Friday, August 5, 2011

Korah....Day 5

Korah was possibly one of the "days" I was most looking forward to most when I decided to go to Ethiopia. If you haven't heard of Korah let me share a little....Korah is a district of Addis where 120,000 + people live. Korah is a landfill....a trash dump! Men, women, children, families live in this area and dig in the trash for things to sell to survive. In the morning everyone loaded up in the vans and before going to Korah we stopped at the "market" lot on the side of the road where the farmers bring their sheep to sell. Our 4 vans pulled into the lot and bought 45 sheep, to take to the people of Korah.

Some to be slaughtered to feed the children there and some to gift to several families to help them try to bring themselves out of poverty. They loaded those 45 (live) sheep on top of our vans and we headed out to Korah. When we first arrived in Korah we pulled up to the church/school there and loaded out of the vans. Immediately there were kids all around. We were divided into groups where we helped to teach the kids conversational english and then served them lunch...lunch that was possible for these kids because of their sponsors. It didn't take long for us to see how important sponsorship is to these kids. They all know their sponsors and ask everyone "do you know Kim Jones (ex)? She is my sponsor. She lives in TN". Or we would hear a lot of "Sponsor? Sponsor?". The kids who dont have sponsors were looking for sponsors and oftentimes their friends were trying to help them find sponsors...which was so sweet!

I had met a sweet little boy that I was hoping to sponsor and was looking for someone who works in Korah to confirm that he didnt yet have a sponsor when 2 other boys came up to me. One of them said "this is my friend Teraku. He needs a sponsor. He is a very clever student. You sponsor?" Since I was wanting to sponsor this other boy I took these 2 boys over to my sister Kelley and told her what they had said. She said to him "Teraku, I will sponsor you." His face lit up and I don't think he left her side the rest of the day. After this I found out that the little boy I was hoping to sponsor was not available for sponsorship. It didn't take long though until another couple of boys came up to me. Again, one of them said "this is Kumelachew. He is very good student. You sponsor?" So, after confirming that he was in fact in the sponsorship program I agreed to sponsor him. And he never left my side.

(This is Kumelachew and his friend David)

 He asked all about my family and as I showed him pics on my phone he would point them each out and say "this is my father. this is my brother.....etc." That is how important the sponsors are to these children. We are their family! Before leaving Korah we walked to the ALERT Leprosy hospital. We met women who suffer from leprosy who were making linens etc to sell in the market and a sweet man who had no fingers on either hand who wove rugs to sell in the market.  He was so sweet and LOVED for us to take our picture with him. I believe we bought every rug in the market that day.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Face I Will Never Forget....Day 4

On Monday we headed out to an orphanage that was about 2-2.5 hours away from Addis. The countryside was beautiful and exactly what I had imagined Africa to look like. There were grass huts with thatch roofs, donkeys walking down the road with giant piles of hay or jugs of water on their backs, men plowing fields with oxen and wooden plows while the women washed their clothes in dirty pools of water, small children watching smaller children and/or livestock. We saw lots of bare feet .....and bare bottoms.

As we got closer to the orphanage little kids from the village ran along behind our vans because they recognized some of our team members from last year. Kelly (Putty) had visited this orphanage for the first time last year and had fallen in love with the kids in this village. She thought she had remembered about 20-30 kids from last year and wanted to clothe them on this trip. We had actually missed the turn off to the orphanage and one of the sweet little girls from the village ran along the road to show us how to get there. We arrived at the orphanage and the gates closed behind our vans. We met the children who lived there and they all gathered around to play soccer, do crafts, paint fingernails etc. I was helping the kids make tissue paper flowers and had a sweet little girl who attached herself to me. Her name was Mecca and she stood by my side the entire time. After a little while I realized that some of the kids in the gates were not actually from the orphanage but had snuck in to be with us. Mecca was one of those. Her clothes were dirty and torn and she was barefooted but she had the sweetest smile. Later she introduced me to her older sister Mora and her brother. I believe his name was Abram but I am not certain. We were getting ready to leave the orphanage and walk through the village and then we would pass out our donations to the village kids. I told this sweet family that if they would follow us I would give them shoes. They walked with me throughout the entire village. Mecca holding one hand and her brother holding the other. If they ever let go of my hand Mora would "fuss" at them in their language. She wanted to make sure they got the shoes that I had promised as both of the little ones were barefooted and she may as well have been. We came to a large open area where our guides had tried to gather the people from the village in a somewhat orderly manner so that we could hand out donations. What Kelly had thought may be 30 kids turned into 100+ men, women and children. It was hard to pass out donations orderly. There was pushing, shoving and snatching. It seemed the children listened better than the adults. Although it was frustrating I had to remind myself that these people have NOTHING and that if I was in the same situation and there were people there with things my kids needed, I would be doing all I could to get those things as well. They are desperate!! My sweet little friends got lost in the mix and eventually we had to load up our bags and go back inside the orphanage gates because things had just gotten too chaotic outside. As we walked back I saw them...and they were all still barefooted. Once inside the gates we tried to bring one child at a time inside. We would give them clothes and shoes and send them back out. I specifically asked that Mecca be brought inside so one of our guides got her and brought her. I was able to give her shoes and clothes and she left.  By this time we had about run out of donations and the people outside of the gates were starting to try to push their way in so we began to load up what was left into the vans. As we were loading up I looked up and Mora had pushed her way into the gates. There was a man inside the gate (not associated with Ordinary Hero) who was using a stick to hit her. The look on her face as I looked up is one that I will never forget. She was crying and fighting to try to get in, all the while the man was hitting her and pushing her back out of the gate. I called for Kelly P and asked her to please let her in. Kelly went and got her and brought her, still crying, inside. I took off the tennis shoes that I was wearing and gave them to her. I gave her a big hug and she left. She was desperate for a pair of shoes. Used shoes! I am still not sure if the little brother got shoes or not and it breaks my heart to think that I had promised him shoes and he may not have gotten any.  As we drove away the little kids ran along beside us again with huge grins on their faces waving as hard as they could. That little village definitely touched the hearts of the people in our group. OH is hoping to start a sponsorship program in the future to help those children with their basic needs and to send them to school. I look forward to sharing more about that with you in the future!!
 Donkeys along the side of the road.
 Our group touring the orphanage.
 Me and Mecca
 Village kids waiting outside of the gates.
 Making tissue paper flowers.
Me and the siblings.
A little bare bottom in the village.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sunday....Day 3

Sunday morning we loaded up in the vans and headed to worship at Beza International Church......
And worship we did. The service was amazing!
Here is a little clip of worship there...
 After church we returned to the Guest House for lunch and then headed out to do some shopping in the "post office district". I have to admit that shopping int he market was the most uncomfortable thing we did while in ET. There were lots of beggars...disabled men, women with their babies, children of all ages. They were asking for money or food or for you to buy what they were selling...maps, gum, toothbrushes.. We had already been warned not to give them things, as much as you would want to, because once you pulled your backpack off your back there would be a mob of people around  you before you even had a chance to blink. I did my souvenir shopping as quickly as possible and then waited in the van for the rest of the group. After shopping we headed over to a larger parking area where some of our team members knew from last years trip that the street kids hung out there. The guys struck up a soccer game, as they did everywhere we went and we hung around talking to the kids who didnt want to play soccer. When I say these are street kids, that is exactly what I mean.....these kids live on the streets and fend for themselves. I would venture to say that there were children as young as 3-4 years old who live on the streets....alone. Many of the kids there sold gum or shined shoes to try to make money. These kids could have definitely used some of the donations that we had brought along, but it just wouldnt have been safe to hand that stuff out there.

 After a little while with these kiddos we headed to Kaldi's to pass some time until our dinner reservations.

 While at Kaldi's we had the chance to get to know some of our teammates better as our van left to go pick
up some special little friends at Korah. These three little guys are sponsored by some of the people on our team and they were able to meet (some for the first time) and spend some time with them. They went to dinner with us and spent a coule of nights at the Guest House. It was a lot of fun to see them be spoiled if not for a short time...
That night we went to dinner at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant which had tribal dancing. It was a night of fun and laughter, although we wondered if we would be allowed to go in. Security was tight because one of the Korean presidents were eating there at the same time. There were lots of police with big guns, but our guide, Maste was able to sweet talk our way in!!

This would be the first (and last) time that I tried injera, the traditional ethiopian cuisine. It wasn't terrible, but I don't think I will be making it a regular in my diet!! Luckily we had Maste with us to steer us away from the raw meat and the tripe!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Yezelelem Minch....Day 2

So after getting a good nights rest on Friday night we were all ready to head out on Saturday morning. We loaded up in our vans and drove to the "offices" of Yezelelam Minch.

 YM is a neat program that offers a lot of different programs for the community. They have 2 (or maybe 3) orphanages, a feeding program, community support groups for women with HIV which includes teaching them to make different things in order to make a living, and a sponsorship program. On of our team members family's sponsor a little girl from YM and Zack was able to meet her on this day.

This was our first glimpse at how important sponsorship is to many of the kids in Ethiopia. You will read more about that later! After hearing about the program and meeting Zack's sponsor girl we loaded back up and headed to where the feeding program would take place.

There we played with the kids, painted fingernails (which was a big hit everywhere we went), served lunch and just loved on those kiddos. Many of the kids there were just children from the area and they were there with their parents. We had a great time there.

 After a while it was time for the children to go home so we loaded back up and headed to El Olam Orphanage. This is an orphanage that not too long ago was not doing too well and many of the children there were very malnourished and sick. Last year a girl on this very same trip was so touched by what she saw in ET that she packed up and moved there to work in Korah. Recently she was asked to take over this orphanage and what a difference she has made in the children there.

 These kids were beautiful and happy! The orphanage is beautiful too. We had a great time playing with and getting to know the kids there as well. We made tshirts and mugs with them and they blessed us by singing for us before we left for the day. I am not allowed to post photos of the kids in the orphanages but trust me when I say they are all beautiful and well loved and cared for!

My days are all mixed up since I have gotten home, but I am pretty sure they we ate at Bon that night. It is a nice "American" restaurant in Addis. We had a great time laughing and hanging out with our team!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ethiopia....the day has come!

So, blogging from Ethiopia didn't go as planned. Our internet was spotty at best and honestly I think I will be able to share a little better now that I have had some time to process the things that I have seen there. So, I am going to start over from the beginning,

On Thursday, July 6, the day I had been waiting for for 7 months had finally come. I had done all I could to prepare myself and my family and it was time. Thirteen of us met at the airport to make the first leg of the trip to Washington DC where we would meet up with the remainder of our team (minus 2 who were already in ET) to make our long journey to Ethiopia. I am so glad that Kelley (my sister) was on this trip with me. I am sure I would have been much more nervous if I hadn't had her along.

This is the group that left from Nashville.

We flew to Washington DC where we met up with the rest of our group. We were unable to check our bags all the way through to Ethiopia as we had hoped so we had to pick them all up and take them to the hotel with us on the hotel shuttle. Lets just say that our shuttle driver was not impressed when he saw us standing at the shuttle stop right at time for him to get off work....and he wasn't afraid to tell us so either. If it weren't for the guys on our trip I am not sure what we would have done! They were champs when in came to loading and unloading our luggage. Not to mention that they were a lot of fun too!
Kelley and I had this fabulous idea that we would not sleep much at the hotel that way we would be good and tired on the plane and sleep on the way to Ethiopia. So at about 3 am we went to bed only for our alarm to go off at 6!! We had breakfast nad headed to the airport for our 13 hour flight!! The plane we flew on was really nice. There were screens in the seatbacks where you could watch movies, play games, and track your location. It was neat to see what we were flying over. Its a good thing we were entertained too because I don't think either of slept for more than 30 minutes at a time for a total of 2 hours at the most.
We arrived in Ethiopia at about 8:15 am (which is 12:15am) at home. Our plan was to make it through security and head out to our first orphanage. We learned quickly on this trip that things rarely go as planned in ET. We got our visas and all our luggage and lined up for security. I use the term "line up" loosely because there were no lines just a lot of people trying to push their way through security. We finally made it and headed out. About 2/3 of our team made it out when a "security" person came and waved the rest of over to the side. We spent the next 5 hours going back and forth with the "officials" there over our donations. There was of course a language barrier and we were all thankful when our guide/translator/bodyguard/friend "Bissy" showed up. In Ethiopia it seems there aren't many set rules and we found that to be true with our luggage. The reason for "holding" us changed from you are not allowed to bring used items for donations to you are only allowed to bring 4 shirts per person (seriously!), to you have to pay taxes on any new items that you bring. So, 5 hours and $500 later we were allowed to leave the airport. The rest of our team had been in the parking lot for that entire time praying that we made it out!

We loaded all that luggage on top of the vans and headed to the Guest House. Driving (or riding) in Ethiopia is an adventure in itself. There doesn't seem to be many "rules of the road" and there is a LOT of honking and weaving in and out of vehicles, pedestrians, and livestock. I quickly realized that the honking is not rude, it is basically just a warning that I am here and I am coming around it or not!!

We arrived at the Guest House and got settled in. Although we were disappointed that we werent able to go to the orphanage we enjoyed hanging out outside the Guest House gates with the kids who live near the house. Those kids became our friends for the week and were usually waiting on us in the mornings and when we would return in the afternoons. Most if not all of these kids attended school and spoke very good English. They loved playing soccer and playing with our iPads. We turned in early that nigt so we would be rested up and ready for the next day!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

We Made It!!

So after 13 hours on the plane with only a couple hours of sleep, we finally touched down in Ethiopia!! We were all very tired but excited to finally be here. The first stop on our agenda was to a feeding program at one of the orphanages. Unfortunately things didn't go as planned..which is exactly what we were told to expect. We spent 5 hours at the ET airport while they dug through each and every one of our 60+ pieces of luggage. We went ahead and checked into our guest house. The kids On the street were so excited to see us. Now, they wait outside of the guest house gates for us to come out. They LOVE to play with the iPad and to play soccer with the guys. We turned in early since we had only had about 5 hours of sleep in 2 days.

This morning (Saturday) we headed out and visited 2 orphanages. We helped at a community feeding program that one of the orphanages holds and played with the kids. We all have toys and candy in our backpacks and it doesn't take long for the kids to figure that out!!they aren't at all bashful to ask for some! We are now hanging out at the guest house getting ready to head out to dinner. I can't wait to be able to post pics from the trip!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Day One

First of all, I am glad you made your way to my new blog!! As I logged on to update my old one I couldn't gain access so I just created a new one. I am going to try to update as much as I am able so check back often!!

So, today (or yesterday by now) was the first day of my journey!! I have been waiting for this day for a long time now. I have had my bags packed for a couple of days now, but I did have some last minute things to take care of. So the kids and I loaded up early and headed to run some errands. They were happy to helping me get ready for my trip. We got everything done and were able to spend a few hours together before heading out to the airport. I am just going to share a few bullet points about our day. It is 1:30 am and I'm not feeling all that creative.

-- So far I have met 12 of the 25 ( or so ) members of our team. I am looking forward to meeting the rest later today and getting ton know all of them better over the next 9 days.

-- Between the 13 of us who are together this far we have approximately 1300 lbs of luggage...all of which are donations for the orphanages. We also have 2 carryon bags a piece. That is A LOT of luggage!!

--Not that I travel a lot, but the little plane we flew on to Washington was...well, little!!

--That much luggage does not fit well on planes that size!

--Once we got on that little plane and got ourselves all situated and started backing away from the gate, the pilot came on to tell us that due to bad weather between Nashville and Washington we would be returning to the terminal and deplaning. So we got ourselves and our luggage off that plane and headed back to the terminal. No sooner had we sat ourselves down they announced that "they had changed their minds" and we would be boarding immediately. And so we did.

--We were not able to check our bags " all the way through" to Addis as we had all hoped, which meant that we had to get that 1300 lbs of luggage to the shuttle and to our hotel. Let's just say that the shuttle driver was not impressed to see us....especially since it was quitting time for him and he would have to make multiple trips.

--One lesson I learned today... Eat before your flight, even if you aren't hungry! Otherwise you may be left buying a tiny, overpriced can of tuna with crackers at the hotel at midnight.

Our flight to Ethiopia leaves at noon today (Thursday) and we will arrive in Addis at 8 am Friday and hit the ground running. My prayer is that we will all be able to get some sleep on the flight. I can't wait to share my trip with all of you!!