First things first. I had a very good night’s sleep. Woohoo!
Another preamble, a pop culture lesson for those of you who didn’t get the Groundhog Day reference from several days ago. The reference is to a movie starting Bill Murray where he is visiting Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on Groundhog Day and wakes up every day on the same day for multiple days with same recurring events.
End of Preambles
It was another great day. We spent the entire day at Meserete, the care point with the 165 kids we’ve been with since 2009. The day was split into two parts, the morning for the kids that go to school in the afternoon and the afternoon for the kids who go to school in the morning. In the past, we made sure there was a lot of structure to our time. However, we decided this year that since the kids are older, we would give them the choice about which station(s) they would participate in. (I know you’re not supposed to end a sentence in a preposition, but it’s late and I’m allowing myself to not worry about grammar tonight.)
After the Bible lesson, the kids had a choice of three stations – crafts, dancing, and recreation. Martha Jo and her daughter Sarah helped the kids make bead bracelets. Susan (she prefers Mama Sue), Lori, Jayde, and Bre led the kids in dancing, and Glen, Les, Theresa, and Gary helped with rec. Most of the kids participated in all three stations, but some of the older kids didn’t want to dance (some of the Moslem kids apparently for religious reasons), and some didn’t want to participate in rec. Most, even the boys, made bead bracelets. I was the assigned photographer, documenting the great times everyone is having.
The dance station was especially fun. Mama Sue and Bre led the group in the American standards; the Chicken Dance, the Hokey Pokey, and the Electric Slide. (I have video!) The session morphed into games, playing different versions of hot potato. Many of the kids who were making the bead bracelets came over to play after they were done with their project. It was a loud, raucous, fabulous time.
The rec station had all kinds of options. Glen had kids throw bean bags across the yard and try to land them in a hula hoop laying on the ground. Les had marked a wall with squares using masking tape and had kids try to throw balls within the marked area. The ping pong table had been moved outside, so that was going on as well. It was warm (and a bit humid) but not nearly as bad as two days ago.
Preparation for tomorrow's feast is underway. The back area is piled with carrots, onions, cabbage, and potatoes. The injera is made and is sitting in huge piles in one of the back rooms. The lamb, goat, and cow were delivered yesterday and all but the goat have been slaughtered and were being cut and cooked over an open fire. Staff spent the day cutting vegetables. The aroma of the onions wafted throughout the compound. I am so glad we have this tradition, and am thankful to everyone who helps us raise the money to allow it.
Over the lunch hour, I got to visit Kerima’s home. Before we visited with Kerima, we visited the home of the Howe’s sponsor daughter, Halima. Kerima and Halima are neighbors so I got to visit both homes.
To get to Kerima and Halima’s homes, we had to climb what seemed like the side of a mountain. We started along a cobblestone road, and then trekked along a narrow, rocky, uphill path with lots of twists and turns. Finally we reached a clearing with Kerima’s house, and Halima’s house was around the next turn.
Halima’s mother was very gracious, serving us popcorn and tea. It was strong tea, and perhaps the best tea I’ve ever had. (By the way, I’d been served coffee already at Meserte, so had already received a caffeine jolt.) After a nice visit we proceeded to Kerima’s house.
As is typical, Kerima lives in a small one room home with a tin roof and a floor covered with a sheet of linoleum that is directly over the dirt. Thin mats line the walls. A small cupboard stands against the wall near the door. There are no windows and no electricity. The only light in the room comes from the doorway. A small tray had been set up in the middle of the room with coffee cups. Coffee was brewing in the clay pot that lay atop a burning fire. Kerima served us popcorn, and her mother served us coffee (for those of you counting, that’s two cups of coffee and a cup of tea in about two hours).
Kerima and her mother live alone in the home. She has two siblings, both of whom live with their father in another part of Ethiopia (I didn’t ask about the situation as I felt it would be impolite). Kerima had been born in the home. Her mother is a vegetable reseller, buying them from local farmers and selling them at market.
I told her that I always enjoy spending time with Kerima during my visits, that I always look for her. She is very special, and she is raising a wonderful daughter. I also told her that I miss her when I leave, and that both she and Kerima will be in our prayers. Kerima, who was sitting next to me, started tearing up. Kerima always cries on our last day at the care point. Her mother says that Kerima is usually still crying when she gets home (which is a several mile walk) and looks forward to seeing us when she learns we are coming.
Kerima is sponsored by Lori’s Aunt Virginia and Uncle Jim. I explained to Kerima’s mother that they are not able to travel due to their health. Kerima asked how many children Jim and Virginia have, and suggested that since they can’t come, one of their children should visit. Kerima’s mother said she would pray for Jim and Virginia’s health and perhaps they would be well enough to come visit. We ended our visit with a short prayer, followed by hugs and photos.
After trekking back down the hill, we returned to the hotel for a quick bite to eat and set off back to Meserete for the afternoon session. It pretty much went like the morning, except for a) there were double the kids, and b) it started pouring about an hour into the session. Some of the kids (and team members) didn’t let the rain dissuade them from playing outside, but many of the kids came inside and joined the dancing/game group. It was a great time!
Before I knew it, the kids were being instructed to sit down to wrap up the day. We handed out the bread and mangoes and said our good-byes.
By the way, I love the way the kids eat mangoes. The skin is quite durable, so they knead the fruit until the inside is mushy. Then they bite off one end of the fruit and squeeze the soft fruit through the hole.
We then returned to the hotel, ate what is our last dinner at the Sunny Side and have retired for the night. It’s raining again, with rolling thunder adding to the noise of the city. Our room is on the top floor so we can hear the rain hitting the hotel’s roof. It’s comforting, and lulling me to sleep as I sit here typing.
A personal note:
My nerves have been raw this whole trip. While the trip is amazing, it’s still tiring. I think about the impact that has been had on these kids and am so thankful that we got involved with Children’s Hopechest. The model they’ve created to support these kids is so incredible. There is another organization in Kombolcha that sponsors kids but never get visits. One of the staff also works with this other organization, and says that the connection that is created with the kids is so valuable and does so much to help them than just having people send money every month. I think about the support we’ve received from our community, our church, our family, and our friends. I think about how it takes relatively little to do so much. There was a little boy two days ago who couldn’t walk because of his typhoid. Because of a donation, he is able to walk again and is on the road to recovery. Another child had infected sores above his upper lip because he had allergies and wouldn’t stop rubbing the raw areas. He now has medicine for his allergies and the infection. Kids are graduating from school and going to universities. Families are receiving basic food supplies every month. Families are receiving grants to start businesses so they are not reliant on the government or on donations. I say this not to pat myself or anyone else on the back. I mention this because it takes so little to make such a huge difference. Children’s Hopechest is breaking the cycle of poverty and I am so excited to be a part of it. I am so thankful for the people who support us. There have been several times on this trip that I have started to tear up that so much has been accomplished in such a short time. I mean, the boy couldn’t walk.