In The Mind’s Eye | Stories From The Field

Contributed by Lauren Werner, of Lauren Werner Photography and member of the 2014 Roots Ethiopia Field Team.

During our #100Kids School Sponsorship Campaign, we are sharing the personal stories of our field work in Ethiopia. These are the stories that inspire and remind us that education is a right, not a privilege.

In The Mind’s Eye

In Ethiopia, the space of land surrounding a community church holds a certain sanctity, one I cannot fully describe in words. I am the Roots Ethiopia photographer, so I have the incredible honor of speaking without words. My eyes do the listening. My photos do the talking. It is a privilege to be part of the team in this quiet and impactful way.

The physical property around any Ethiopian church in the southern region is simply a modest reflection of the surrounding landscape, no more, no less. However, in every community I have visited, within the gates of church property, serenity has long ago taken hold and refuses to let go. During my last visit, we visited a church in Hadero. Entering the church grounds was like a breath of incredible air. Like an inhale the blue-green gates drew me in, and like an exhale, the shaded space within offered me precious relief from the intense heat of the day.

Even as the grounds filled with curious school children, many of the same children I had met the year before, peace would not take a seat. Rather, it commanded our attention by being ever present despite the giggles and chatter that filled our midst. One of our Roots team members, Jeni, brought out an instant camera. “What is that? What will it do? What do you mean you SHAKE the picture to make it appear?” And the gentle breeze brought the intensity down to a mellow kind of questioning from the young audience. Jeni began make pictures with the camera for each child. Soon, dozens of children were shaking their tiny pictures, reflections of themselves. Even as each student saw the image appear, he or she kept fanning the air with it, waiting to see if something else magical would shine through. The children looked like they were holding dozens of colorful butterflies fluttering in the afternoon light.

In each student there is a kind of sanctuary, a grand reserve of creativity and hope. Children who attend school, like those in the churchyard that day, have the opportunity to nurture their minds. And within the sanctity of their own growing minds, they can imagine their own future full of the flapping of magical images, where almost anything that can me dreamed of, can happen.


Roots Ethiopia is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization working in Africa, specifically helping Southern Ethiopia. Roots Ethiopia supports community identified solutions for job creation and education.

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