HAPPY FRIDAY, FRIENDS! Phew, this week was a crazy one! I'm coming off of a week of catchup and editing after a week spent with my family! I'm heading down to Charlottesville tonight for an engagement session, and tomorrow, I'm off to PA for a wedding! It felt SO good to be back in the swing of things, even if I did spend a lot of my week wishing I was still sitting on the beach with the fam. Today's post is going to be a random hodgepodge of sorts, so let's do it!Read More
Hi friends! Welcome to the very last post post in my Ethiopia Media mission Mini Series! Pressing publish on this post was such a bittersweet moment for me. Over the last couple of weeks, I've been recapping my media mission from just over a year ago. I was lucky enough to work with two incredible organizations than changed my life forever, and I have shared a little bit about their stories on the blog.
Read Part one and part two here:
Now, the media in this post is arguably the reason this mini series has taken so long to release. I've been really scared to put this piece out there. While I was in Ethiopia, I knew that I would be really sad if I left without filming anything, but I also wasn't super sure what I was going to film. (Fun fact: I actually do a lot of video work at my current full time day job!) Video, specifically video editing isn't my favorite thing in the world--my heart is definitely happiest as a photographer--so this piece took a little longer than planned to put together. Also, if we're being honest? I'm a perfectionist and well... when you're hand filming life on the road, things are going to be far from perfect. Anyways...
I'm really excited to introduce you to a guy that taught our group so much while we were in Ethiopia. He is currently Selamta Family Project's Assistant Director, and when I say that he does so much for the organization, that would be the biggest understatement of the century. Meet Habtie. He is the kind of guy that prefers to do big things with zero recognition, he cares so deeply about each beneficiary of the organization, he works to educate others about Selamta Family Project's mission, and leads by example. The kids and young adults involved with Selamta truly look up to him I was lucky enough to sit down with him to chat just before we packed up our van with our suitcases to leave for the week. I am so glad that I did. This guy is doing big things to change the world for so many people. I am so excited for you to get to hear from him today, as he speaks about his experience with the Selamta Family Project. Tune in below:
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Hi friends! Today is an exciting day because... it’s my birthday!! Now, I love celebrating others’ birthdays, but I’m a little weird about celebrating my own. I have no idea why—maybe it’s because I don’t really love being the center of attention... maybe its because I'm away from my family... maybe it's because I'm just weird... but, I'm trying to become a little better about letting myself CELEBRATE, so I wanted to share something fun & just slightly birthday related with you today! I see this little blog as both a place to share business thoughts and happenings as well as a place to share my personal thoughts too. I love looking back on certain posts to see how much I’ve changed. To see how much I’ve grown. It’s crazy and humbling and sometimes a little silly to see where growth happens over time, and I truly believe that it is so important to write your own personal history book. It’s something I don’t do often enough.
This past year of life was a pretty crazy one for me, I’m not going to lie. I learned a lot and grew a lot and was forced out of my comfort zone pretty much daily. I also learned a lot of silly things along the way too! To celebrate my 24th birthday, I’m sharing 23 things I wish I could have told myself on my 23rd birthday! Some are silly; some are serious. All are lessons I’ve learned in the last year. I hope you enjoy! (And... if you have any advice for me as I head into my 24th year of life, drop ‘em in a comment below! I’d love to hear from you!!)
Venti Strawberry Açaí Refresher, light on ice and without the fruit.... just memorize this order now. It'll get you through many, many sleepy mornings. And will get you through many more sleepy mornings to come, I'm sure
DC is best enjoyed early in the morning... from monuments to the cherry blossoms, to the city streets, there is something so peaceful about enjoying the beauty the city has to offer before traffic picks up and the tourists adventure out.
Your home may flood and you’ll spend the first Christmas away from your childhood home in about 18 years. But, you’ll learn that home truly isn’t about the physical structure but the people that surround you.
Hire the right accountant... please just do it.
Contrary to your stubborn belief, you aren’t immune to burnout. Pace yourself. Work harder than you ever have before, but pace yourself & remember to do the things that bring you joy.
Say yes to opportunities that will fill you with joy and don't be shy about saying no to opportunities that won't.
Your body hates liquor and mixed drinks... just stick to wine.
Learn as much as you can this year. Get behind the camera as much as you can this year. Meet as many creatives as you can this year. Your community is about to grow like crazy, and it will be the biggest, best and most inspiring gift.
Amazon Prime will be your best and worst investment. 2 day free shipping is a blessing and a curse.
Essential oils... yeah. Just use 'em. A little bit of peppermint on your neck will do wonders to wake you up in mid-afternoon traffic or before teaching an evening class.
Just suck it up and buy a stand for the microwave that’s been in your trunk for the last couple of months. I promise, the limited kitchen space will be well worth the warm food!
Sophie is going to grow so much quicker than you will be able to believe! Take as many photos as possible & always screenshot the snap chats. She'll still be adorable when she's a big dog too.
Your paper planner and to-do list will help you keep your sanity. Write everything down, even if you think you’ll remember.
Take a day off of email once a week, no exceptions.
Invest in a comfy desk chair to work in at home... your back will thank you! Also on that note? Get off the couch and work from your desk. Your productivity will improve so much!
Age is just a number. Don’t let it hold you back from chasing your wild and crazy dreams.
Sundays are for meal prep. No excuses.
People are going to come and go in your life. Be selective about those that you keep closest to you. Hold the people that value your time, treat you with respect, make you smile, and never make you feel less than, as tight as you can. Let the others go without any hard feelings.
It’s never a good idea to call your mom, screaming that you got hit by a bus before clarifying that you’re actually okay and just you car’s side mirror was hit.
Back all of your photos up in a million and one places. Yes, even your personal photos.
It’s okay to cry when you’re sad, laugh when you’re happy, be quiet when you’re in a funk, and celebrate when you’re excited. You’re only human and you’ve got to let yourself experience your emotions every now and then. Bottling them up only makes it worse.
The best way to clear a foggy mind is a quick walk outside & some eye drops.
On the days where you don’t feel like all you want is to give up, show up. Cultivate gratitude & grace. Do as much as you can & leave the rest for later. Giving yourself some time to reset is just as important as knocking items off a to do list.
BONUS #24 You will have to make some really big and really intimidating decisions this year. Prioritize your happiness, health & sanity.
CHEERS to the wild and crazy adventure called 24! Thank you so much for being here, for encouraging me & for supporting this crazy dream of mine. I truly cannot tell you how much it means to me.
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Happy Friday, friends! Welcome to part two of my recap of my trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I’m not going to lie, I had the hardest time finding the words for this post. After all, how can I possibly describe an organization that is doing such incredible things?
Last week, you met The Archibald Project—the organization and the team that I traveled to Ethiopia with. Today, I am excited to introduce you to The Selamta Family Project, the organization that we visited and learned more about during our time in Ethiopia. This time last year, I was eating family dinner around a table filled with, once strangers, that soon welcomed us into their homes with open arms like family. I was playing card games over buna while watching translated soap operas on TV. I was editing college essays and photographing bright smiles and I was meeting some of the strongest people that I will ever cross paths with. This time last year, I got to spend a week with the Selamta Family Project.
Now, I am going to try my best to keep this post short because what Selamta really is incredible and revolutionary and I could go on and on about how much I love them and their model and what they are doing to change the world for so many kids…. so, let’s get to it!
They just had a brand new video launch yesterday, made by the Archibald Project, and it shares what they do so much better than I could ever articulate.
When you think about orphan care, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Adoption? Foster care? Something similar? What if I told you that there is another incredible option for orphan care that could change the world we live in? What if I told you that it was possible to keep kiddos in their own culture, their own communities and with their own families? I truly was so moved when I started to learn more about Selamta's model, and I am so excited to introduce their work to you today.
Y’all, this group is doing BIG things, and the kids and the families that they are supporting are doing even BIGGER things. In a nutshell, Selamta works to create bright futures for orphaned children and marginalized women by developing forever families and by giving them the resources and support needed to live independently. They work to build up each and every person that their program benefits, to be independent and successful members of their community. Selamta keeps them connected to their home. They ensure their education is a priority. They shower them with love and show them the importance of respect and honesty. Selamta gives these kids, many of which have grown into young adults, the resources they need to stay healthy in body, mind & community.
We were welcomed into a community of such seemingly normal families that have been brought together under not-so-normal circumstances. It is so amazing to see how they love each other unconditionally. To see them work harder than anyone I have ever met to achieve their dreams. To see them laugh together and play cards together and dance to Justin Bieber together. To see them be KIDS together. They fight for their futures together. THIS is a model that has the power to change the world we live in for the better.
When it comes down to it, the roots of this entire operation are the Selamta moms. Selamta has empowered marginalized women and has given them the resources to successfully bring together and raise a family of 10-12 children. Some of them are their biological children. Some have been orphaned and left to fend for themselves, seeking out Selamta as a refuge. Some of their children are biological siblings that have been reunified or came to Selamta, seeking help, together. They deal with some pretty heavy family dynamics with grace and faith each day. In short, the moms of Selamta are such incredible women. Seriously, every single child that I talked to had nothing but glowing things to say about their Selamta mom. Most if not all said that they truly viewed their Selamta mom as their real mom and that they were so incredibly thankful to have her in their life. You can tell that each Selamta mom truly loves their children as their own, they are proud of what they are accomplishing, and they work so incredibly hard to create a home dynamic that helps each child reach their full potential.
I’ll admit… before visiting Selamta Family Project, I wasn’t super familiar with other ways to care for vulnerable or orphaned children, and this trip was so eye opening. It showed the beauty of keeping kids in their culture. It showed me just how important and life giving love is. It showed me just how vital it is to empower dreamers to chase their dreams.
Selamta always strives to preserve families above all else, which I think is incredibly beautiful--and so challenging. They support families at risk of breaking apart in their local community through an outreach program, they’ve worked to reunify siblings, and they give marginalized women the support and the resources they need to raise a stable and loving family. Many Selamta moms have their own biological children in addition to their Selamta kids. Most of all, Selamta is paving the way for each child they support to have the skills and resources needed to raise their own happy, healthy and successful families in the future. They are creating productive and engaged citizens that know love.
I love this organization so much and truly believe in all that they are doing. This model of orphan care really does have the power to do big things for many people that truly deserve a chance to live and succeed.
In the last year, Selamta has done SO much... gosh, I wish I could list the accomplishments of their organization and their kiddos, but it truly is SO much better to hear it from them! I highly encourage you to pay a visit to their blog to read more about their recent efforts and accomplishments. I have absolutely loved following along with their blog and email newsletter pieces. It means so much when I see familiar faces succeeding & doing big things!
I chatted with Marisa, Selamta's Executive Director and all around fabulous lady (more on her in a minute!), the other day, and she let me know a few ways that you can help Selamta today!
The first: just yesterday, they launched a campaign to fully fund the Selamta Community Center and all of the programming that takes place there for a full year. $50,004 is the goal! The Community Center really is the heart and soul of this organization. Its front door is constantly open, there are kids on the stairs using the WIFI to check in with friends and homework assignments, there are soccer games going in the front courtyard, laughing and dancing and lively conversation. It is such a safe haven. It is home. The community center also acts as a place for the families to receive the care they need to stay healthy in body and mind. They have a nurse and a psychologist onsite to provide any support that is needed. The community center really acts as a HUB for all of Selamta and YOU are invited to help keep operations running. Click here to join in fundraising.
Selamta has big dreams to grow their family! But first, they need to make sure that each child and family is taken care of. Heart & Home Child and family sponsorship is ALWAYS where they have a huge need! Their goal is to have every child and family fully sponsored in 2018. YOU will be able to help provide a child with the resources to propel them into a successful and healthy future. Make Selamta's vision a reality & learn more by clicking here.
Support and follow Selamta on social. You can see the incredible work that they are doing each and every day! I so love seeing familiar faces go by in my feed!
Now for the fun part! Keep scrolling to see some images from our time with Selamta.
The community center is truly the heart and soul of all of Selamta!
Look at that crew!!
The smiles at the Lucy House filled my heart up with so much joy!
In addition to equipping their kids with tools and resources to be self sustaining, Selamta also works to give their moms resources to become self sustaining themselves. While we were in town, the moms were learning to make soap, and I was lucky enough to purchase some to bring home! It smells delicious, and it was so incredible to see how proud and empowered these women were to share something that they created themselves.
Like I said above, the community center is truly the heart and soul of Selamta. At any given point, you can find a soccer game going on out front, someone working on homework at a computer, music going from speakers, conversation buzzing.
Meet Selam. I have so many things to say about this girl, but I'll keep it simple. Girlfriend is a total badass. She is strong and resilient and intelligent and caring and so incredibly inspiring. During our time in Ethiopia, we sat down to edit an admissions letter that she is working to send to schools in the states, where I quickly became known as the Comma Queen. It was such an honor to hear this girl's story. Selam has dreams of obtaining her degree and working in the medical field in Ethiopia to provide proper care for her people. She is currently enrolled in University in Ethiopia and is hoping to come to school in the US to make her dream a reality. I think about her and her dreams and the stories that she shared with me almost every day and so hope that she is one day able to come to the states to study.
Oh, I just miss this place so much!
The afternoons that we got to spend in the homes with some of the families made for some of my favorite memories. It was so special to see the Selamta families going about their daily routine and to see the mom's pride in their children as they showed us family photos and shared memories, over buna.
See that gal in the middle there? That's Marisa, the executive director for Selamta Family Project. She was also one of my roommates during our stay in the community center and is one amazing woman. She is strong and faith driven and is filled with so much love for each person that is involved with Selamta. It was such a blessing to get to know her and to get to learn from her all week long. She understands what these kids need, and she works and prays tirelessly to make sure these needs are met.
I miss Ethiopian food SO much! Mealtime in Ethiopia is something that I don't think I will ever forget. I love how communal the entire process is.
This post wouldn't be complete without highlighting these two lovely ladies that took such good care of us while we stayed in the community center. They cooked such delicious meals and made sure that we felt right at home. Truly, they have the kindest hearts and the sweetest spirits (they also make the best potato chips!).
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One year ago today, I was boarding a big airplane en route to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with a group of strangers that would soon become like family. Friends, I cannot tell you how long overdue this mini series is, but I’ve saved it for a good reason. If you’ve been following along for a while now, you may have seen me post about last year’s adventure to Ethiopia and then wondered what the heck I did the entire week I was there. I’ve been sitting on content for a full year now because I’ve truly been so nervous to share what I produced.
I’ve had posts drafted and photos curated for months now, but for some reason, pressing that publish button has been SO hard. You see... this trip was a huge turning point in my personal life. Part of me is shocked when I look back and realize it has only been a full YEAR since we were in Addis Ababa and part of me feels like it was just yesterday and part of me still feels like it was a dream.
I went into this trip, feeling a little bit like I was under so much pressure. I wanted to have zero expectations, but I set my personal expectations for my performance really high. I put myself under so much pressure to bring home stories that I felt would let the world know just how much I care about the orphan crisis. I wanted to bring home stories that would make people care like I do. I felt that I was letting my donors down by not sharing the perfect piece. It turns out, all of this pressure was just self imposed. It was silly & unnecessary and totally clouded my vision and the purpose of our mission at the time.
You see, what I realize now, a year later, is that the biggest story that came from this journey around the world is actually my own story. I feel incredibly selfish saying that, but when I look back on the last couple of years of my life, this opportunity is truly such a huge turning point for me. While I’m not quite ready to share to share such a vulnerable part of my life, I'm hopeful that one day I will be. Coming to peace with this fact was a huge part in my delay of publishing content.
It was so important to me that I shared the stories at a time that I was in the right headspace, that I was sharing them for the right reasons and that I felt good and confident in what I was sharing with you. Today, I am excited to introduce the incredible organizations that I had the honor of working alongside in February & March 2017 while showing you the incredible strides they have made in the last 365 days. This post is filled with a little more words than you may be used to on my blog, but I promise, it will be well worth the read. Grab something to sip on and settle on in!
Let’s start with a little bit of trip background. I was given the incredible gift of visiting The Selamta Family Project on a media mission trip with The Archibald Project this time last year. Both organizations are making incredible strides to contribute to the end of the orphan crisis, and I am so humbled to have had the honor of meeting & working closely with them both. Today, I wanted to introduce you to The Archibald Project specifically! (Next week, you can plan on meeting Selamta Family Project!)
The Archibald Project is a community of individuals that work to spread awareness for the fatherless and the world’s most vulnerable children through media. They give the voiceless a voice, and I truly believe that they are changing the world each and every day. The Archibald Project uses media to share the stories of the orphan crisis. They profile outstanding individuals, ethical organizations and stand up for so many people that deserve to be heard.
My friends, Nick & Whitney Runyon are the heartbeat of the Archibald Project, and they have worked so incredibly hard to create an entire community of individuals that are truly the soul of the project. Through visual storytelling, blog pieces, social media, podcasts, and now an online docuseries, they work to advocate for an ethical end to the orphan crisis. (Seriously y’all if you haven’t had a chance to check out the Advocates yet, grab some popcorn, some tissues, and click here. The series will change the way you think.) Nick & Whitney seek out incredible people doing incredible (and ethical things) to support some of the world’s most vulnerable people. I think the ethical mission behind the Archibald Project is so incredible, so huge, and so needed in our scary world. The world of orphaned children can be filled with so much corruption and heartbreak, but it is also filled with so much good. I am so thankful that this opportunity opened up my eyes and gave me such a great insight into how I fit in to advocating for our world's orphans.
I just wanted to share a few quick highlights from the last 365 to show you just how incredible The Archibald Project is:
In the last 8 months, the storytelling work of the Archibald Project helped to connect a child with his forever home. Noah is an incredibly inspiring boy that was just months away from aging out of a home for visually impaired and orphaned children. Read more on his story here & visit Archibald's social media for an update on his adoption.
The Archibald Project produced & released one of the most moving and thought provoking documentaries on domestic adoption. The strength and pure love that is so evident in this piece will truly change the way you think about birth mothers and their unwavering and unconditional love. Grab some tissues & watch it here.
The Advocates Mini Series was produced and released and it still gives me the chills. Nick & Whitney have been busy traveling the world over the last couple of months & have been pouring their heart and souls into filming season 2. I cannot wait to see what they have been working on.
The Archibald Project hosted a media mission to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to advocate for an organization that fights for sustainable, holistic and healthy orphan care each and every day. Sound familiar?! To see Nick & Whitney's heart and their dedication and their intention to serve others well first hand had such a huge impact on my life. These two are absolute rockstars and taught me so much in just one week.
These are only a few of their incredible strides. As they worked through all of this Nick & Whitney also shared that they are currently in the process of adopting three siblings from a holistic and incredibly ethical origination in the Congo, Mwana Villages. I could go on and on about how excited I am to see this chapter of their lives develop, but that would take far too long. My heart is so happy and humbled for them and I cannot wait for their family to be united. To learn more about their journey and to support Nick & Whitney along the way, click here.
I think one of the most incredible things about the Archibald Project is that it connects like-minded people with each other while advocating for a cause that is so much bigger than any of us can put into words. There is no singular solution for the orphan crisis. It is not going to be go away overnight. The corruption isn’t just going to end. The Archibald Project works to share the stories and the testimonials of people doing incredible things to make a world of a difference for some pretty outstanding kids.
Thank you, Nick & Whitney, for giving me an opportunity that truly changed my life. For giving me the opportunity to bring light to a cause that I truly care about. For teaching me and for being patient with me and for being two of the best examples I didn’t even realize that I needed in my life.
Thank you to my team of ladies that I laughed with, cried with, ate way too much injera with and who changed my life in ways that I will never ever be able to articulate. Your friendship is such a gift.
To my donors & supporters, thank you for becoming part of The Archibald Project. Thank you for supporting and believing in a mission that is so much bigger than all of us. Thank you for giving me the chance to share the stories of these amazing organizations and for your patience as I worked on finding the words to share these stories. Your support means more to me than you will ever know.
To support the Archibald project, visit them online, follow them on social media (Instagram | Facebook), become a monthly donor or tune into their YouTube Channel. They are truly doing such incredible work and I know it will absolutely change your life as it changed mine.
I think I’m just about out of words for today. I’m so excited to share a few team images from our time in Addis Ababa with you today! Going through these photos made my heart so incredibly happy. What joy we found while working together!
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