By Abby Morrow, Selamta Ambassador
I first traveled to Selamta in January of 2013, and my life has forever been changed.
Upon my arrival, my senses found a lot to take in and I absorbed the new sights and sounds with intrigue. Stepping off the plane in the early morning outside on the tarmac, the sun had yet to burn off the thick haze over the city, and the smell was thick and layered with diesel, spices and cattle. The people talked quickly in a language that, while beautiful, I could not understand. The roads are filled with people on foot, taxis, and buses. Everywhere you look in the city, there are people.
We made our way through the uneven and dusty streets, and the red dirt quickly covered my feet and clothes. I recognized that, despite the apparent business, life moves at a slower pace and time does not hold the same precise concept that I am used to.
Once we arrived at the Inn which fits snugly in the quiet town of Bethel, a few friendly faces came and left, and greeted me with a handshake, a kiss on the cheek, more words that I couldn't understand and a friendliness that needs no language. A couple of boys entered through the gate, started scrubbing their laundry and chatting quietly in the courtyard. This was my view as a visitor in Ethiopia.
As we started to settle in, I grew comfortable in this place that was drastically outside my comfort zone. We began to meet friends, explore this unique place called Selamta and live in community with them. Visiting each home as a guest, the hospitality I found was not simply offered, but rather it was showered upon me. The mothers and aunts set the stage as they go all in with their generosity and love.
A visit would start with them greeting us individually and personally when we entered their home, and would continue with coffee, popcorn and a meal. The kids and teens were always up for a good laugh, a card game, great conversations and a silly walk back to the office through the street at night. Relationships formed quickly and easily as we grew together as friends. The unknown that once intimidated me was now a new sort of normal.
While I was integrating into this community, part of that process was learning to navigate my way through the grid of unmarked streets. The way the houses of Selamta are dispersed throughout Bethel, they are inconspicuous to an outsider, but ever so accessible and present to each other. During a visit to a family house, it was rare that I would find all the kids at their own home. I would, however, find kids from the other Selamta houses visiting, studying and making themselves at home. The friendships that you find within Selamta are strong, loyal and honest. The support system is not just within the family, but within the strategic community of Selamta as a whole.
By the time it came to leave Selamta, it felt like my second home. Though I had arrived in confusion, I left knowing every street, every gate, every face and every name. The community welcomed me into their lives, and my eyes were opened to a new culture; one of sharing, respect and love. I was shown what it means to give sacrificially and without reservation, and they showed me tangible love. I arrived as a visitor; I left as part of the family.
That's the power within Selamta. They welcome each other infinitely more. During my time there, I had the privilege of seeing two new boys enter the Selamta Family as individuals. Boys who had no family, no home, and no hope. At 13 and 15 years old, they were independents. They had been without support for many years, living on the street and in an orphanage, respectively. I watched as, within days, they found love, support and encouragement within a reliable family. They were given an entire community that wants the best for them and is willing to fight for it.
The heartbeat of Selamta is contagiously generous and full of life. Living alongside the families, I also began to want the best for each one of them. For me, I know that it means investing my time and resources into them so that they might have the brightest possible futures that they can have.
This summer, I have the opportunity to bring one of three teams to visit Ethiopia. Our goal is to directly impact their futures by enhancing their English skills with a creative story-telling program. I would love for you to join us, experience the hospitality of Selamta, become a part of the family, and invest yourself as a valued part of our team!