When Southampton intern Imogen Hardman shares food with Winchester University staff and students on 14 May, the tales of families she met in Ethiopia who could only afford to eat once a day will be uppermost in her mind.
Imogen and the Winchester University Chaplaincy, Christian Union and Student Hub are putting on a picnic for staff and students to raise funds this Christian Aid Week. The picnic is a chance for staff and students to come together, relax during the exam period and have a bit of fun all while raising vital funds. The fete style event will include lemonade stands, home baking, traditional games as well as live music.
During a two-week trip to rural South West Ethiopia in October Imogen, 24, learnt first-hand how poverty impacts on people – and how Christian Aid-funded projects are transforming lives.
But it was meeting and speaking to 29 year-old Loko Jarso that had the greatest impact on Imogen, who is spending ten months volunteering in Christian Aid’s Southampton office, and it is Loko’s story that she has been sharing with young people all over Hampshire since her return.
She said: “Loko is only five years older than me but she has more responsibility than I think I will ever have in my lifetime. She is married to a man in his 60s whose first wife died. Loko has three children of her own and three stepchildren to support.
“To support her children Loko climbs four hours up a mountain near her home to collect firewood. Her path is strewn with thorns and dangerous animals. To carry the firewood home she straps as much as she can to her back with rope to complete the eight-hour round trip. All of this work makes her the equivalent to £1 in the local market.
“It leaves her with chest and back pains so severe she sometimes can’t even walk; on days like this her children go without their one meal a day. Loko’s husband is abusive and contributes nothing to the running of the household; yet as is tradition in Loko’s village he will always eat first. I can’t imagine doing, literally back-breaking work to make an almost insignificant amount of money and then watch my abusive husband eat it before me.
“In Loko’s community you are only considered a full human if you own livestock. For women who don’t, it means they have no power, they are unable to speak in community meetings and no one will help them when they are in need. For women like Loko it also means they cannot be granted the divorce she seeks from the community leaders.
“When I met Loko I asked her what her dream for the future would be, all she wanted was for her children to live a different life to the one she has had. She wanted to be able to feed them and send them to school.
“Christian Aid partner organisation, HUNDEE, is helping women like Loko by giving them cows and goats, making sure they have all the training to look after the livestock and start up small businesses within their communities. Most importantly, by giving them livestock, the women have a voice and become respected members of their community.
“Christian Aid believes that everyone should live in dignity and be given equal opportunity to live full lives. In Ethiopia I saw the immeasurable difference a cow can make to a woman’s and her family’s life. I have absolute confidence that Christian Aid’s work is giving people the tools to live a life free from poverty.
“I know that this picnic will be a huge success and raise funds that mean Christian Aid can transform many more lives in Ethiopia and across the world.
“Please give what you can this Christian Aid Week (10-16 May) to ensure that families like Loko’s, are able to live full and dignified lives.”
You can help to change the lives of men and women in places like Ethiopia this Christian Aid Week by donating online at www.caweek.org calling 08080 006 006, or texting ‘WEEK’ to 70040 to give £5.