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Join our LomoAmigos from „Menschen für Menschen“ through Africa

In the beginning of this year Martina from the organization „Menschen für Menschen“ travelled to Ethiopia in order to document the Ethiopian life in analogue pictures. Her travelling companions: A Fisheye No.2, a Spinner 360°, a Lomo LC-A+ and many films.

NAME: Martina Hollauf
CITY: Vienna
COUNTRY: Austria

Tell us a bit about yourself and the organization Menschen für Menschen.

Menschen für Menschen is a non-profit-organization that encourages the self-development in Ethiopia. Menschen für Menschen was founded in 1981 by the actor Karlheinz Böhm, who is known for his role as Emperor Franz Joseph in „Sissi“. The foundation is based on a bet in the famous television programme „Wetten, dass…?“. Karlheinz Böhm was shocked by the famine in the Sahelzone. He bet that not even every third viewer would donate one German Mark, one Swiss Franc or seven Austrian Schilling. Karlheinz Böhm won the competition, but nevertheless they collected about 1.2 Million Mark, that build the foundation for Menschen für Menschen. In Austria, Germany and Switzerland Menschen for Menschen is an independent organization. In Ethiopia itself are currently working 761 employees for Menschen und Menschen. Only five of them come from Ethiopia.

What did you do in Africa?

I am responsible for public relations. We observed the development-projects locally. The projects involve education, water supply, infrastructure, agriculture, health and advancement of women. This means that we had a look at the situation and the challenges as well as the changes within our projects. We tried to get a glimpse of how life quality has changed. We visited tapping of springs or schools that were currently building. We focus on the results in the different fields of activity.

When and where exactly did you take the pictures?
The pictures were taken in January. We visited two project-areas. One in Ginde Beret, where we started our work in the beginning of 2011 and afterwards Derra, where we hand over the whole activities (after 13 years) in the hands of the population. We had the chance to visualize our projects. In the case of Ginde Berets we could observe the situation before and after our activites. Here it should be mentioned that all activities are implemented together with the population. It’s not that we leave them alone after 13 years in Derra. It’s a step-by-step development, that is only supported my Menschen für Menschen.

Here is an example: Many of the Ethiopian people live from agriculture and animal husbandry. Their work is getting harder and harder because of erosion, missing rain, depleted grounds and obsolete technology. Thus their income subsides. With Menschen für Menschen farmers get the chance to visit agricultural training in order to get to know improved farming methods or irrigation techniques. Besides they get to know types of grains, fruit and vegetables, that are unusual for their regions. Furthermore they have the chance to get seeds or seedlings and they learn how to cultivate them. With this training they have the chance to nourish their families (healthier) and to sell their yield on markets in order to get some money.
But here is the clue: Every farmer who participates on the training is obliged to share his knowledge with his neighbours. More and more people will get to know new methods and techniques. We call these farmers „copy farmers“. Development needs time and it only works if the population is included in the whole process.

Who is shown up in your pictures?
The pictures are a collection of impressions of people that improve their life quality with the help of Menschen für Menschen: a field with farmers, a nursery garden, the populations’ homes.

You took your Lomo LC-A+, your Spinner 360° and your Fisheye No. 2 with you. Which camera did you like the most and why?
If I had to decide than I would prefer my LC-A+, because it is uncomplicated and easy and fast to use. I also like the principle of the Fisheye. The problem is that you have to be a bit intrusive in order to get interesting pictures of people.

Are you acquainted with Lomography? Do you know it before or is it completely new to you?
It was my first experience with Lomography and immediately under tough conditions: I think changing the film in a bumpy off-road vehicle is something for experts.

Tell us about your funniest Lomographic experience that happened there?
The goats always were afraid of my Fisheye and run away. I think I was too intrusive fort hem.

Which picture do you like the most? Tell us a bit about it.
The picture was taken in a nursery garden in Washa Cathment – it is counted among the region Ginde Beret. We spend a lot of time in this region and like everywhere we met lots of children. It’s not really surprising because more than 40% of the Ethiopian population is younger than 15 (for comparison: Austria: 14.7, Germany: 13.5). I took the pictures without thinking about it. The result always makes me smile – like the people in Ethiopia do with their hearty style. The picture is something like my return ticket to Ethiopia.

What do you like the most concerning your job? What at least?
My job has many positive parts: the experience, the versatility, the learning potential – but the most important thing: It isn’t for nothing. My work is raising awareness. People think outside the box and get actively engaged in projects. Still development needs time. No one can change the world by oneself. But everyone can change a small part of it. The negative part of my job: It is necessary.

Which Lomographic camera do you like to try out?
It was my first trip in the world of Lomography, so I am open for everything. I am really attracted to the LomoKino.

Do you have any tips for our community concerning taking analogue pictures especially in hot countries like Africa?
Actually it wasn’t that hot. The regions Ginde Beret and Derra are at an altitude of 1.000 to 2.600 Meters. The people live at the high plateaus because Malaria isn’t that widespread in such heights. Ethiopia is a huge country with a diverse nature. The highest point (4.533 meter) lies in Simien Nationalparc, the lowest point (minus 125 meter) in the Danakil desert.
In general taking pictures isn’t a huge challenge – you have a lot of light. The only thing that could be a bit problematic is the sand and the dust, what might be not good for the cameras. And what I already mentioned: the film changing in off-road vehicles…But I think everything works with some practice.

Tell us a bit about your upcoming projects? Is there a possibility to support Menschen für Menschen?
In the beginning of 2012 we started a new project in Ethiopia: Albune Ginde Beret. It’s the neighbouring region of Ginde Beret where I took a lot of pictures. That means that Menschen für Menschen has lots of work to do because of the poor situation: catastrophic water supply, no education opportunities, erosions or avoidable diseases.
Our experience, the employees’ knowledge and the high motivation of the population are reasons for a rapid change within short time.
People who are interested in supporting Menschen für Menschen have the chance to donate some money. Latest activities can be found on our website www.mfm.at. Another opportunity is to collect some money during a birthday party or any other festivities: Donations instead of presents. We are always open for any new suggestions.

Find more information about Menschen für Menschen on MenschenFuerMenschen.org. Your help is greatly appreciated.

written by zonderbar and translated by lomelli

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The original version of this article is written in: Deutsch.