Children of the OMO

Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.
— John Dewey

When I drove into the village of Korcho, home of the Kara tribe I saw a building that looked out of place.  I ventured over to see what this cement and brick structure was. In a village of straw huts this large building really intrigued me. What a surprise it was for me to see that it was a classroom. A classroom, I later learned, built in a pastoral community to create opportunity to educate children while they continue to live and work in their local environment.  Most schools were miles away….

Being eleven o'clock in the morning I started to wonder where the kids were, where was the teacher, why did the room look more like a museum rather than a place of daily learning?

I was able to track down a village elder and ask my questions. It seems as though school hasn't been in session in some time. The village elder let me know that to attract a teacher is really difficult. He said that no teacher from a city would want to live in a place that has no clean water, no store, no electricity, no beds  - the teacher would have to sleep in a hut on a goatskin mat.  

The boy in the photo said he likes to come to the classroom and dream of learning new things. He had a deep passion for learning.  He was full of questions.  He would spend time in the classroom when he wasn’t herding cows pretending to be in school.  A school I hope will be there for him one day!

Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
— Unknown

The end of the day, the sun is setting, the kids are running. Every once in a while you really get a shot that surprises you. For me, this was it. Walking around a really peaceful Hamer village I spotted these three kids leisurely walking. Suddenly they darted and started to run. I found myself completely focused on them. Maybe they were going home for dinner, maybe mom and dad called, maybe they were going to gather their goats. I will never know. I just love the light, reflections and movement. It was a special moment!

Let your heart dance with pen and paper, Now fill the paper with dancing letters.
— Debasish Mridha

The Ari tribes live peacefully in mud brick houses, grow sorghum and corn, tend their chickens and take excellent care of their prized family cow. In a doorway, I spotted this lovely girl sitting at a make shift desk with a blue pen in her hand ever so diligently doing some school work. The plight of women in these rural villages is quite difficult. With food to cook, babies to birth and care for, water to haul twice a day, and men to tend.  They do not have a life of leisure. But this girl in the photo still has years before she takes on that role and the intensity I saw in her face led me to believe that her future may be far different than that of her mother or ancestors. I gave her a few more blue pens and told her to keep on writing and learning. We smiled at each other and I left her to conquer the world.

Before enlightment, chopping wood and carrying water, after enlightment, chopping wood and carrying water.
— Hsin Hsin Ming

Wherever you go in developing nations you will spot the omni present yellow container, known as “Jerry Cans”.  Jerry cans are former plastic vegetable oil containers.

I have never seen a man carry a yellow bucket up a hill, down a road, in a village, wading in a stream, digging in a riverbed or anywhere. It is always women and girls that fill these buckets so that their family has water.

On the road to Konso, in Southern Ethiopia, there is a bridge that goes over a semi- large riverbed. I jumped out of the car when I saw a mosaic of women and girls filling the containers and then lugging them up the steep hill to the main road.

This simple photo of a girl with her container climbing a hill screams out to me, but in a gentle dignified manner. 

I attempted to lift the container to gage the weight. Needless to say I could barely lift it off the ground and I am pretty strong.

I quickly learned that this is the life for thousands of women and children in Southern Ethiopia.  They routinely walk four or five miles a day to get water with a muddy yellow plastic can strapped to their back.  Filled with water it weighs about 50 pounds.  They struggle to walk in their cracked plastic sandals day after day.  Their families need water and the only way they can get it is to hoist it on their backs or heads in cans, jugs or buckets.

Happiness is enjoying the little things in life.
— Unknown

From a distance I saw this little girl hovering near a swing. In a village without clean water, electricity, a school, a store, a nurse and an undetermined future it was pretty special to see a child having some fun. What I wanted to capture in this picture is a sense of imagination. What would this child do with her life, would she follow the ways of her tribe, would she marry young and have many babies, would she get sick and die at an early age. But for now she is able to swing away in a quiet place oblivious to the world. Childhood is something special down in the Omo Valley.

I’d like to share an amazing film with you. A film created to touch the heart, a film about an amazing journey, a film that doesn’t just talk about change - A film that IS change.
Omo Child: The River and the Bush has just been selected for the D.C. Independent Film Festival. The film will play on opening night, February 25th.
— Briana Gallo


Omo Child: The River and the Bush is a documentary film which tells the amazing true story of a young man’s journey to end the ancient practice known as Mingi in the Omo Valley, Ethiopia. Mingi means curse and any child who is thought to be Mingi must be killed according to ancient cultural traditions. Lale Labuko, from the Kara tribe, was convinced that no curse existed and he set out to change his tribe and the Omo Valley and in doing so lifting a burden from the shoulder’s of the Kara people.

OMO CHILD is a non-profit that is committed to providing the children with the best possible education, with the goal that they become future leaders and important contributors to society. Their mission is to provide a safe, nurturing home and quality education for rescued Mingi children. Their hope is that these children will become future leaders in their tribes and communities. OMO CHILD also raises awareness about the practice of Mingi and works to see it eliminated.

ALL proceeds from the movie will go to OMO CHILD  If you would like to support OMO CHILD you can donate here.

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