“I’ll turn left here then,” Phil said as he manoeuvred the car down a narrow street. I consulted my instructions again. “There should be a hill, but this is flat,” I observed despondently. With no addresses in Addis, descriptions and landmarks are used to locate any specific point of interest that you want to visit. On this occasion it was a hairdresser that had been recommended to me, and I was keen to try.
We finally found the correct left turn, and several miles later we found our destination helped by Jerri wearing a zebra-striped apron, standing waving outside. Once I had arrived and was sitting in the hairdresser’s chair I then received a text which read: ‘You will see an Ethiopian lady with a zebra striped cape on, looking for you. Her name is Jerri.’– thanks Ethio-Telecom.
Here I met Carmen who gave me an enthusiastic explanation about how she came to be in Ethiopia, whilst giving Jerri instructions about how to mix up colour products brought in from America. I was in a second storey room of a three-storey building. Below was a courtyard where young street boys would soon be gathering.
The project that Carmen and her husband Trent run is called ‘Make Your Mark’. The building I was in provides a safe place where street children can bathe, wash their clothes, eat healthy food, have biblical teaching and basic education, play games, receive counselling and maybe even enjoy some art therapy by day when they are first contacted, then return to the streets by night.
After some time, those individuals who show a genuine desire to change and come off the streets are invited to live in a home with an Ethiopian house parent. Here they learn about family life and responsibility and begin attending school. All this with a view to settling them back with their own families or placing them within a created local family.
With colour and foils in place I was escorted to the next small room for a spell under the dryer, after which my hair was washed by Jerri. This young Ethiopian woman was a teenager when she first met Carmen, and was mother to a small child. Initially “trafficked” to Addis when in the 8th grade (year 9), she was keen to have her child adopted, but Carmen and Trent felt that they should accept both mum and child into their family. During the past five years, Jerri has graduated from her government-directed training, completed a hairdressing course and is now living independently with her daughter. Carmen is training her in managing non-Ethiopian hair with a view to one day taking over the business.
As my hair was being cut and styled Carmen explained about some of the adoption challenges. In our church today Trent was promoting a national adoption conference essentially to bring awareness and action. The facts are that there are possibly 5.5 million orphans in Ethiopia. It would take millions of dollars and hundreds of years for international adoption to be the solution. There are however, many millions of people in Ethiopia; if only 6.5% of the population would take in a child, there wouldn't be any more orphans here - could this be the way forward?
With my hair colour and style complete and my payment contributing to the project, I left with my heart challenged. It is true to say that I have never had such a unique and informative salon experience before.