Category Archives: Ethiopia

Orphan Crisis in Ethiopia: How Can I Help?

It has been just over 3 weeks since our team from All God’s Children International (AGCI) and Rain City Church visited the government-run orphanages in Addis Ababa (see my previous post A Hard Day in Addis Ababa). I am now back in the safety and relative luxury of the bubble which I’ve carefully created for me and my family here in Seattle over the past couple of decades. However, what I experienced in Ethiopia then, and in the days that immediately followed, will stick with me forever.

When we returned back to our guest house after visiting the orphanages, I felt an overwhelming sense of helplessness and despair for those children. How could they ever have the opportunity to break out of a generations-old cycle of poverty, let alone survive, without the benefit of family and a support structure capable of preventing them from falling through the cracks?

The next day, we flew to Mekelle, the capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray region. The landscape was beautiful in an Arizona desert sort of way. The beauty of the surroundings, however, was obscured by the reality that the rocky soil was not exactly conducive to a healthy, sustainable existence. The evidence of that reality lay in the rundown buildings and tattered clothing which seemed to be the unwitting uniform of the people–especially outside of the city. This is the stuff I expected to see long before we arrived in Tigray.

img_20181011_134637
Street in Samre, Tigray, Ethiopia

What I did not expect, however, was to see the smiling, joy-filled faces of so many otherwise orphan children and their grateful guardians (often single parents fighting serious health battles of their own or other relatives). These children in Mekelle and Samre were not hopeless like the kids we met in the orphanages in Addis Ababa. Instead, they shared with us story after story about how the Educational Sponsorships they received through AGCI allowed them to go to school and help support their families.

Abbey Mekelle
Abbey and some of the sponsored kids in Mekelle.
img_20181011_180234_665
Hanging with the boys in Samre.

At this point, I could drone on about my feelings; eventually segueing into an appeal for you to consider helping these kids. Well, if a picture is worth a thousand words, and videos can deliver 60 pictures per second, then I have a feeling that the following vids will be much more effective. Many of the people I met (including the tireless, dedicated local AGCI staff) and the things I experienced are captured by Tati in these videos when she took a similar trip about a year ago. I urge you to please take the time to watch this series (about 22 minutes total) as they do a much better job than I could ever do in this blog.

Sincere thanks ~ Paul

 

The Path to Hope – Series Intro from All God’s Children International on Vimeo.

The Path to Hope – Episode 1 from All God’s Children International on Vimeo.

The Path to Hope – Episode 2 from All God’s Children International on Vimeo.

The Path to Hope – Episode 3 from All God’s Children International on Vimeo.

The Path to Hope – Episode 4 from All God’s Children International on Vimeo.

 

** Featured Image by @angelyn_lauderback (Instagram) **

A Hard Day in Addis Ababa

We visited 2 government-run orphanages and a homeless “camp” here in Addis Ababa today.

Kibebe Tsehay Orphanage
The first facility was for newborn to 8-year old children. While apparently in far better condition than it was less than a year ago, the place was far from what that I’d consider conducive to raising thriving children. When we walked into the room where the infants stayed, I locked eyes with a 2-month old boy with big, beautiful eyes and a HUGE smile. About 30-seconds later, I looked at the dilapidated poster above his crib and realized that his name was the same one shared by my great-grandfather, my father, my son, and me: MATIAS. I was immediately reminded that I should feel nothing short of grateful for where I was born and raised. I left the room immediately to avoid breaking down right there and then.

We moved to another part of the facility and entered a room of 1- to 2-year olds. To our surprise, the children were already waiting for us–standing and facing the door expectantly. As soon as we walked in, one little boy rushed past all of us, latched onto Gabriel’s leg, and begged to be picked up. Gabriel hesitated, as doing so is rarely encouraged in these settings, but our local hosts gave him the green light. The boy’s eyes lit up like a Christmas Tree and he grinned from ear-to-ear. Within seconds, Marisa had two kids in her arms, and soon we were all surrounded by little humans craving affection. One little boy with a red, racing car hoodie leapt into my arms. As I picked him up, I noticed that his diaper was heavy and pants were damp. I didn’t even care. The boy did his best to communicate with me via pointing and gestures–I think he was trying to get me to give him a water bottle from atop one of the shelves. We eventually had to move on. I was the last one from our team to leave the room and will never forget seeing the disappointed little faces; and, even worse, hearing the children’s wailing screams as I backed out of the room.

Kechene Orphanage
We hopped back into our van and made our way down the road to the orphanage for 8- to 18 year-old girls. The living conditions were a little better than the first facility and a couple of the older girls seemed very well equipped to discuss and advocate for their needs as they faced aging out of the system and returning to the outside world to fend for themselves. Any sense of desperation was much more subtle than with the little children at the first orphanage. The mood changed quickly, however, when we started to leave. Suddenly, one of the girls latched herself to the van and did everything she could to prevent us from driving away. The girl was probably 14–the same age as my daughter–and we learned that she had recently named herself Julie in the effort to make herself more appealing to foreigners. She believed that foreigners would be more willing to help a girl with a Western name that only ate Western, not Ethiopian food. There was so much raw emotion–those 5 minutes felt like an eternity. As we began pulling away, I watched the older girls try to get Julie to put on a smile and wave politely to our team. In that moment, I said under my breath, “Julie, please keep fighting for yourself and don’t ever stop believing that your forever family is out there ready to fight for you, too.”

Lebu Homeless Camp
Our last visit was to a homeless camp filled with 100+ families living in 10’x10′ shelters made of corrugated sheet metal. On the outside, the conditions were pretty bleak. Dusty. No running water. Limited electricity. Raw sewage running down trenches in the middle of the dirt roads. However, we also saw some signs of hope. We meet a single mom with her children–both of whom are sponsored by our partners, AGCI. Because of the support received, the mother is able to keep the kids at home, send them to school, and also receive access to critical .medical assistance. She proudly welcomed us into her home and I was struck by how peaceful and even comfortable it was, all things considered.

📷 @angelyn_lauderback

We ended the day with a nice Ethiopian dinner show. The food, drink, and entertainment was as good as I’d hoped, but it was difficult to think of anything else but Matias, the red hoodie boy, and Julie.