Sunday, January 16, 2011

Why is a school uniform so important in Ethiopia???

Many mornings in Ethiopia, we were awakened by the outdoor loudspeakers playing songs sung by children.  Although we couldn't understand the words, we recognized the sing-song little voices and we put two-and-two together as we saw children streaming from all the different neighborhoods, gathering on street corners, and meeting friends as they walked to school. 

This is what a typical street looks like in Ethiopia as children
pour through the streets on their way to school.

We could tell that the kids went to different schools because of the different uniforms they were wearing.  From our perch on the balcony, we watched as all the colors merged, and they would pick out their friends and schoolmates, and soon the blue uniforms were walking together, and the green, and the red.

But these children, the ones with the school uniforms walking to school in the morning, are from families who have enough income to provide a valuable education for their children!  In Ethiopia, an education costs money (school fees are paid monthly) and school supplies and a school uniform are required. 

Orphaned children, or children from destitute families, cannot afford the monthly school fees, let alone the uniform, school supplies and books, and they often go without an education.  It is not uncommon for an older child to be in the same classroom as younger children (for example a 12 year old in 1st grade) because a child will work for months straight to earn enough to attend a month of school.  They start and stop as they are able to earn the money - because they know that an education is their chance to step out of the vicious cycle of poverty.  It is also common for one child to work for a year (herding livestock for example) while a sibling goes to school for a year - and then they switch off the next year.

At Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory care-points, every child has a sponsor family to provide this valuable education!!  Last year - when we had the first 68 children enrolled at Kind Hearts, sponsor families provided a school uniform for their child and the kids were SO EXCITED to have this treasured symbol of education.  Now they could walk to school proudly wearing the school uniform that signifies that they belong at Kind Hearts school AND that they are getting an EDUCATION!!!  Each child was measured, and uniforms were sewn and delivered.  Here are a few photos taken last February when Kind Hearts first got uniforms!

Here are the Kind Hearts kids wearing their tattered and mismatched clothing,
moments before the new uniforms arrived!

The school uniforms at the tailor's shop being sewn for each child!

One of my favorite photos from last year as the kids received their uniforms! 
The joy and excitement and pride are unmistakable.  Look at the two kids
in the backround - upper right part of this photo - as they compare each others uniforms!

When we visited Kind Hearts in November (a few days before we left for Ethiopia, we found out that the care-point had just enrolled 44 new children!), we could easily pick out the newest kids ... they were the children without a school uniform. 

The newly enrolled children are the ones who don't have a school uniform.

As soon as every child was matched with a sponsor family - we knew that we needed to provide uniforms for the new kids so they would feel completely welcomed and very much a part of the care-point!  Last weekend we announced a fund-drive for 44 school uniforms, and as of yesterday that fund has been fulfilled!! 

THANK YOU to everyone who made a donation to this fund!  The children will be so excited to hear the news!!  Funds will now be wired to Ethiopia, the children will be measured, and they will soon have the treasured uniforms that signify they are part of Kind Hearts school!

One other bit of news ... Remember the little boy at Kind Hearts who had the horribly painful abscessed tooth that was easily fixed with a $60 trip to the dentist?  (You can read more about him HERE.)

Yilbeltal after his trip to the dentist!  This handsome boy is so
mature and responsible and readily helps the adults with
the younger children at the care-point! 
It's tough knowing he was suffering in silence for so long!

We discussed this situation with the staff and care-givers at the care-point, and other than the cost of a trip to the doctor or dentist, transportation was the other challenge they identified.  We explained that if the staff recognizes that a child should see a doctor, we will make sure the funds are available to treat the child.  They should not hesitate to seek medical attention. 

But transportation was the other issue since a care-giver would need to leave the care-point with the child and navigate the many crowded taxis and buses to take a sick child to the doctor.  Vehicles are EXTREMELY expensive in Ethiopia, but the staff showed us a decrepit truck that is owned by Kind Hearts but does not run.  A mechanic provided an estimate to fix the truck so that it can be used as a reliable method of transportation for the care-point.  The estimate came in at $720 and immediately a few members from the November travel team provided the funds to fix the truck!!

 The broken-down truck sits on the edge of the property at Kind Hearts (behind the kids). 
It can now be fixed so that it can be used for reliable transportation for the care-point!


Apryl said...

I can't believe how fast the uniform money came in! I hardly had time to process that you were raising it. Wonderful pictures, Karen! I adore seeing them again and again, scanning the little familiar faces--it's wonderful! Thank you for posting on the happenings :)

Olivia said...

Love that picture of all the kids in their uniforms! That was such an amazing day when we saw them. I love seeing the pictures of the kids. It reminds me that I've been there, and it helps me remember what I did, what we all did there.