Next Saturday, October 29, at the Millennium Hall a Diplomatic Bazaar will be held as a day of fun and giving to the community. Mrs. Anita S. Booth, the wife of Donald E. Booth, the United States of America’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, talked with Capital’s Solomon Bekele at the Roosevelt Home inside the Embassy compound:
Capital: How did the Ambassadors and Heads of Mission Spouses’ bazaar get started?
Mrs. Anita S. Booth: The Diplomatic bazaar has been an Addis Ababa tradition for the last 20 years. It is common for diplomatic missions’ and organizations around the world to host activities in order to raise awareness and funding for local projects. We have been doing the same and we are very proud to do this in Ethiopia as well.
Capital: How long have you been in Ethiopia and what is your role in this bazaar?
Anita: I have been here for 18 months. This is my second time taking part. I am currently the President of the Ambassadors and Heads of Mission Spouses Group. This is composed of the diplomatic mission and diplomatic organizations. We have an extensive committee which works very hard to make this bazaar possible.
Capital: What are the goals of the bazaar?
Anita: One is to raise funds to help women, children and the disabled in Ethiopia. The diplomatic bazaar also provides an opportunity for us to be hospitable to the community here in Ethiopia and to show a little bit of our culture, history, languages and countries to the people of Ethiopia. We are all very proud to represent our nations. It also promotes a sense of unity among the international community.
Capital: You have a plan to help the marginalized. What is the best way to directly reach those in need?
Anita: There is the subgroup called the project Matrix Committee in the Diplomatic group. They review and evaluate proposals prior to selection of suitable projects. The committee has a regular meeting at least once a month. They encourage different organizations to submit proposals. Before a decision, a site visit is made. That is helpful for screening. Through this committee we selected some existing and viable institutions. For instance there is the Sebeta Orphanage run by a group of nuns from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The Orphanage houses more than 200 girls and provides schooling for about 1000 girls and boys. Our group supported the acquisition of furniture and interior equipment for the newly built children’s house. We also helped the Cheshire Services Ethiopia through the purchase of furniture for a new dining hall and some kitchen equipment for the new unit. We have supported 19 projects after last year’s bazaar. Education centers and children programs are given priorities. We also provide training for mothers to be engaged in income generating sectors. We do this because by helping mothers we are reaching the children. Most of the projects are in the Addis area but we have also projects at the outskirts of Addis like the Sebeta Orphanage, schools at Adama Tulu and Shashemene. By helping a wide variety of organizations, we reach people and can make sure they are getting what they need.
Capital: How are preparations for bazaar 2011coming up?
Anita: We have carefully been working for several months. Last year we held the event at the Millennium Hall which was extraordinary. It provides a wonderful venue, there is plenty of parking and the location is accessible. We have had great cooperation from the staff and we expect the same this year.
Capital: How much money did you raise lastyear?
Anita: Last year we raised about 2 million birr.
Capital: Do you have a target for this year?
Anita: We hope to be successful again. But we don’t have a particular goal. Our focus is making the bazaar fun.
Capital: Why no target?
Anita: I believe that the Diplomatic Bazaar is something unique. Fifty Five embassies are participating. I am hopeful that it will be better than last year. There were 8,000 people in attendance last year and we hope more people will come this year. But fund raising is just one aspect of the bazaar. There is country displays, food taste and entertainment as well as children’s activities. It is a huge cultural event. This also gives us the opportunity to return hospitality to Ethiopians who have shown us hospitality. This is precious. So we don’t focus only on the fund raising part of the event.
Capital: You have now only 55 embassies participating, while there are about 110 embassies and missions in Addis Ababa. You are only half way.
Anita: We are still 50 percent. The other 50 percent have, I think, different reasons for not taking part. Some embassies are quite small; so they may not be in a position to host a table. Some others may be in transition with a new ambassador coming…. I can guarantee you that there is a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of cooperation. We are very happy. We also hope participation will rise.
Capital: Do you have a special project to fund this time with the income you generate from the 2011 bazaar?
Anita: We focus on a number of projects which don’t incur us a huge sum of money. For big donor communities this is not a big amount. But for us it is good to support smaller projects at the grassroots level. Really, with that we make a difference.
Capital: This is not your first mission. Did you have any involvement in volunteer work in the past?
Anita: Many people in the diplomatic circle like me feel that there is a need for volunteer work. Before Addis we were in Zambia. I did volunteer work there. We hosted the first festival under the Diplomatic Spouses Group. Children, women and the disabled were supported. Some people were even calling us angels when they saw our good works. People who are in the community during good work, they really appreciate. So by seeing this everyone is inspired to do the same. That was a good contribution.
Capital: Comparing your thoughts about Ethiopia with your actual experience, what would you say?
Anita: What I heard and saw were two different things. I am impressed by people’s knowledge of their history, their pride in their culture and their strong faith. The hospitality of the people is everywhere.