Purpose San Francisco
Artists for Charity Benefit: The life of Abezash Tamerat
In life, how many of us can truly say that we have an opportunity to pursue our passions? Sadly, many of us have yet to even find what our true passions are—or, worse yet, we have discovered our passions, and they are self-centered in nature, placing ourselves at the center of the universe. There are, however, a determined few that make this opportunity—following your passion is a proactive measure! Abezash Tamerat just happens to be one of these determined few. Her story shows us that art is nothing if not passion.
As part founder of Artists for Charity (AFC), a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization devoted to raising awareness and securing funds for humanitarian causes, Abezash has committed herself to bettering our world, one person at a time. Of its many notable humanitarian ventures, Artist's for Charity currently maintains and operates a children's home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for orphaned, HIV-positive children.
But who is Abezash Tamerat? Growing up with her grandmother in the picturesque Ethiopian countryside, Abezash, at a young age, came to appreciate the power and beauty of imagery; in essence, she was an artist even before she knew the true meaning of art. At the age of eight, Abezash came to the United States, for what she believed would be a temporary visit. But fate, it would seem, had other plans. Tragically, while Abezash was in the United States, her grandmother passed away, essentially severing her connection with her native land.
"A bend in the road is not the end of the road…unless you fail to make the turn."
Abezash, now an Ethiopian-American, faced the age-old American dilemma: assimilation or cultural adherence? Adapting to the environmental necessity of acclimating oneself to one's environment, Abezash, whether knowingly or not, found she was fully assimilated, more American than Ethiopian. "I could not even put two words together," Abezash states, commenting on her inability to speak Ahmaric. "I did not even know how to speak [Ahmaric] until 2004. I did not even know how to say hi or bye."
But the Ethiopian flame burns hot and bright! Despite her lack of involvement in the Ethiopian community, the passion to become involved in Ethiopian issues was ever-present—all the flame needed was a spark.
The spark came in 2004, when Abezash, with all the enthusiasm and exuberance of a true idealist, boarded a plane for Ethiopia, packing only her book bag, a camera, and her passion to witness, with new eyes, her homeland. Mind you, she did not even know Amharic!
"Every production of an artist should be the expression of an adventure of [her] soul."—William Somerset Maugham
Trained as a photographer during her time at the Savannah College of Art and Design, in Savannah, Georgia, Abezash committed herself to capturing Ethiopia in its truest essence. Abezash confesses that, much like many Ethiopian-Americans, she held an idyllic view of Ethiopia —the beloved country of her birth and picturesque countryside of her artistic origin. To do this, Abezash would have to fully immerse herself in her surroundings. "As a photographer, I don't like to take pictures of things I am not familiar with," Abezash comments.
From the moment she stepped off of the plane, Abezash reveals that she was confronted with many issues—issues that smashed to pieces a once-idyllic view of Ethiopia and sowed the seeds of future activism. She witnessed, first-hand, the devastating toll that poverty, HIV/AIDS, and homelessness were having on the people of Ethiopia. The images were so moving that Abezash could not bring herself to take any pictures—the images were already seared to memory. Frustrated with the inability to find volunteer opportunities with humanitarian and service organizations operating within Ethiopia, Abezash resolved to make a difference. Boarding an airplane before her departure—by this time having learned how to say bye, although with no plans on using it—, Abezash gave a last glance to the country of her youth, seeing both hardship and opportunity.
"I came back focused on making a difference," Abezash passionately announces. "I want to give back to Ethiopia. I've been blessed in life; I want to return the blessing." This goal in mind, Abezash, with the help of fellow artists and graduates of Savannah College of Art and Design, began raising money for humanitarian causes. From this small but powerful concept (uniting artists to raise money for humanitarian causes), Artists for Charity was born.
With 100% of the proceeds from fundraisers going to charity, Artists for Charity has been able to maintain and operate a children's home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for orphaned, HIV-positive children. With the goal of providing for the physical wellbeing and social development of these children, Artist for Charity provides educational and medical services, while creating a family environment.
True to her resolution to make a difference, Abezash frequently returns to Ethiopia, playing games with the children, fixing meals, and just having fun; she also remains fully active in the Ethiopian community, committed to raising both money and awareness. In her own words, going back to Ethiopia was "a springboard back into the Ethiopian community." Abezash's experience shows us that assimilation is never complete. No matter how far removed we may be from Ethiopia , we are all Ethiopians! We all have a congenital longing for our homeland. Abezash reminds us, though, that we have more than simply a longing—we have a duty to help, as well!
After all, as Abezash points out, "There is no reason not to give."
Artists for Charity reminds us that "In the year 2005, 800,000 children in Ethiopia were orphaned by AIDS. By the year 2014, however, there will be an estimated 2.5 million."
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