theamazing churches carved out of rock in the 12th century, such as Lalibela (in the north). Here is a picture of the historical Lalibela church, and the largest Orthodox Church in Africa: Bole Medhane Alem Church in Addis Ababa.
In order to expand their knowledge, avoid stereotypes, and assure that we are not showing only a single story (i.e. rural countryside), it’s important to show kids the large, modern cities in other countries. Addis Ababa, population of over 3 million, is the capital of Ethiopia, and has a bustling downtown with many monuments and shopping areas. Addis is the home to many museums, the National Palace (of the president), numerous cathedrals and churches, and a great university. In addition to the many supermarkets and malls, Addis also has the “Mercato:” the largest open air market in Africa. It is several MILES wide, and sells everything from mattress to spices to coffee to fabric, etc. Unfortunately when we went, I didn’t bring my camera! But I promise it is amazing:). Here are some pictures on-line of the Mercato.
Outside of the city, agriculture is the main source of income. Shepherds and their livestock roam the fields, and while driving on the highway you are likely to encounter herds of cows, skittish goats, and slow-moving donkeys.
Most farmers use traditional methods for harvesting and planting, and sell some of their produce and grains in local markets, while saving the rest for their families. There is a large variety of the types of homes found in the countryside: they could be made of mud blocks, or different types of straw and grass structures. Here are some pictures of the countryside:
While many people speak the official language, “Amharic,” Ethiopia is a very, very diverse country, with over 80 distinct and unique ethnic groups. Each of thedifferent tribes of people have their own customs, language, and dress. While many people have left their traditional lifestyles in order to move to bigger cities, the government is trying to encourage young people to maintain the cultural traditions and languages of their ancestors. With increased transportation (such as the highway running south to Nairobi that is almost completed) as well as increased tourism, some anthropologists say that many of the tribal cultures are endangered.
Food is a wonderful way to explore another culture from home. The most typical food from Ethiopia is a type of bread called “injera,” made from the grain “teff.” Teff is a super-grain, high in calcium, protein, iron, and fiber that has grown in Ethiopia for thousands of years. It is mixed with water, left to ferment (like sourdough) and made into a large, thin, spongey bread. Piling on different stews of vegetables, lentils, meats, and sauces, Ethiopians then use their fingers to tear off a bit of the injera and scoop up the delicious meals on top. For breakfast, many kids enjoy kinche, what many call “Ethiopian oatmeal.”
Although kids don’t usually partake, the most famous drink from Ethiopia is coffee. One legend says that coffee was discovered in Ethiopia when a shepherd wondered why his goats were extra-hyper and wouldn’t sleep after eating a particular berry (the coffee bean!). No can say for sure which version of the story is true, but everyone agrees that Ethiopia has delicious coffee! The coffee ceremony is an integral part of Ethiopians lives, and is a part of all holidays, visits from friends, in restaurants… or just for fun.
For little kids, the drinks of choice are cow’s milk, goat’s milk, or fresh fruit juices. Here’s a layered drink with mango and avocado juice you can make at home by just pureeing the fruits in a blender one at a time with a tad of sugar and lime juice.
Children’s literature is a wonderful way to learn more about Ethiopian culture. In addition to the books I review here and here that introduce Ethiopian culture, I also recommend any books by Jane Kurtz, the daughter of missionaries who spent decades in Ethiopia where they raised their five daughters and one son in a remote village. She has written several books about Ethiopia and Eritrea such asFire on the Mountain, Pulling the Lion’s Tail, Trouble, and Only a Pigeon.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little journey through Ethiopia! As I find more bits of culture, I will continue to post them here. It is a fascinating country with an ancient history and warm people who love little kids. Maybe one day you’ll be able to visit?