Stand By Me
Blog , November 2, 2012
I head away in just over a weeks time to Ethiopia with the charity Stand By Me.
Its an amazing privilege to be able to go to the place where your child sponsors are, and being able to spend time with them is a precious gift.
This type of photography is what I love them most, you are trying to tell the stories of people who otherwise would not normally be heard, especially the voices of children.
Alot has happened since I last visited the town of Bekoji in August 2010. Firstly the road runs right from Addis the capital to the town (this is the main highway to Kenya from Addis) So instead of a journey pretty much lasting all day, its a 4 hour trip.
Secondly the school where Stand By Me are involved has developed so much I doubt I will recognise it.
Thirdly the reaction to me being there will be completely different. When we first went in 2010, we were only the 3rd team to have visited, the first was an initial scouting visit, the second a medical team. We went to spend time with the kids in the school which was a unique experience for both them and us. Since then there have been many people who have visited on various teams, building, medical etc and so the town is now used to people coming out. I will miss that rawness.
I have spent some time looking over the photographs I took the last time. And have reedited some of them (the software I have has changed a bit since I was last there and thats why its great to keep the raw files)
Take a look, but more importantly take a look at Stand By Me – www.standby.me
This guy along with his friends were the first guys we met on the way to Bekoji. We had stopped at a camel farm to have a look. It didnt seem like there was anything else around for miles and all of a sudden 5 or 6 boys appeared from the other side of the road. We gave them some crisps we had but the flavour was too strong for them and they spat them out into their hands. Then tried again.
This was the one of the other kids at the camel farm. He has the crisps tube in his hand!
This is where the road stopped the last time. We had only travelled a couple of hours on the tarmac before the red dust road appeared. It took a long time to get from this point to the town.
The countryside is beautiful especially as we headed higher up towards the village. It reminded me of Northern Ireland, with the beautiful greens. The landscapes were huge though, you could see for miles and miles with only a few huts spaced out.
This little guy followed me around for nearly a whole week. After day 2 every time he came over the first thing he said was ‘shoes’. As I looked down his toes were sticking out of holes. The shoes were so badly worn. There are alot of kids in a similar position and shortly after we came home they started a shoe fund to get every child at the school a pair of shoes.
We decided to facepaint all the kids at the school over a couple of days. For some reason I volunteered. I was trying to take as many photos of the kids when they were finished.
The above picture reminds me of why i go to Ethiopia. It is sometimes hard to take in what little effort you make and how far it goes. As you can see there is a tear track down the right hand side of his face in the picture. At first I thought it was because I’d made a mess of his Spiderman face. As you can see its pretty useless. But i dont think it was this. The tear came just as I had started. A single tear fell down his face. It confused me a little until i spoke to someone else painting faces. We think it was the face to face time he had, someone just spending time painting his face, it might even have been the contact. And I guess that is the thing. We dont need to be very good at anything, but we go there and just sit with the kids and give them time and it seems to be all that they want.
This little girl smiles the most beautiful smile for the camera. But seconds earlier she was lying on a bench in the middle of the school away from alot of the other kids. She looked sad. So many of the stories and names I cannot remember. It seems every child in the school where Stand By Me works has a story. Her name is Miheret.
She has HIV. And no one would look after her.
Until this women came along.
She is the cook at the school. All her kids had grown up.
She started looking after the kids at the school with HIV. It still has a big stigma in the village.
So Stand By Me built her a house on the school land and she lives there now a few of the kids with HIV who have no parents.
I have no doubt that this women lives out the verse in the bible Stand By Me based their every action on.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1.27)
Is this ever an eye opener to someone who has so much, against this women who has so little.
Finally we have Tizita and her family. A mum dying of HIV, a father already dead. Tizita herself having the most horrendeous burns from a fire in her house as a child and having to grow up without the medical attention she needed. Crippled over when the team first met her, a simple operation allowed her to stand up straight. The change is her character was unbelievable.
We got to go to her house. It was hard to find. But we did and then met her brother Million.
This is just one country Stand By Me work in. Take a look at the website www.standby.me , they like people who can get involved. Some have great skills and use it for the charity, like doctors, nurses, builders, teachers. Others just go to help.