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Ethiopian senior citizens weave their way
out of poverty, loneliness in a care centre 

ADDIS ABABA (Xinhua) -- Tiru Alimayehu grew up on the outskirts of Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa and has witnessed its stellar transformation from a nondescript administration post to a well-known metropolis.

The 76-year-old mother of one has a strong attachment to her country’s rich and authentic culture that has defied foreign influences and onslaught linked to rapid urbanization.

Alemayehu belongs to the growing army of Ethiopia’s aging population that have enlisted in day care centers across the country where they band together to share experiences and perform centuries old tasks like weaving fabrics as a means to beat loneliness and poverty.

The bubbly matriarch is a member of Eneredada Elder People Association established in 1997 to provide new lease of life to growing ranks of Ethiopia’s senior citizens through psycho-social support and income generating activities like weaving, baking and waste recycling.

Eneredada, an Amharic word meaning helping each other, is currently the embodiment of novel and home-grown solution to deprivation and loneliness that often blights senior citizens in Ethiopia and Africa at large.

Alemayehu and close to 100 elderly peers have found solace at the Eneredada care centre located on the western suburbs of Addis Ababa where they heartily engage in weaving as they share captivating stories.

“So far, I feel contented while at this centre where we band together, share nice stories from the past and spin the yarn to make cotton fabrics for sale in the local market and overseas,” Alemayehu told Xinhua during a recent visit to the elderly people’s care centre.

The former small business owner used to live in a government house in Addis Ababa before relocating to the care centre where her prowess in weaving has won her accolades.

“It feels good to rediscover your passion in a timeless crafts like weaving that is an integral part of our culture. This activity has strengthened our bonds as old people while revitalizing our mental and physical stamina,” said Alemayehu through a translator.

At the Eneredada Elder People’s Association care centre in western parts of Addis Ababa, lasting bonds of friendship are created and money churning crafts are nurtured.

Senait Dinku, the centre’s General Manager told Xinhua its 100 plus elderly residents have rediscovered their passion for spinning, weaving and blending of indigenous spices.

“These income generating activities have sustained us while enabling us to reach out to abandoned elderly people in our community. Our future plan is to expand to other suburbs within Addis Ababa and if possible to other growing cities in the country,” said Dinku.

She added the care centre has always given preference to senior citizens taking care of HIV positive grandchildren whose parents succumbed to the disease.

The weaving prowess among elderly residents of Eneredada care centre has added luster to Ethiopia’s fabrics industry that is unrivalled in the greater horn of Africa region.

Werkye Adem, a 60-year-old mother of one who joined the centre seven months ago was at ease as she methodically turned the yarn to make a multi-colored fabric.

Adem used to operate a small business in Addis Ababa but is currently an acclaimed weaver thanks to the space provided at the Eneredada care centre.

“I feel energized while stitching threads to make fabrics. This activity reminds me of the halcyon days of my youth when putting on a multicolored dress made a strong fashion statement,” said Adem.

She revealed that besides spinning the yarn, she also engages in baking bread and other wheat products that are a local staple.

“During my free time, I always bake Ejara (local bread) and share it with my elderly colleagues,” said Adem, adding that close relatives usually visit her at the care centre.

Sustainable income generating activities like weaving, baking and plastic waste recycling have cushioned senior citizens at the Eneredada care centre from abject poverty that blights their peers in other parts of Ethiopia.

Eijgu Edosa, a 90-year-old father of 10, confessed he was still capable of spinning the yarn and make a brightly colored fabric despite his advanced age.

The widowed ex-civil servant said that weaving is mentally and physically stimulating to senior citizens in their quest to escape loneliness and depression.

“(I) am unable to carry out menial tasks except weaving which requires only mental agility. This tradition was passed to us by our ancestors and continue to be a hallmark of our culture,” Edosa told Xinhua.

He was in his element while narrating historic episodes in Ethiopia whose relevance is still profound. 

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