Top 10 Photography Skills for Travelers to Ethiopia

Contributed by Lauren Werner, our Board Member, photographer, and public health specialist.

Lauren’s Vision: To see the end of poverty in rural Ethiopia.

1. Ask permission to take a picture before you take it. This can be a verbal request or a simple non-verbal acknowledgement. “Photo, yichalal?” is the perfect way to ask.

2. Change up your subject matter. If you gravitate toward landscape, be bold and ask permission to take a portrait. If you prefer people pictures, turn to a house, animal, or sky for new inspiration.

3. Use your voice. Ask yourself what are you trying to say with the image you are making?

4. Selfie, and not selfie. You are “present” in every image, but you only need to be physically “in” a few to make your collection meaningful.

5. Watch the lighting. Early morning and late afternoon light have the least amount of glare and contrast on sunny days. Full sun too bright for your subject matter? Find a shade tree or shadow of a building to take the picture. Cloud cover is your friend.

6. Privacy: Sensitive subjects abound, and are highly visible at times, in Ethiopia. If you take a picture of someone in a vulnerable place, such as abject poverty or extreme illness, consider how that person would feel being portrayed that way to others.

7. Animals make great subjects, but they can move quickly, I have one too many close-ups of a cow nostril.

8. Combine posed images with spontaneous ones for a more realistic representation of Ethiopian life. Capture the movement in a whole marketplace along with individual sellers.

9. If you take a picture of a person, and want to show it to them on the spot, know that it can start a beautiful moment of sharing that can turn overwhelming in an instant. Have a plan to move on if this happens, with a smile and a wave.

10.Share wisely. Facebook is a great way to connect your photos to the world. Share what is appropriate. Facebook owns everything you post. Need a private way to share? Consider Flickr. They don’t own your images, and you can choose how you share them.

NOTE: Lauren’s amazing work can be seen on our social media sites and occasionally during special fundraising events, such as Story of Hope, and Light from the Horn of Africa. Contact us if you’d like us to bring a photography show to your community!

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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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.

School Sponsorship Drive in Ethiopia! Let’s Send #100Kids To School


Our annual School Sponsorship Drive is on! Together, we will send “#100Kids to school in 50 days!” #100Kids just like Genet will be able to proudly enter Ethiopian classrooms, a country where 3 million children still don’t have access to education. #100Kids will go to school, #100Kids will receive nutritional and medical support, and #100Kids will be given uniforms and school supplies!

Your $250 donation covers the cost of one School Sponsorship or you can sign up for our amazingly easy recurring giving option at only $21/month!! That small slice of your budget makes ENORMOUS educational impact on the most vulnerable kids in Ethiopia.

Thank you so much for your continued support as we forge ahead, 100% focused and determined to increase educational equality in the developing world!


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.

2012 Grain Drive

In May 2012, Roots Ethiopia visited Hadiya, Kembata, and Tembaro zones to evaluate our programs with Meseret Kristos Church (MKC). We visited Hosanna, Doyogena, Hadero, and Shinshecho church headquarters. During our meetings, in every case, when we asked church leaders to share their concerns about needs in the area, the overwhelming response was hunger.

Hunger impacts so many people in Ethiopia, especially during the time when late rains delay the season’s harvest. Experts suggested that this year the late start of the rain meant the early July harvest would be delayed until late August and early September. Called ‘green hunger’, this time is particularly difficult for the very young, the very old, and anyone suffering from both chronic and acute illnesses. Hunger impacts everything and everyone.

This information put Roots Ethiopia’s Grain Crew 2012 into action. Roots Ethiopia raised $5,156.14 USD in funds for MKC to plan and distribute grains to the neediest and most vulnerable families in their communities. Funds were sent in early June—our donors were quick and compassionate responders!

The grain distribution was completed at five locations in early July. The locations of distribution were Shinshecho, Hadero, Tunto, Bonosha and Gimbichu.


MKC church staff supplied 165 families with enough food to last six weeks per family. The supplies included 50 kilograms of maize, three liters of cooking oil and some produce. The food supply was calculated to last through August, when the harvest is estimated to occur and when additional food resources will be available to families in the region.

Through their ongoing community service in the region, MKC was able to identify the most vulnerable families in the region. Largely, they were women-led households and particularly households without any land to farm.

Roots Ethiopia celebrates Grain Crew 2012 as a great success. Our work is work that is well worth doing.

“When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion” – Ethiopian Proverb