Awra Amba

Whilst swapping travel notes earlier on in my trip, recounting his must-do Ethiopia experiences, my new friend raised his voice mid sentence as if suddenly remembering something extremely important and told me emphatically that I must visit Awra Amba. "Arra-what?" I replied. He described an inspiringly progressive and largely agnostic village (they believe in God, but have no central religion) that values gender equality most highly amongst it's five key principles, which include care of the elderly and vulnerable, and an almost idealistic mutual respect between inhabitants. I knew I had to see this place for myself.  (The rest of this article will be published by Virgin Unite later this month)

Smiling
Smiling

This sweet lady smiled so gladly when I asked to take her picture as she worked in the back of the one small restaurant.

Awra Amba Restaurant window
Awra Amba Restaurant window

The wonderfully progressive village of Awra Amba in Northwest Ethiopia values gender equality, hard work and care of societies most vulnerable above all, as well as keeping religion as a private choice and not a communal necessity.

North Africa 5_-4
North Africa 5_-4

This sweet old gentlemen broke my heart. When I asked to take a picture of him, he requested in return that I look at the wound on his stomach from a botched operation that was causing him great pain, under the assumption that as a westerner, I must have medical training. Of course, I was unable to help, telling him I wished I could... The problem would be internal, and I hate to think what will happen if it doesn't heal on it's own.

Spinning Cotton
Spinning Cotton

Under the tree in the centre of the village, as they do together every Tuesday. Many of these elderly people are residents of the care home, who's round the clock care is paid for by the charity arm in the village, which is turn is funded by sales of linens and fabrics made by weaving the cotton they spin. Everyone is able to contribute in whatever way they can, even the oldest and most vulnerable.

Spinning Cotton
Spinning Cotton

Under the tree in the centre of the village. Many of these elderly people are residents of the care home, who's round the clock care is paid for by the charity arm in the village, which is turn is funded by sales of linens and fabrics made by weaving the cotton they spin. Everyone is able to contribute in whatever way they can, even the oldest and most vulnerable.

Happy Boys
Happy Boys

More smiling faces from around the village.

Primary School Students
Primary School Students

The primary school classroom had a relaxed and happy energy, where the children read books or learnt the Amharic alphabet seemingly at their own pace. Education is paramount to Awra Amba, so much so that they refer to it as their own religion in the absence of any other organised religion.

School Time
School Time

In this small classroom, the children were lively, bright & curious, most staring up at us or pulling silly faces. This little one at the front, a sweet mix of being absolutely absorbed by his book and occasionally peering up at the visitors, had something about him that made him seem somehow vivid, so that my eye was constantly drawn to him. I focused my lens for some time before he looked up for a moment, & utterly unperturbed by my camera, returned again to his book

Care Home Resident
Care Home Resident

A lady sitting outside the elderly living quarters in Awra Amba. One of the community's most valued qualities is taking care of its most vulnerable inhabitants, with a 24/7 carer to assist in whatever they need such as bathing, cooking and medical care.