* had to identify and explain to a nine-year-old child the concept of a toothbrush?
* been overwhelmed by dozens of kids running at you, wanting to be held, hugged, and touched?
* seen a young boy's face covered with knife scars, a permanent reminder of what it took for him to survive on the streets?
* smelled a river with a stench so strong that you want to vomit, and then found out that a group of kids have to walk through this river to get to school during the rainy season?
* given a child a hug, and felt only skin and bones beneath their dirty, tattered clothes?
Until this month, I hadn't either. But now, after a week-long trip to Ethiopia, I will never be able to forget the hundreds of kids we visited in orphanages and drop in centers around the country. Thanks to the generosity of our friends, family, and community, we were able to provide clothes, medicine, toys, and most importantly, food to these kids. And they were extremely grateful.
But the problem is that what we left behind won't last long. Some of these kids still live on the streets, some of them have lost both of their parents and live in the homes of other relatives only because of a sense of obligation and are not well cared for. Others live permanently in orphanages, growing up without the day to day adult contact that is so important for normal development.
How can you help?
The best way to help is to sponsor a child at one of the orphanages/drop in centers. I am working with Kind Heart, a drop-in center for young kids who have lost one or both of their parents (primarily to HIV) or live below the poverty line (less than $1.00/month). $35/month, which goes to the drop in center, is enough to provide food to a child for a month. One of the other folks who traveled with us observed that $35 is less than the cost of one meal for a family at a restaurant. Children's Hopechest facilitates the donations, and will also put you in contact with one of the children at Kind Heart.
If you would like to help, let me know. We will be formalizing the sponsorships in January. If you let me know you are going to sponsor a child, I will send you a bound photo book of some of the pictures I took of the incredible landscape, the city of Addis Ababa, and other interesting things I saw during my trip. (You can see them at http://tinyurl.com/tomethiopiapics.)