June 9, 2013 Today was a great day! We spent almost the whole day with three of our sponsored Ethiopian children and one of their friends. We had lunch together, swam at the pool and had dinner together.
The value of our sponsorship goes far deeper than what our money provides.... education, food, medical care, shelter, clothing and school supplies. One of the most important values a sponsor brings to a child's life is that that child feels like they count, they matter and someone in the world cares enough about them to provide for their basic needs.
My mom and I have been very fortunate to spend so much time with our sponsored boys and because of this blessing, I can tell you about how I feel about what we bring in to their lives and what they bring in to ours.
Many of you have probably seen profiles of children needing sponsorship at many events or on websites or on the TV. Behind each one of those pictures is a very significant story, a life story of a young child who needs not only food, shelter and schooling but a child who needs to know that someone out there in the world loves them and cares about them.
From the first day each of our boys arrived back to Addis Ababa from their boarding schools, they made their way as soon as they could to be with us. Wherever we have gone, our boys have wanted to come just to spend time with us. As it turns out, our boys have been an incredible help with our projects and donations.
Today, after dinner, we asked the boys if they wanted to stay to hear our guest speaker talk about the work of her organization and all of them said yes. Our boys are 15, 16 and 17 (and Henok their friend is 15). They all sat listening intently while our guest speaker spoke and one of our boys had an excellent question (clearly engaged).
I asked the boys if I could share their stories with others so Canadians would have an opportunity to learn more about the lives of children living on the streets as well as children living in abject poverty in Ethiopia.
Tilahun, is my sponsored son and he left home at the age of 11 because his mother was extremely poor and she could not provide for him. His mother carried lumber on her back for 5 birr a day. One US dollar is worth 19 birr!!!!
His mother would start very early in the morning to go into the woods to get the load of wood and would not return home for hours making only 5 birr a day.
Gecho, our driver and friend, told us that he and our interpreter and friend Bisrat have stopped and helped women who carry lumber on their backs and he said it took three men to lift the wood up to the luggage rack on the top of the vehicle! These women are working for peanuts and as a result of the very hard work, they suffer many physical problems. I asked Tilahun if his mother was in pain with her back and he said yes.
I asked Tilahun how often as children without a home they would have a drink and he said that sometimes it is 3 days before they have anything. I asked him how he can survive like that and he said "we are a miracle of God". Tilahun wants to be a pastor in Ethiopia and to help the poor.
Degenes moved out of his home when he was 10 years old because his step-mother was abusive to him. He lived on the streets for 3 years before he was sponsored. Imagine.... 10 years old and you are living on the streets by yourself!! Degenes wants to be a cardiologist here in Ethiopia.
Abenezer moved out of his home when he was 7 years old and lived on the streets trying anything to make a bit of money until he was 14! Seven years this handsome, gentle and kind young man lived on the streets of Ethiopia without any parental guidance or care. Abenezer would like to get in to technology or become a chemist when he grows older. He told us that he wants to help the poor in his volunteer work.
These boys (including their friend Henok), are absolutely precious boys who are humble, genuine, kind, grateful and loving. These boys were forced to take care of themselves at a very young age.
They all said that when they lived on the streets they didn't think about the future because they had no hope. The only thing they had was God.
When I asked if having this time with us was important for them, they all very quickly said yes. They call me and my mom "mom' or "mammy" and sometimes they call my mom "grandma". These children have our family as their family and you can easily see how much they love us and how much they value being counted, being valued and being a part of a family.
You can see in one of the pictures the belt buckle that has my picture. I am so touched that Tilahun feels so strongly about me that he would want to have my picture in his buckle.
I will write more about their lives but for now, please consider becoming a sponsor to a child who is either without a parent or parents or who is at risk due to poverty. You will be blessed and the child will be blessed too.
Thank you Tilahun, Degenes and Abenezer for allowing me to share your stories.