Tita Begashaw loves to laugh. In fact, she gives laughter therapy classes - encouraging people to laugh till their sides ache. But things weren’t always so jolly for her.
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Originally from Ethiopia, Tita grew up witnessing the horrors of the war with Eritrea. In 1988, she managed to get out and relocated to the US, eventually settling in Seattle. Musfen, her younger brother and a cousin also immigrated soon afterwards and life became infinitely better.
A few years on and her cousin began to exhibit worrying behavior. It became apparent he had become mentally ill and he moved in with Tita's brother, so he could keep an eye on him - a move that turned out to be a tragic mistake. One morning, Tita's cousin picked up a knife and stabbed Musfen to death.
Tita fell into a deep depression - her new life in America had turned sour and even worse, her relatives now blamed her for encouraging the cousin to move to the US.
She decided that she needed to get out and help other people to get over her grief. So she started volunteering at Seattle's Harbourview Hospital, helping new immigrants navigate the system, and eventually it turned into a full-time job - photos below. She would also take fellow Ethiopians into her house until they got on their feet.
In 2001, Tita found out about a seminar on Laughter Yoga and started attending classes. Eventually she qualified as a Laughter Yoga instructor. She says laughter has helped the healing process greatly.
Tita has now has taught Laughter Yoga in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, large companies like Boeing, the University of Washington, and even the Seattle Police Department, including the police chief himself.
She says, "You encourage yourself to laugh every day with whoever you can. It’s about feeling good, to enjoy life! It’s more than just laughing, you bring your good energy to whatever you do in life."