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Susan feels the weight of poverty on her shoulders

June 4th, 2015 12:10 PM

By Southern Star Team

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BY SIOBHAN CRONIN

A CLONAKILTY woman has highlighted the plight of the women of Ethiopia by taking part in the Christian Aid ‘bundle of firewood’ campaign.

Susan Helen, of Lisselane, Clonakilty joined people across Ireland who recently took the challenge of carrying a heavy bundle of firewood to draw attention to Ethiopian women living in poverty.

Irish women carried the firewood as a symbolic gesture to show how Ethiopian women, like 26-year Ethiopian mother Loko Jarsi, carry back-breaking loads of firewood of up to 30kg for hours a day. Loko herself sells her pile for around €2. With this, she barely feeds her family of eight with one meal a day. Susan, a second class teacher in Sutton in Dublin, travelled to Zimbabwe with Christian Aid as part of a team of teachers from Ireland.

‘After holding these sticks for a few minutes I got a very minor insight into Loko’s hard life,’ said Susan. ‘I found it difficult to get these heavy sticks on my back – my upper arms hurt and I needed assistance to take them off. I am told that Loko’s bundle of wood is about 30kg heavy – mine was barely half that. She also carries that bundle for hours.’

Susan said that, unlike Loko, she had lucky enough to have eaten three square meals for as long as she can remember, and had comfortable footwear for carrying out the task. ‘I also only had to carry the load for no more than ten minutes. As a woman of similar age to Loko I can only imagine going through the terrifying terrain, full of threat, in search of wood to ensure an income in order to feed a family and keep a home.’

Susan says she witnessed the power of Christian Aid first hand when she travelled to Zimbabwe in 2014. ‘I understood how even the smallest things can make a huge difference. One memory that has stuck in my mind is that of a group of struggling women who, after receiving basic training from Christian Aid’s local partner, started making clothes to supply their own business that they created as a reliable source of income.’

For more, see www.caweek.ie

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