Sunday, November 27, 2011

It is clear she will need additional surgery ...

So many people have asked me for an update about Webit, the 8 year old little girl at Trees of Glory who had surgery in March for a bone deformity in her lower leg that had initially been treated by the local "traditional healer" which caused a severe infection to set in.  Hundreds and maybe thousands of people have been praying for her and many people provided funds for her initial medical care and surgery.  Click here to read the original blog post from March.

For several months after the surgery, Webit lived at the CarePoint so she could get 24 hour care and the hygiene needed to keep her wound clean and healing.  All signs pointed to a good recovery, and Webit was up and around shortly after her cast was removed.  But just 2 weeks ago, her lower leg started to become painful again and within about a week, she was limping and needing to be carried again.

With great concern, the CarePoint director, Simret, took me by the hand and lead me to Webit when I asked about her.  With tears in her eyes and a furrowed brow, Simret shared her fears with me while she pressed my hands between hers ... the pain is becoming difficult for her to manage ... she has little appetite ... Webit does not like to be a problem for anyone but it is clear she is in much pain ... she will need more surgery ...

Simret checking on Webit throughout the day.

I spotted Webit right away, a thin little waif of a girl, being carried on her sister's back as if she weighed as much as a feather.  I went to her and lifted her from her sister ... she wrapped her arms around my neck ... and she weighs about as much as a feather.  Her sister seemed relieved to have me carry her and yet she never complains or asks for help.  She is willing and ready to carry her wherever she needs to go.







Webit wanted to participate in all of the classroom activities and lessons.  She was trying to downplay the pain, but it was evident.  Whenever the kids finished up in one classroom and it was time to rotate to the next, one of us would scoop her up and carry her to the next classroom.

When it was time to sit with her to give her the care-package sent by her sponsor family, she smiled a huge smile and hugged the photo to her chest.  I asked if she remembered Laura and Charlie and she nodded vigorously.  The Herwehe family also sponsors her older sister, Belyu, who is 12 years old.




I asked if I could see her leg, and she dropped her chin to her chest but nodded her consent.  It seemed to hurt her as I carefully pulled her stretch pants up to her knee to see her scar.  Although her scar looks to have healed well, I could see swelling above the incision (near her knee) and at her ankle.  I could also see what looked like the bone pressing against her skin.  Webit seemed embarassed by the attention and quickly moved to push her pant leg down to cover her leg when I raised my camera.  I could tell that she did not want her leg to keep her from the activities and lessons being taught that day.



Children's HopeChest is working with the staff at Trees of Glory CarePoint to figure out the next steps for Webit's treatment.  It is clear that the bone in her lower leg is continuing to grow abnormally and will require further treatment and surgery.  I was told that there are only a few (2 or 3) bone specialists in Ethiopia - one of them is her doctor and it is difficult to get an appointment because he is in such great demand. 

Please keep Webit in your prayers as we navigate the medical system in Ethiopia for her.  One of the members of our travel team generously committed to providing the funds needed for her medical care and surgery, but if you would like to help as well, you can make a donation on the Children's HopeChest website at www.hopechest.org, click on GIVE.  For the account code, specify ET2119000, and in the Notes area, specify MEDICAL FUND.



I am thankful for our team of sponsors and our CarePoint staff who can ensure that Webit gets the medical care she needs.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A FEAST OF THANKSGIVING IN ETHIOPIA!

As Americans prepare for a long Thanksgiving weekend with friends and family, I thought I would post a few photos of the feast we prepared last week for the 140 children at Kind Hearts CarePoint in Ethiopia.  We purchased 8 lambs for the feast (4 were used that day and the rest will be used for meals next week) to prepare a savory stew (wot), roasted lamb, injera, vegetables, oranges and soda.  Our team of volunteers helped with the skinning, butchering and preparation of the meat - as well as serving the children their meal and cleaning up afterwards.

As my family celebrates Thanksgiving, we will all be reflecting on our time with the kids in Ethiopia and I am especially thankful for the 260+ families that partner with me to serve the kids at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory in Ethiopia.  I am content knowing that together, we are changing the lives of 260 kids who are no longer going to bed each night with an empty tummy and whose minds are being filled with a good education, and whose spirits are being nourished with the love of God!

Ryan helps load the lambs on the top of the van to deliver to the CarePoint. 



Mike helped with the butchering and the preparation of the meat for roasting. 

Alex roasted the meat over an open fire.  We all sampled some with our
lunch and it was delicious and flavorful although quite chewy.

The delivery "truck" arrives with our Coke and Fanta for the kids - a rare treat for special occasions! 

 Plates of injera are prepared for the lamb stew.

Each child gets in line to wash their hands before the meal. 

Mmmmmmmmm! Tasty anticipation! 

The youngest kids are served first while the older kids play on the new playground equipment.  The kids line up remarkably fast and sit so still for their meals - they also try to share their food with us and any child who still wants more. 










 We created an "assembly line" to pass the plates from the kitchen to the waiting kids.









Thank you to each and every sponsor family for loving these kids, praying for these kids and providing for these kids.  YOU have changed their lives!  Two years ago we began working with Kind Hearts with 68 kids!  Today we have 140 happy, healthy kids being served by the outstanding staff at Kind Hearts and Children's HopeChest!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ethiopia travel team update!

Our entire travel team arrived in the USA yesterday and caught separate connecting flights from Washington DC to their hometowns and their waiting families.  Saying goodbye was hard - but everyone is now home with their families reflecting on the last 10 days and beginning to recuperate from jet lag and an extremely busy week that drained everyone physically and emotionally - and yet left us feeling very fulfilled and blessed.

There are so many incredible experiences to reflect upon ... and so many individual stories to tell about the kids and the progress being made at our Children's HopeChest CarePoints in Ethiopia - "Kind Hearts" and "Trees of Glory".  Please check back often over the next days, weeks and months for updates and guest blogs from those that were on the team this year.



Our team of 26 volunteers bonded quickly and worked together amazingly well right from the beginning.  We had very little internet access, we were without running water when we first arrived in Ethiopia after 2-3 days of travel, we sometimes had to shower with cold water, and we were without power here and there as well.  Despite these little adventures ("technical difficulties") God obviously had a plan for this team and how we were to impact the children we serve in Ethiopia! 

We spent 3 days at Kind Hearts and 3 days at Trees of Glory, touching the lives of the children, as well as the staff that works with the children on a daily basis.  Each child was given individual time and attention as we sat with them to deliver a care-package from their sponsor family, and to look through the photos and read their letter. 

There are not enough words to adequately explain how much the children appreciate hearing from you and receiving your photos, letter and gift.  I loved seeing the kids on the first day we arrived at the CarePoints as they pulled older photos of their sponsor family from their pockets asking if we knew you and wanting to know more about you.  "This is MY family in America!" they proudly explained!





The kids shown above are holding photos they received from their sponsor family over the last year.  We visited Kind Hearts for the first time on Monday (when these photos were taken) and did not deliver their new care-packages (with letters and photos) until Thursday.

~ We now have 140 kids attending Kind Hearts CarePoint and every child is sponsored!  At Trees of Glory CarePoint, we now have just over 130 children attending.  Just a few days before our trip, I received profiles for 30 new children that had just enrolled at TOG and I did not have a chance to match them with a sponsor family before the trip.  We created a care-package and a blanket for each new child and we got to spend time with each of them.  If you are interested in sponsoring a child at Trees of Glory, please email me at kjwistrom@yahoo.com and I will match you with a child!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

And we're off! ... to Ethiopia!

Our team of 26 volunteers is leaving for Ethiopia!  Half of the team is meeting in Washington DC tonight while the other half is flying in on Friday morning.  We will all meet at the airport Friday morning for our overseas flight to Ethiopia.

Please keep the entire team in your prayers (for health and safety) as we travel to Ethiopia to work with our kids at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory CarePoints!!  We return to the USA on Nov 21!



Suitcases of all 26 people are filled to the limit (and beyond) with care-packages, blankets and donations for the kids!  I will try to update my blog while we are in Ethiopia but access to blogs is very limited and not very reliable in Ethiopia.  We seem to have better luck with facebook - so we will definitely post updates on facebook as often as possible (when we can get an internet connection).  Thank you to all the sponsor families and everyone else who made a donation or is covering the team in prayer while we are gone!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In just a few days ...

In just a few days, our team of 26 volunteers will be leaving for Ethiopia!  Months and months of planning ... and we will finally be underway.  Last year was a huge endeavor with just over 150 kids sponsored at our 2 Children's HopeChest CarePoints ... and this year will be even bigger.  Because of our very dedicated sponsor team, our CarePoints have grown and we are now serving just over 260 kids!!!

The kids at "Kind Hearts" CarePoint in Ethiopia

We will be spending 3 full days at each CarePoint where we have a full curriculum planned.  The kids will hear 10 different gospel lessons with an activity or a craft project to reinforce what they learned.  The wonderful thing about the craft project is that these kids rarely (if ever) bring a project like this home from school - so when these projects come home from school, it will be a novelty and the entire family will want to see it and hear the story behind it!

We will also be delivering a care-package to each child from their sponsor family!  This was the highlight of the trip last year for the kids ... as well as the travel team members that got to read the letters and look at the photos with each child.





For the last few months ... the mail-lady has been dropping off over 260 care-packages at my front door.  And when she saw me in the driveway one day, she asked what was going on and I told her where all those packages were going!  She told me it made her job feel so worthwhile knowing those packages were going to specific kids in Ethiopia.




One of our travel team members, Apryl Harbaugh, asked me about starting a blanket drive so that the kids could each have a warm blanket for those cold nights.  Our hope was that we could collect 300 blankets and be able to give one to each child.  But our hopes were surpassed as Apryl collected nearly 500 hand-made fleece blankets



People all over the country have been busy making blankets and mailing them to the 26 travel team members!  If that sounds like A LOT of blankets  ... IT IS!!  And somehow we are getting them all to Ethiopia so that kids who normally sleep on a packed mud floor with a few rags and bits of clothes to keep them warm at night, will now have a cozy, soft, fleece hand-tied blanket to snuggle up under.



In addition to spending time at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory CarePoints, we will also be delivering over 100 care-packages and blankets to the kids at Kechene (from their sponsor families) - and we will be delivering blankets and essentials to the kids at Onesimus.

We would appreciate your prayers during the trip, Nov 10 - 21, as we minister to these kids we have come to know and love, while we are far away from our own families.