Tuesday, January 31, 2012

ALL OF THE KIDS HAVE A SPONSOR FAMILY!!

About 9 days ago, I posted photos of 12 children that were still waiting for a sponsor family at our Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory CarePoints in Ethiopia!!  Today - all 12 of those kids have a sponsor family!!  Click HERE to read the earlier post and see photos of the kids.

We now have EVERY SINGLE CHILD at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory care-points (nearly 300 kids) matched with a family who provides for them, prays for them, and loves them ... from afar!  And what a difference sponsorship makes for that child!!!

Thank you to each family who chose to make a difference for one of these kids!  And thank you to everyone who helped spread the word!

We have a volunteer team from St. Joseph Christian School (MO), led by Joey Austin, that will be travelling to Ethiopia in March to work with the kids at both CarePoints!  Joey and her team have generously offered to take a small care-package from each sponsor family to their child!! 

Right now, sponsor families are busily preparing a small package for their child!!

Above:  Photos from November, of our team of volunteers organizing
care-packages to distribute to each child from their sponsor family!
 




If you are interested in sponsoring a child, please contact me at kjwistrom@yahoo.com.  At the moment, every child is sponsored, but there will be more children enrolling soon and I will then contact you immediately to match you with a child who needs a sponsor family.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

"I'M A MESS. I'M A HUMBLED MESS."

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Apryl Harbaugh has travelled to Ethiopia with me on our last two trips to work with our Children's HopeChest CarePoints.  In preparation for November's trip, she started a blanket drive for the kids, hoping to be able to provide enough warm, fleece blankets for all of the kids at one of our CarePoints - about 150 kids. 

Instead, there were so many people that wanted to participate, Apryl ended up receiving almost 500 BLANKETS!!  Enough to provide a blanket for all 150 kids at Kind Hearts, all 150 kids at Trees of Glory, all 130+ kids at Kechene and more to distribute to the staff and kids at another CarePoint!!  At that point, we became worried as to how we would get all those blankets to Ethiopia.

Apryl shipped them to various members of our travel team across the USA - and all 500 blankets arrived in Ethiopia - to be gifted to children that sleep on hard-packed mud floors with little more than the clothes they wear during the day.  There were plenty of evenings during our trip, when the temperature changed dramatically as the sun started to set.  We were shivering and thinking about the kids being wrapped in cozy, warmth that night.

During our trips, I visit the homes of a few children at each of our CarePoints - to meet their families and to gain a deeper understanding of the circumstances in which our sponsor kids live each day.  When I was told we would be visiting the home of Dirbe Hunde, it was a wonderful coincidence that Apryl and her mom, Becky, were both on our volunteer team and between Apryl, her sister and her mom - they sponsor all 3 Hunde children.  I was thankful to be able to invite Apryl and Becky to join me as we visited their home. 


Last year - this was Apryl and Becky's first glimpse (photo above) of the children that would completely capture their hearts.  Two little girls in matching green dresses - and an older brother that attends Trees of Glory too!

Here is Apryl's account of our visit from her blog www.notquitedoneadopting.blogspot.com  

From Apryl:  Last year, when a little girl stole my heart by draping her arm so protectively around her little sister's shoulders, I never dreamed their family would become so familiar to my family. I never would have imagined that we would find ourselves in their home.

We had walked through the fields on a dirt path, gingerly making our way to the crest of the hill. Each of the children grasped the hand of an adult, almost as a badge of honor. We followed the path to a cluster of mud huts surrounded by shrubs and fencing.






This was the first time I had visited the home of one of our sponsor children. The unexpected made me nervous. I was holding the small hands of two little girls. I looked down at my sponsor child, Dirbe, on my right. She was obviously excited about the visit we were making. We trailed behind the group, my mom was just up ahead holding the hands of Dirbe's older brother and sister, whom my parents and sister sponsor. My hands were clammy and my stomach full of butterflies.

From the moment we stole away from the care point; I felt such a burden. I wanted to remember each detail of the walk, each sight and smell, so that I might share the experience with our families back home. I felt such responsibility climbing that hill, as I couldn't imagine many visitors taking this path to these homes. We were there as representatives of so many people and I felt inadequate. I felt so awkwardly American with my cameras and blue jeans. I was so tired from a long flight and no sleep and so, so terribly sorry that I hadn't learned Oromiffa in the past year.

That smiling face kept peering up at me, glancing and grinning. She obviously doesn't care how out of place we look. She's delighted to bring us home. I wish I could capture her excitement! Then I catch a glimpse of the view once we reach her cluster of huts, and I wish I could bring that home, too.




The huts seem abandoned, but we are shown the Hunde family's home. Dirbe's mother comes, smiling. She looks graceful in her traditional flowing dress and scarf. Again, I feel under-dressed, though we stand in a smoky mud hut. It's unreal. She puts me at ease as she, too, is obviously excited to have us visit. We talk through two translators to try and understand how many children are in the family and what they do for a living. We are waiting for the children's father to arrive.




I'm nervous and rest in Karen's ability to think clearly and make conversation. What will their father be like? Perhaps angry that these American Christians are here? I have no idea, but not much time to think about it, because soon the crowd peering in the doorway parts for him.

He is small and wearing a ball cap with a large shawl wrapped over his shoulders. He walks with a limp and uses a cane. I never should have worried about this man. The moment I see his face, I see the same familiar joy that I adore on Dirbe's face. He is thrilled that we have come. His eyes adjust to the darkness and he comes towards me, smiling. He is talking, but I can't understand what he says. As the translators begin to sort out what he has said, he is taking my hand. Then he begins peppering it with kisses as the translator says, "He says he recognizes you from the pictures you send. He says thank you, thank you, God bless you."






I'm a mess. I'm a humbled mess. I can't think straight enough to ask any simple questions, for which I will have to beg forgiveness later. We learn that our three sponsor children sleep on the dirt floors. Their father fought in the army and sustained extensive injuries to his leg. He tries to support his family, but relies on the help provided by the care point.

As we begin to leave I realize that I must bring home at least a mental image of the home where this family lives. The three children sleep on the hard packed dirt floor near a raised mud platform where their parents sleep, a mud bench runs along one wall, and in one corner is a small fire, obviously where the cooking is done. Our visit ends far too soon as I realize I haven't taken photos or video to share with our family.



We walk slowly away from the huts and I am elated. I have just seen the smallest glimpse of the blessing Trees of Glory is to the children. I'm excited to be able to tell my sister that 'our girls' are loved and adored by their family. My nervousness has bubbled up into relief and joy. I give the little hand a squeeze and Dirbe smiles up at me again. This time, I recognize that she has her father's smile.




-------------------------------------------------------

I so loved reading Apryl's perspective of this incredibly special day.  And then I remembered that I had access to another camera that day.  Once we stepped inside their hut, the darkness was all-enveloping and our eyes never did adjust to the darkeness.  We chatted for a few moments inside their hut and we gazed in amazement as they showed us cleverly crafted benches and shelving units - crafted from sticks and mud. 

It was so dark, my "fancy" Canon camera couldn't find a focal point in the darkness, and couldn't take a picture.  So I reached for my daughter's small point-and-click camera and snapped a few quick pics with the flash.  Reading Apryl's post jogged my memory, and just tonight I downloaded those photos and here is what I found - along with a video I somehow captured while holding hands with a child and balancing my other camera too. :)

The "kitchen" with its cooking fire is located in one corner of the hut, at the foot of the bed. 

The bench running along one entire wall is made of mud. 

On the far wall is a shelving unit made with sticks and hard-packed mud. 

Their parents sleep on the small elevated bed (made with sticks) while the kids
sleep on animal hides on the floor next to the bed.
 



Sunday, January 22, 2012

Most Importantly - They Have Hope!!

Just before we travelled to Ethiopia in November to work with the kids and staff at our Children's HopeChest CarePoint - Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory - we got exciting news that about 80 new children had just enrolled!!!  About 40 at Kind Hearts and 40 at Trees of Glory!!!

ALL of the new children have been matched with a sponsor family except for 1 little girl at Kind Hearts and 11 children at Trees of Glory.  We also have a travel team that will be visiting both CarePoints in March and they have volunteered to deliver a care-package to each child from their sponsor family during that trip!!!

It would be wonderful if ALL of the kids got a package from their sponsor family - and we only have 12 children that have not been matched with a family.

Sponsorship is $34 per month, and provides nutritious food, clean water, clothing, medical care, education and Christian discipleship for one child.  You can write letters to your child throughout the year - and I travel to Ethiopia each November with a team of volunteers to work with the kids.  Throughout the year, we occassionally have volunteers teams who are willing to deliver packages.

If you have been thinking about sponsoring a child, please contact me at kjwistrom@yahoo.com to be matched with one of these precious kids!!! 

Two years ago, we started working with 68 destitute and malnourished children at Kind Hearts, and today we are serving nearly 300 kids between Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory CarePoints. 

There is no question that sponsorship has changed these kids' lives - not only are they getting the food, clean water and medical care they need to grow up healthy and strong, they are getting an education that they normally would not have the opportunity for (orphans and children from destitute families cannot afford an education and so the vicious cycle of poverty continues).  And perhaps most importantly - they have HOPE for their future as they see the love of their sponsor family and the love of their heavenly Father in action.

Eyerus is 10 years old and just enrolled at Kind Hearts CarePoint. 
Eyerus is now sponsored by the Meiresonne family.


 Mebrat is 8 years old and just enrolled at Trees of Glory. 
Mebrat is now sponsored by the Sale family!!



Belaynesh is 11 years old and just enrolled at Trees of Glory.
Belaynesh is now sponsored by the Rodelius family!
 

Tadelech is 7 years old and just enrolled at Trees of Glory.
Tadelech is now sponsored by the Ahlf family.
  

Fantaye is 9 years old and just enrolled at Trees of Glory.
Fantaye is now sponsored by the Griffith family!
  

Hana is 8 years old and just enrolled at Trees of Glory.
Hana is now sponsored by the Treat family!
  

Konjit is 8 years old and just enrolled at Trees of Glory.
Konjit is now sponsored by the Harbaugh family!
  

Mekdes is 8 years old and just enrolled at Trees of Glory.
Mekdes is now sponsored by the Miller family!
  

Tesfaye is 12 years old and just enrolled at Trees of Glory.
Tesfaye is now sponsored by the Dieter family!
  

Dirbe is 10 years old and just enrolled at Trees of Glory.
Dirbe is now sponsored by the Lodermeier family!
  

Zerihun is 9 years old and just enrolled at Trees of Glory.
Zerihun is now sponsored by the Wondra family!
  

Mickiyas is 11 years old and just enrolled at Trees of Glory.
Mickiyas is now sponsored by the Holt family!


If you are interested in sponsoring one of these kids, please email me right away with the name of the child you would like to sponsor.  I will then send you their information and instructions on how to register as their sponsor.  You can also send a care-package to them with the volunteer team that will be in Ethiopia in March!  Please email me at kjwistrom@yahoo.com


And if you wonder if sponsorship can really make a difference for a child, here is just one example of a child whose life has changed dramatically through sponsorship!!

 Nearly 2 years ago, Mentesenot started attending Trees of Glory. 
Both of his parents had passed away and his aunt could barely provide for him. 
The CarePoint director, Simret, lovingly took him under her wing
and not only provided for him but nurtured his grieving heart. 
When I first met Mentesenot, he was not talking and would not interact with anyone. 
He was a sad, lonely, malnourished, broken-hearted little boy.

This is Mentesenote today - I took this photo in November - as he received
a care-package from his sponsor family, the Primeauxs.  He was wiggling with
excitement as he awaited his turn to receive his package and he chatted happily
with his friends.  He has a quick, confident smile and a sweet, hearty belly laugh!


Saturday, January 21, 2012

CLICK PICK of the week

Most of the time, a photo is carefully planned. Several angles are tested, various exposures and apertures are tried to get the perfect shot with just the right lighting and depth of field. And other times, the "click" is lucky (right place, right time) and a great shot is discovered after the fact. Here's my CLICK PICK of the week.



All 150 kids at Kind Hearts CarePoint in Ethiopia have a sponsor family who is providing for them, loving them and praying for them from afar - they are family from afar.  These are just two of the precious kids at Kind Hearts.  Little Betelihem (top) is new at Kind Hearts and Mintesinote (bottom) has been attending the CarePoint for two years and has emerged as a leader, one the other kids look up to.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Little Luxuries We Take for Granted

During our trip, we also visited another Children's HopeChest CarePoint called Kechene.  This CarePoint is managed by my good friend (from college), Greta, and since she was not able to join us this year, our team delivered care-packages to the children from their sponsor families.

At the time, there were nearly 70 new children at Kechene that had just enrolled and did not have a sponsor family.  So Greta made sure to create a care-package for each new child as well.  Each package contained one t-shirt along with a few essentials like pencils, pens, toothbrush and underwear.  We also had a hand-tied fleece blanket for each child (we were still at Kechene as the sun was starting to go down.  It was getting COLD and I know the kids are putting those blankets to good use! 




As we explained to the kids what was in each package, suddenly a cheer went up and the kids were clapping, fists and hand were pumping the air and they were looking at each other with excitement.  I looked around in suprise and turned to one of our translators to ask what had provoked the cheer.  He smiled and told me "they are so happy about the underwear."

The kids considered underwear to be a luxury item and as I became more aware of this, I could see little bare bottoms through the holes in their clothes.  Sure enough, as soon as the packages were handed out, the underwear were the first item to be examined and admired.





This is something I will definitely ask sponsors to include in their care-packages next year!

Here are a few photos of Hana, a little girl at Kind Hearts CarePoint when she discovered underpants in her care-package.  She immediately jumped down from Becky's lap and wanted help putting those underpants on right then and there.  Then she climbed back into Becky's lap to hear the letter read to her and to look at the pictures from her sponsor.






Wednesday, January 18, 2012

You can't make this stuff up ...

A friend gave me a link to a blog post from an American who is in Ethiopia right now, working hard to get updates on the work they are doing and to provide direction on projects for their organization.  She explains so well the extreme challenges (from an American perspective) of navigating the system in Ethiopia.

It's always a delicate balancing act whenever an invidual from one country and culture, tries to accomplish things within another country and culture.  Our western culture is very time sensitive and very technology oriented.  We rely on email and voice mail and contracts to accomplish business, and a deadline promised means a deadline delivered.  Not necessarily so in other countries, where cultural norms and government "red-tape" throw deadlines out the window.

Even something as simple as exchanging money at a bank, takes way longer than you expect it to.  I remember stopping at a bank to quickly exchange some money, only to be given a number and told to sit in a waiting room until my number was called.  Then having to hand over my passport, go back and wait again for another 30 minutes or so, before having my number called again and my passport handed back with the cash.  The entire transaction to exchange about $100 USD took about an hour and required my passport.  And if you think that's frustrating, it took us nearly 3 hours to fill out forms and get the right "stamps and signatures" to file a claim for lost luggage after an 18 hour flight!

It's easy to get frustrated with what seems like a lack of progress on projects, and slow timelines and deadlines that keep getting moved back.  And yet despite the delays, our Children's HopeChest team in Ethiopia presses on and wades into the bureacratic waters on a daily basis on behalf of the kids and the CarePoints they serve in Ethiopia.  And little by little, day by day, year by year, incredible progress is made.

Here is the link to a blog post that gives an inside glimpse into the challenges of working within another country and culture.  The writer has a great attitude and good sense of humor despite the challenges she is dealing with to get 200 pairs of donated shoes freed from customs custody so they can be delivered to children in need.  Please click on the link below

http://ethiopiablog.journeyweb.net/we-cant-make-this-up/

Monday, January 16, 2012

Lost in Translation

Each year when I travel to Ethiopia to work with the kids at "Kind Hearts" and "Trees of Glory" CarePoint, one of the highlights of our visit is when we sit with each child individually to deliver their care-package from their sponsor family. 

We have almost 150 kids at each location (nearly 300 kids in all) so this is a very labor-intensive and time-consuming process.  We know how incredibly important it is for the kids AND for their sponsor family, so we try to spend as much time with each child as possible - looking at the photos, explaining who is in each photo, what is happening in the photo, reading the letter and explaining all of the items including in their package.







The kids are so curious, and want to know as much as possible about their sponsor family.  They ask questions about the people in the photos and are quick to point and say names when they recognize them!  They LOVE seeing photos of their sponsor family and are most amazed at the pictures that show exciting things like swimming, or skiing, or horse back riding, and the craziest thing of all ... snow!



We seat each child between one translator and one volunteer, so that everything is understood, the letter and photos are explained, and all of the items in the package are explained thoroughly.  Things like hand-lotion, toothpaste, band-aids, and beef-jerkey are new and unusual, so we demonstrate and explain everything.  We have 4 stations going at the same time, so we can have one-on-one time with all 150 kids in a single 8 hour day!  I capture all of it on film so that I can share it with each sponsor family.

(Trees of Glory sponsor families should all have an email from me now with photos of your child receiving your care-package.  Kind Hearts families will be getting their photos next week!)

During care-package day at Kind Hearts, one particular moment stands out in my mind ... 

Besufekad (who has been sponsored by the Nelson family for almost 2 years) sat down between the translator, and our travel team volunteer, Wendy.  The translator started reading the letter to himself so he could begin translating it, as Wendy was showing Besufekad all of the items in his care-package. 





The water bottle was full of helpful items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, pencils and pens and Wendy was going through them with Besufekad.

Just then, the translator started laughing about something he had read in the letter.  He showed it to Wendy who nodded, and then he started explaining it to Besufekad.  He started laughing too until both of them were nearly falling off their chairs, with tears rolling from their eyes.




Wendy and I looked at each other with a big questioning look.  I asked, "What's so funny?"  Between laughter, the translator showed us the part in the letter that explained how their dog had just had babies. 

We both nodded again, and Besufekad and the translator started laughing even louder, holding their sides. 

Puzzled, I asked again, "What's so funny?" 

This time, they slowly got their giggles under control enough to point out that in Amharic, "babies" is translated as "human babies" when in fact the dog would have had "puppies".

Wendy and I started laughing too, as the other two erupted in more laughter and giggles that they had difficulty controlling for the rest of the day.  It only took a sideways glance, and the two would start giggling again at the translation of a dog giving birth to "babies" instead of puppies.  :)

Sometimes, the things that get lost in translation make for a lot of laughter!

And the best thing of all, is that because all of these kids are having their basic needs met through sponsorship, we are able to have fun with the kids and laugh about things like this.  Two years ago, when we first started working with Kind Hearts CarePoint, there wasn't much to laugh about. 

Things are very different today thanks to Children's HopeChest and our very dedicated and committed sponsor families that are providing and praying for these kids - and what a difference it has made!!