Project Blog Posts:

Ethiopia 2010

Selena (CWB USA) Jamie (CWB SA) and Sibongile (CWB SA) are in Addis Ababa setting up a local capacity building project in partnership with the Worldwide Orphans Foundation. From Feb 16th through Feb 28th they will be meeting with people at WWO, performing shows, teaching workshops, and leading training workshops.


The project is a preliminary expedition to explore the potential to implement CWBSA’s arts intervention methodology with WWO, a nongovernmental organisation dedicate to providing a holistic development to children who are orphans or vulnerable. They have programmes in many different countries including Bulgaria, Vietnam, and Ethiopia. Our partnership was germinated over the past 2 years at the annual Unite for Sight Global Health Conference in which WWO founder, Dr. Jane Aronson, and I presented in the same sessions on innovative community interventions that build local capacity. A casual conversation about potential synergy gradually grew into our first collaboration here in Ethiopia.


WWO’s project in Ethiopia has 4 components: a family health clinic for children and adults with HIV, an academy (K-2) for affected children, an orphanage for abandoned children with HIV, and an outreach programmes through empowerment camps, a soccer league, and support groups for people living with HIV. In a city where the HIV prevalance is estimated to be 20% of the adult population, WWO provides antiretroviral treatment to about 1700 children and adults. Their school gives holistic education 144 children who are vulnerable or HIV positive and they have an orphanage for 39 children as well as provide support to many others. They have asked us to help develop both their outreach programmes for guardians as well as their psychosocial intervention practices with existing clients.Each morning we make our way through the  sprawling streets of Addis Ababa negotiating the ubiquitous blue and white mini-bus taxis, pedestrians, and the odd donkey or herd of goats. Addis is a vibrant African city where traditional culture mixes freely with contemporary life. You look one way to see chic cafes serving bunna (coffee) overflowing with the most fashionably dressed people. Suddenly, an itinerant priest walks by barefooted with his cloak and pilgrim’s cross. Beggars intermix with entrepreneurs. Open sewers lie next to newly built department stores. In comparison to most South African cities, there is much more freedom of movement and sense of security. We walk relaxed through the streets that alternate between tar, dirt, and rubble – even at night!

Almost everyone we meet is beautiful, kind, helpful, and compassionate. Our principal partners at WWO, Lemlem Tela and Yared Brahanu have been a joy to work with: Yared, WWO’s football league coach, has been indispensable in organising the logistics of our performances, guiding us through the city, and supplying us with ongoing Amharic lessons. Along with being a musician, computer programmer, lawyer, and journalist, he is a natural clown with his nonverbal eyebrow-raising communication skills that keep us hysterics. Lemlem, who is in charge of WWO’s psychosocial programme, co-facilitates our workshops amazing me with her capacity to connect with full commitment and compassion diving into the world of storytelling and play.

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