Thursday, November 6, 2008

Day Four (tomorrow we go home)

Hello again. It is Thursday night! We went to Kids Care Orphanage today.
That is where Daniel lived from March 31st until June 10th. It was really
sad to see all the kids there that do not have families waiting to pick
them
up. We got some great videos of the older kids in their school singing
the ABC's
and singing in Amharic. We passed out granola bars and dum dums. We also
took
some playground balls. When we took Daniel into the home and told the
nannies,
that we had Fitsum, they just went crazy. They were so excited to see him.
They held him and kissed him, and spent time talking to him. One of them
talked
to him in Amharic and Robel our guide translated it for us on video.
There were
rooms of healthy children, rooms of sick kids, rooms of toddlers, and
the school house
of about 30 kids. The kids just couldn't get enough attention from us. I
went around
the school house and the toddler room and got down to their level and
hugged every one
of them. It was all I could do to not just start crying in front of them.

We then went to lunch. It was a nice lunch and it is nice to spend time
with the
other families in our group. We were missing two families today. Two of our
families are sick with the ET Funk.... Please pray for them as we have
long flights
home tomorrow. Anna and Val are both sick! I came back after lunch and
picked up
Val's little girl and Daniel and I watched her so mom could get some
much needed
rest. Then When Tom and Allison got back we went and picked up the Nunez
baby
so his parents could get some much needed rest. So with the 3 babies we
hung out
in our room and then took them to dinner. We returned them at bed time.
Hopefully
everyone will get a good nights sleep.

Daniel is amazing. He has really bonded to us. He even got concerned
when I left
the room. His little personality is showing. He is smiling and laughing. He
is really loving his ball and his car. I think that he is ready for his
big brothers.

After lunch Tom and Allison visited another orphanage. I will let him
tell you about
it.

We are going to shop a little more tomorrow. Then, at 6:30 (10:30 am
EDT) we head to the airport.
Our flight is at 10:15 (3:15 pm EDT) and we should arrive in D.C. at
7:20 Saturday morning.
We should arrive in Boston at 2:00 pm on Saturday. Please pray for a
safe and
healthy flight. We can't wait to see everyone.

We love you all. Thanks for all the prayers.

Michael and Benjamin, We will be heading home tomorrow. We miss you a
lot. Can't
wait to see you.

P.S. Dear Sloniger Family I have good news and bad news for you. The bad
news, your son
was still at Kids Care while we were at the Trasition Home. He was then
moved out of Kids
Care just before we visited there. Sorry that we missed him both
places.... the good news is that
I talked Rachel into taking my husband and daughter back to the
Transition Home after the
second orphanage today... They took pictures and videos of your little
one! I will send
them out as soon as I can.

Have a great night!

--------------------------------------------------

Tom here.

This is most likely our last entry before we leave tomorrow. It's been a
great experience. We've learned a lot, but at the same time I feel I
could be here for another year without learning everything about this
incredibile country. We spent all of our time in Addis Ababa, so didn't
even get to experience the rest of the country.

I've met two people here, who have amazing stories. I wanted to share
their stories.

Our guide this week has been a man named Robel (pronounced Row-bell). He
met us at the airport and has been with us any time we've gone anywhere
in the city. We sat down with him for dinner our first night here, and
during the course of the conversation he shared with us his story.

Robel was born in a farm community in Ethiopia to a Moslem father and a
Christian mother. His father died when he was young, and his older
brother was executed when Robel was ten (when the country was run by the
Communists). Robel became the primary support for his mother and two
sisters so traveled to Addis Ababa to find work. He started here washing
cars and shining shoes, saving money to send to his family. While he was
washing cars, he met some folks from the United Nations, who gave him a
job with them. Having never gone to school, he also started getting his
education. There are no public schools here. Tuition amounts to about
$49 per year (which is not much for most people in the U.S., but is a
huge amount of money here).

It took him ten years to finish school (still working and supporting his
family). After he finished his education here, he received a scholarship
from the U.N. and continued his education in Cuba. This year, he started
working for America World as a guide. He accompanies us on our trips,
and because he speaks Amharic, is able to help us with the things we
need. If anyone from America World is reading this, you should know that
you have a treasure and I hope he stays with you a long, long time.

Robel told us that one of the reasons he loves his job is because he
finds it rewarding to help children. Knowing that the kids that are left
with the orphanages are going to good families keeps him going. He wants
to devote his life to helping children, and is working with several
groups to support children.

One of the things he is doing is supporting children so they can get
their education. He is paying the tuition of 23 street children, plus a
meal every day. He meets with them often to make sure they are keeping
up with their studies, and buys them their supplies and uniforms. His
vision is to find a home where the basic needs of these kids can be met
so they can better focus on their school work. He also wants to increase
the number of children he is sending to school. Lori and I, and at least
one other family with us, plan on supporting Robel's work by funding the
tuition of at least one child.

This story is probably much more interesting when heard from Robel
himself. For those families still waiting to come here, make sure you
take time to hear Robel's story.

The second person I want to mention is the director of one of the
orphanages we visited today. Zewditu Yashu founded the GIODFSA (Gelgela
Integrated Orphans and Destitute Family Support Association) orphanage
in 2004. The mother of twelve children, Zewditu and her husband owned a
hotel in southern Ethiopia. Along the way, two of her children, and then
her husband passed away. Zewditu was a single mother of ten children
while running the hotel.

One of her daughters had a child out of wedlock. This was a huge
embarrassment to the family. Her daughter then had a second child out of
wedlock. Because of the family's prominence in their village and the
embarrassment to the family, Zewditu traveled with her daughter to Addis
Ababa to give the youngest up for adoption. They went to a French agency
(S.O.S.). While working with the agency, Zewditu was inspired by the
agency's work and asked what she could do to help. They asked her to
bring them children from around the country who didn't have families.
Over the course of the year, she brought them 170 children.

Unfortunately, S.O.S. would not take children over the age of five. Ten
of the children she brought them were too old to be taken by S.O.S. So,
she took the children herself. She decided that this work was much more
important than running a hotel, so sold it and used the money along with
money she had in the bank to start an orphanage. She has now grown the
orphanage so their are four locations around the country. While some
orphanages are particular about the children they will take in, GIODFSA
will take any child brought to them. For example, many orphanages will
not accept children that are HIV+. GIODFSA does.

Zewditu has worked with the Ethiopian government to receive support, and
has received a donation of two acres from them on the outskirts of town
(they are paying the U.S. equivalent of $3000/month for the house they
are renting). She wants to be able to accept more children and give them
more room to play. She is trying to raise money for construction of the
house.

The children of two of the families traveling with us came from GIODFSA.
One of the fathers told Zewditu what an inspiration she is to us, and
spoke very passionately about making sure his son knew her story and
what her story means to us. It was very emotional. I don't think any of
us had a dry eye.

So concludes our visit to Ethiopia. There are good people here, trying
to do all they can to make this a better country for its people. I've
only been here a week, and happened to learn these two individual's
stories. I can't imagine the countless others also working to improve
the living conditions here. I feel that because of what we've done to
bring Fitsum home with us, we are forever linked to this great country
and will do what we can to help those who are here.

Tom

8 comments:

beBOLDjen said...

Tom- thanks so much for sharing those two amazing stories. I can't wait to meet Robel in person.

Lori and Tom- Dustin and I CANNOT ever thank you enough for going so far out of your way to bless us with photos and video of Jonas. I am humbled and in tears. THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH!!

I pray you have smooth travels home home.

Blessings and many thanks,
Jen (for the Slonigers)

the Steiger's said...

Daniel is SO cute. We can not wait to see him in person (and you as well). I am so glad you are having a great time in Ethiopia. I can not wait to talk to you.
Love, Lenka

Rob & Candy said...

Amazing stories! thank you for sharing them.
candy (yg)

jcperko said...

Daniel, your TX cousins can't wait to meet you!!!!! What an amazing journey. Have a safe and healthy trip home! Love the Texas Perks

Danielle said...

What a wonderful post and great pictures! I have LOVED following your time in Ethiopia and can't wait to talk to you about it in person this Christmas...and meet Daniel!!!

I'm sure the other families were so appreciative of your willingness to help. I feel so bad for them! Oh, and Allison, may I say I LOVE your choice of shirts in today's pictures :)

Love,
Danielle

small world said...

Awesome retelling of the accounts of Robel and Zewditu! We never got to meet her while we were at Gelgela, but the place is inspirational. Robel is a most amazing man. Thank you for letting others know of them. Congratulations on your beautiful boy. He is adorable!
Theresa VanWetten

Carpenters said...

Wow! Tom, thank you for sharing those amazing stories. God is working in Ethiopia.

Daniel is such a cutie too. The nannies obviously love all of these children. What a blessing it is to know how loved they are and how well cared for before they come home.

We'll be praying for safe travels home.

With Love,
Penelope

Sam said...

Hi Tom,

We, too, adopted a child who spent time with Gelgela Integrated Orphans and Destitute Family Support Association. We adopted her from another orphanage in Addis, though. We are trying to find contact info for Ms Zewditu Yashu. Can you help?

Many Thanks,
Sam Bass