Friday, March 20, 2015

Care Packages! and a Home Visit

March 11, 2015 - Care Package Day\

Care packages ready
for distribution.
One of the best parts of this trip is handing out care packages. Candy Tennant, an organizer extrordinaire, has each of the sponsors send team members care packages for each of the kids in the program. It was a challenge this year because our team is small and we're only allowed two fifty-pound suitcases each. Candy had to specify what the care packages could contain, trying to keep them as small as possible, while still making it personal for the kids. This year, she asked that sponsors send a t-shirt burrito, a rolled shirt containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, underwear, and a few small personal items as well as a note and pictures. We also ask that candy not be included, since the kids don't have access to dental care. Needless to say, many of the sponsors find following these directions to be difficult.

As much as the kids enjoy getting the "stuff", they really enjoy the letters and photos. Some families send cards that play a song when opened, or even better, have a recorded voice. The kids will carry the pictures around with them for the rest of the day, asking each of us if we know their sponsor family. I love it when one of them shows me a picture of someone I know. And they get excited when I say that I know them. Of course, the next question is sometimes to ask when they are coming to visit. 

The kids come out to the back yard, a few at a time, and receive their t-shirt burrito. A translator sits with him or her and reads the letter. Ben Johnson and I are the official photographers, making sure we get a picture of each child with the package and then pictures as they go through the contents. It takes awhile to get going, but eventually we're going on all cylinders, getting kids through. At our peak, we had five kids matched up with five translators. At the end of the day, only four of the 150 care packages had not been distributed. There was one mixup where a child got the wrong package. I'm not sure how that got straightened out.

Nuredin,sponsored by the French family

Rani, sponsored by the LaBonte family

Awel, sponsored by my cousin Patty

Abebaw, sponsored by the Douglas family

Leave it to me to make things more complicated, but I've had two requests to Josh, who is making sure the kids get the right packages. Some of the care packages have red marks. The red marks indicate that the sponsor is a family we know, so I'd like to get my picture with the child. Some of the packages are marked with a small x. Some of the families that sponsor kids did not send care packages. Friends of ours prepared their care packages, so I have asked to be told when they come through so I can be sure to make a note so our friends can see their packages being opened. 

Inside Henok's home. This is the extent of the home. Fikre,
Children's Hopechest employee extraordinaire, is
sitting to my right. Henok is to my left, and Henok's mother
sits in front.
Another highlight of the day was our home visit. I had asked for four visits, each to a home of friends here in Belchertown who sponsor kids. I had asked to visit the homes of Henok (sponsored by the Masse's), Siada (Wise), Kabeye (Dineen), and Nuredin (French). I'm not sure who all I will get to visit, but do know that today I got to visit Henok.


Henok lives in a small house at the top of a steep, cobble-stone road. Henok leads us up the road, through a corrugated metal gate that leads to someone else's yard, through the neighbor's yard, through another corrugated metal gate that leads to Henok's house. Henok is an only child, living with his mother who is a day laborer. Their house is small, about seven by 12 feet. It has a linoleum floor, but mud floors and a corrugated metal ceiling. Small mats surround the exterior of the room. In the middle of the room, Henok's mother is preparing coffee for us.

Henok's mother welcomes us into her home, asks us to be seated on a small wooden stool, and offers us coffee. The translator politely refuses, making note that we are pressed for time. I presented her with oil and teff (the grain used for making injera). 

Henok, his mother, and I standing in front of their home.
Henok is an only child. His father left when she was pregnant, and has since passed away. They were living in Woliso (located south of Addis Ababa) but then moved to Kombolcha (located northeast of Addis Ababa) when Henok was young. She is a day laborer. They are living in government housing, which costs 8 birr per month (less than $1/month). She emphasized to me that her sonn is a very good boy and a good student. She is very grateful for the sponsorship and how much it helps her and her son make it every month. 

After getting some photos taken, we head back to the care point to distribute the rest of the care packages and then go the hotel to finish the day.

Tomorrow, we start the vacation bible school. It's a small team this year, so hopefully we have enough people to keep everything moving smoothly.

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