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Courtney Walker Headshot

What Is Hope?

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How many times in your life have you wondered, been gnawed at by the desire to effect some sort of positive change in this world? Often, you say? You are not alone. How many times do you listen to that desire? Give in to it?

I've worked unfulfilling jobs, where the only thing keeping me there was the money or the great people I worked with. I've done the grad school thing, where I watched my classmates and I become more and more hopeless, wanting to make a difference (it's why we were in the program in the first place) but not being given the tools to do so. Just being beaten over the head, day after day, with what was wrong -- not how we could change it. I've co-run the family small business; we had to close it. Between dwindling business practices, the great struggle wasn't worth it.

Through all of this, that desire became a frequent visitor. And while trying to figure out what I wanted to do next, I came across the story of the Selamta Family Project. The Selamta Family Project is an organization in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that has for six years successfully served orphaned and abandoned children and marginalized women who have lost their families to AIDS or other circumstances by creating stable, secure, life-long families around them. The most important thing here is that Selamta creates families.

I wondered to myself, what happens to someone, especially a child, when you and many others around you, lose your family, your world? What do you begin to hope for? What did you hope and dream of before? And once they became involved with the Project, did those previous hopes and dreams return or did they turn into something else, some other hopes for the future?

I feel like I'm a very empathetic person. But who doesn't? Even having traveled quite a bit internationally and getting to know the commonalities and differences of culture, it's still hard to put myself in the shoes of those who have lost their families, have been affected by tragedies like widespread death due to AIDS epidemics or famine. It's hard to imagine what it would be like to understand what that might be like for someone in this country.

Then I began to wonder, how can I help? Having a diverse background that includes communication, blogging/journalism, social media outreach and documentary filmmaking, I thought -- what if I could tell this story to others? What if this story could inspire people to help? What if this story could inspire people to duplicate the Project's success around the world? I even dared to hope that maybe one day, a huge number of these unconventional families would be formed across the globe, allowing us to rid the world of the word orphan. And given the current rise in calls to close orphanages around the world and repair the broken international adoption (and in some areas child brokerage) system(s), it seemed like this might be a viable solution.

I believe that HOPE comes in many forms, from the simple, everyday to the extraordinary and rare. I believe that seeing HOPE, in one of its many forms, can inspire ACTION. I believe that ACTION, no matter how small, no matter how many take part can bring HOPE to the lives of a multitude unfathomable. I believe that inspiring hope changes lives.

So I decided making a documentary would be the best way to combine my skills to help. What Is Hope? The Children of the Selamta Family Project is the film I am working to make to answer the questions of what they hoped for after losing their families. What they hope for now. How have they and their outlooks on life have changed now that they have a new family, new siblings? Some are now in formal education programs and flourishing, how has that effected their lives? What hopes and dreams do they have now that there is an opportunity for a more prosperous life -- whatever that might mean to them. And in showing how their lives have been changed, again, I want to bring hope to others that they can help effect this work across the globe.

Is it naive to believe that this film and these children's stories can spark a worldwide movement? Perhaps. Probably. It's certainly unreasonable. But when has reasonable ever changed the world? And I know, if successful, it's not going to eradicate that gnawing desire to affect change and help others, it's only going to fuel it. I certainly hope so. I welcome it.

To read more about What is Hope? The Children of the Selamta Family Project visit this website.