Shelley - update #4

Hello again fromEthiopia! Thank you to all of you who have been reading my updates and have been thinking of and praying for my mom, my daughter and me!  Thank you as well for all of you who have donated to help the street children and people ofEthiopia!!!  You have donated now a total of $2,600 with three ongoing sponsorships for schooling which will take 3 boys off the street - PRAISE GOD!!!!!  You have no idea the difference it will make for these boys.

I have had the good fortune of meeting a woman namedSumerand her husband Cory who have come from theUSas volunteer missionaries to support the children living in Korah which has many people with leprosy, HIV and physical disabilities.  There is a summer program starting tomorrow for a couple of months to prepare the children for boarding school in the fall.  The boarding school will provide shelter, schooling, a uniform, food and teachings of Jesus.  The amazing difference this will make in the lives of the children is like the difference between night and day.

I am so excited about the three boys who have now been sponsored from those of you who have responded - THANK YOU!  We have met these boys, touched them, heard their stories and now know that the sponsorship money will go directly for their good - all of it!!

Today, my mom and I were given the great privilege due to your generosity to take 9 girls and their two babies out for lunch and provide them with blankets and tarps to keep them both dry and warm.  They said "God bless you" and I was thinking, we have so many blessings, we want the blessings to come to you.  One 11 year old girl just arrived in the very overcrowded and busy city ofAddisyesterday all on her own.  Her mother told her to come here and do the best she could because they couldn't afford her at home.  She was told that she should beg and that when she is able to make enough, she should send the money home.  She was absolutely beautiful.  Her hands were black from coal or dirt or both.  I thought of my two nieces again and thought about if they had to go to the streets - unthinkable.  She is so vulnerable, so young and so innocent.  How can this be happening?  We had our driver talk to her about boarding school as I was hoping we could sponsor her and get her off the streets but she is unfamiliar with boarding school and does not want to go.  The problem is that the kids have to be very serious about the school program and really want to go to qualify.  When you think about it, and when you see the sheer number of children on the street, this qualification makes sense.

Another lady told our driver that she had been travelling (believe me, the travel here for the Ethiopians is nothing like we are used to) to go to visit family and when she came to Addis, her money was taken.  This lady has come from the countryside and has a 9 month old baby.  We asked if she would want to go back to her husband if she had the bus ticket.  She said yes so on Sunday, we will go and buy her a bus ticket to ensure that the money is not used for other things.  Hopefully this will better her and her baby's chances of safety. We will also buy the young girl shoes as her's are falling apart.

Many street girls are raped and therefore have children to then care for on the street.  There was a group of 7 girls in their late teens early twenties at the lunch.  The one girl had an 11 month old baby who was so cute.  This baby girl is now being cared for by the group of girls but is being raised on the streets.  What chance does she have at life?

We then went to have our translator buy jackets and pants for the 16 boys we have had lunch with twice.  You cannot imagine the open market that the nationals visit.  There are wall to wall people and our driver and translator told us that this area was not the safest for us as foreigners so we had to stay in the van with our driver and not show our cameras.  It is interesting because during our whole trip toEthiopia, we have not felt unsafe and we have been in some very interesting situations.  Our drivers and translators have truly protected and guided us as well as our main driver and translator have allowed the work with the street children to happen.  They have told us many times "do you know that you have done such a good thing?"  We remind them each day that they are just as much a part of this work as we could not do it without them.

As soon as the boys saw our van, the boys, my mom and I were all waving and the boys came running to see us.  We went into the same restaurant as we had lunch the last two days so we could distribute the clothing.  Had we distributed it from the van, it would have attracted many, many street children and it would have been a precarious situation.

My mom, Julia and I went in after all the boys were in the restaurant and as we walked in the boys stood up and clapped!  They were clapping for all of you who have given as well.  They have been so touched by the generosity of our friends and family.

The boys also said thank you for sponsoring Telahun to go to boarding school.  I thought that was absolutely amazing that here were these boys who have literally nothing, all of them who want a better life and they were thanking us for sponsoring their one friend!  I told them through our translator that we so wished we could send them all to school.  I also told them that we are going to buy shoe shinning boxes (this was the idea of Bisrat who has lived an incredible life and most of it in abject poverty and who has worked with street children) that will contain the supplies they need to shine shoes (quite common here in Addis as there is a lot of dust and dirt in this city) so they do not need to beg anymore and hopefully make enough that they could live a better life.  They thought it was amazing and many of them were holding their hands to their hearts looking at us.

We took pictures of the boys and were able to tell the youngest boy that my mom and dad would sponsor him to go to boarding school.  We took a picture of him with my mom and as we left, I hugged him and kissed him on the forehead.  When was the last time he was hugged and kissed?   It is an incredible thought to know that this boy's and Telahun's lives will change in the next couple of lives.

What was sad is that when the boys were leaving, three of them gave me hand written notes neatly folded in my hand as they shook my hand.  Each one of those letters explained how and why they came to the streets (in broken English) and that they wanted to receive education.  They addressed them to "sister".  Each one of the letters expressed such gratitude for what we have done for them.  These boys are mostly orphaned or sent out to the streets by their parents because they cannot afford them.

As we were in the van and pulling away, we had attracted a lot of attention and had many other boys wanting shoe shine boxes (the word travels fast even without I Phones, Blackberrys, etc.).  One boy around the age of 15 was pointing at Julia and then pointing to himself with longing eyes.  I believe he was saying that he wanted to come to live with me too.  The destitution, the longing of these children is heart breaking and yet knowing that we have been able to do at least something during this trip along with the joy of the boys especially has been a wonderful opportunity to show God's and your love.

If you are interested in the sponsorship of one of the boys we have served through your donations, it is $700 US a year which would include their schooling, shelter, their uniform, food and teaching of Jesus.  The organization that is doing this work is all volunteer and therefore 100% of the money would go to your sponsored child.

The other opportunity to give would be to donate money to provide the supplies for the shoe shine boxes.  I don't know how much this would be but I would guess at less than $200.  This would give the boys an opportunity to make some money themselves and provide a better life than begging on the streets.

My mom, Julia and I went out of the city yesterday to a monastery and the countryside was absolutely beautiful.  We saw and got up fairly close to many baboons which was really great!  The peacefulness at the monetary was incredible and a stark contrast to the overcrowded, traffic filledAddis Ababa.  This country is truly beautiful.  We also visited the leprosy hospital and their gift shop where they sell the handicrafts that they make.  We were able to see the women weaving and some were without any fingers.

Tomorrow, we are leaving early in the morning to go to an Eco Lodge until Sunday to enjoy the nature of this country and have some quite time together.  I am really looking forward to some time with Julia without needing to go anywhere in the city.

She is doing so well with her English.  Every day she is picking up more words and is amazing us.  Each day we have had a lot of rain as this is the rainy season.  Yesterday as my mom got in the van from the leprosy hospital she said "thank goodness we brought our umbrellas" and later that night I heard Julia saying "thank goodness" with her Woylitian accent.  How cute was that?

My adoption agency treated us last night to a traditional dinner and show.  Two other families were there as well as staff who were visiting fromCanadaand a few staff fromEthiopia.  We had a great time and Julia was able to be reunited with a good friend from the Transition Home.  It was so cute to watch them together.  They sat at times in the same chair to watch the show with their arms around one another.  They laughed and just acted like little girls.

One of the families here through Imagine Adoption is staying at the same guest house as we are and she said that she thinks Julia is attaching very well to me as she was coming back to me often when she was with her friend as to check in and spend a bit of time with me before she went back to sitting with her friend.  That was good to hear as this lady has adopted three other children and now another baby and is very aware of attachment issues in adoption.

Julia is very much recognizing me as mommy and wants to be with me all the time. She wants to sit on my lap most of the time too in the van or when we are sitting at the table for meals. When she is on the toilet, she looks deep into my eyes. In the last two days we have now started to rub noses and then kiss on the lips many times.  I don't think she has kissed people on the lips because in this culture they kiss on the cheek.  She is catching on well and I find these times really special.

She is quite a ham and when we were waiting for Bisrat to buy the blankets (it took quite a long time), she was coloring in the van and said to our driver when he told her she was doing such an excellent job that she was the best and her mommy really didn't know how to color because she just went back and forth with the crayons :)  I explained to our driver that I had just been teaching her her colours by shading in a bit at the bottom of the page the day before.  I then coloured the pictures with her and asked our driver if he could ask her if she thought I could colour now and she said "yes".  She loves to have fun and her giggle is enough to melt you.

We have only had her for 4 and a half days and yet in many ways I feel like I have had her for a very long time.  It feels very comfortable to be with her and to be her mommy. She has told me and our driver that she is happy.

Off to Bisangari Lodge tomorrow for some bonding time and R&R.  I think all three of us need to catch up on some sleep and will really enjoy having this special time together in the beauty of my daughter's birth country.

I am hoping to send my last update on Sunday night because we leave on Monday.  It feels like we have been here for several weeks and it has only been one.  We are looking forward to seeing our friends and family again.

Bye for now,