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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!!

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