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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How can people tell we're sisters??

My daughters seem surprised when someone looks at them within a group of friends and picks the two of them out as sisters.  Although they are only 18 months apart in age, they are very different in height (Maea is 5'1" and Emme is 5'6") and very different in personality (one is more of an extrovert and one is more of an introvert). 

And yet perfect strangers can pick the two of them out of a crowd and ask, "Are you sisters?" 

I have explained to them how there are subtle similarities that show up even in their actions and the things they do ....

Two examples in photo form - One taken in 2001 on the beach in Florida when they were little tiny girls and one taken 10 years later (November 2011) in Ethiopia.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Care-Packages for Kids in Ethiopia!

My friend, Joey Austin, is leaving on March 9 to lead a team of volunteers to Ethiopia.  During their trip, they will be visiting Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory CarePoints to work with the kids and the staff.  Many of the volunteers on Joey's team are teachers, and they will specifically be working with the teaching staff at the CarePoints to develop curriculum and share teaching ideas.

Joey's team generously volunteered to take a care-package to each child from their sponsor family!  With nearly 300 kids at the CarePoints, this is no small undertaking and a large volunteer team is needed in order to disperse care-package throughout luggage. 

Sponsors reacted immediately and have mailed a package to Joey for delivery to their sponsor child.  Right now, Joey's dining room is overflowing with packages that will soon be on their way to Ethiopia!  Ten totes are full and more packages are arriving!

THANK YOU to each sponsor family for supporting, providing for and demonstrating your love to these kids!!

Joey's team also raised funds for the trip and enough was raised to provide a brand new pair of shoes for each child at Kind Hearts!  (My team bought shoes for the kids at Trees of Glory in November.)  Funds were just wired to Ethiopia and the kids have been measured for shoes.  While Joey's team is in Ethiopia, those shoes will be delivered and they will personally be putting them on each child's feet!!  Joey will take photos during their visit at the CarePoints and I will forward them to each sponsor family when she returns from Ethiopia.

Please keep Joey and her team in your prayers as they minister to the kids and staff in Ethiopia, March 9-16.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Kind Hearts CarePoint in Ethiopia is serving nearly 150 children and there have been many times when access to a reliable vehicle has been necessary, but they have had to make do without.
When a child becomes ill and needs medical treatment, a vehicle would provide quick access to a doctor or medical center. Even tasks as simple as bringing fresh fruits and vegetables from the local market would be quicker and easier, and less expensive without the additional delivery fees.

Fortunately, Kind Hearts does have a small truck that has been sitting on the property for a number of years. With a little elbow grease and ingenuity, the truck is nearly running again and a mechanic has reviewed the truck and provided an estimate for final repairs that would bring it into good running condition so it can serve the needs of the CarePoint as they care for the kids. With licensing, the repair total is $2,040. Your gift in any amount will help provide this crucial necessity for Kind Hearts.

To make a secure donation to the vehicle fund at Kind Hearts through the Children's Hopechest website, please click HERE.

 This photo was taken 1 year ago and the old pick-up truck is shown behind the kids.

Photo taken just a few months ago, the truck has a fresh coat of paint
and is nearly in running condition.  Final repairs and licensing will cost $2,040
and then Kind Hearts will have the use of a vehicle!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"Good progress is seen in her health status"

It was about this time last year when we first became aware of the condition of a little girl in Ethiopia (Webit) at our Trees of Glory CarePoint, who was born with a leg deformity and had recently been treated by the village shaman which caused a severe infection.  She was rushed to the hospital at death's door, the infection was brought under control, surgery was performed and a large section of the bone was removed.  (See original post HERE.)

Many families (especially her sponsor family) have continued to pray for Webit over the months.  When my volunteer team was at the CarePoint in November, Webit had just taken a turn for the worse and it seemed the infection (and significant pain) was setting in again.  

Her older sister was carrying Webit to and from the CarePoint and to each of her classes.  When I picked her up, she seemed as light as a feather and I could feel her bony frame as I carried her to the lunch room.  Her leg was swollen and painful, and it was clear she was losing weight and needed medical attention again.

Webit was scheduled for another doctor visit (there are very few bone doctors in Ethiopia and it is very difficult to get an appointment), and once again antibiotics were prescribed for an infection in her leg.  Her condition is being monitored closely and Webit is living at the CarePoint again full-time so that she can get the medical care, hygiene, rest and good nutrition she needs.  

The doctor also feels that Webit has been favoring her leg because of her past condition which has hampered the healing process.  He is recommending physical therapy, which the care-point is helping to administer.

Here is an update from the field and a recent photo of Webit at her doctor visit:

Webit was able to visit her doctor twice in a month. Good progress is seen in her health status.

The doctor said that Webit should get nutritious food in order to gain weight. So she will be with Simret (director of the care-point) for the next 2 months. And the doctor will check her health status after two months.

Some of the help that Simret and the TOG staff will give to Webit are:

A) Exercising to walk properly (physiotherapy)
B) Balance diet
C) Hygiene treatment

Please keep Webit in your prayers as Children's HopeChest and the staff at Trees of Glory continue to work on her behalf with the medical team in Ethiopia.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Kids say the funniest things ...

I have a small notebook in my purse and another by my computer, that I use to jot down things the kids say that make us laugh.  These things that get said throughout the course of a day are too funny (and too endearing) to forget so I write them down. 

Left to right, Maea (13), Jayden (10), Emme (15), Wesley (5)

Here are a few ...

On a warm summer evening, Jayden had been outside playing with friends and he came inside with a frustrated look on his face.  Batting his hands in front of his face and over his head, he said with disgust ... "Those mosquitos keep taking my juice!"

Coming home from a soccer game in the summer as the girls were peeling their sweaty socks and shoes off, Wesley pipes up "I like you's legs better than you's feet because you's legs don't smell always."

Wesley trying to tempt his older sister into coming to school with him ... "Do you wish you were in my class?  We have toys!!!!"

I got an email from the school telling me that Maea was missing an assignment.  I questioned her about it and she got defensive.  "It's not a big deal, Mom.  I have A's in ALL of my classes!..... except one or two."

Jayden was pouting and sighing loudly as he went upstairs to get ready for bed.  He felt it was unfair for him to have to go to bed earlier than his teenage sisters.  When Jay went upstairs to say goodnight, Jayden's brow was still furrowed and his lower lip was still in a pout.  Jay asked him, "What's wrong, buddy?" To which Jayden sullenly replied, "Nothing!  It's my time of the month."  Jay told him, "Hmmmm, you better go talk to your mom about that."

Jay and I were looking at photos of a homecoming dance that teenagers from our hometown had posted online.  We got to a few photos that showed a small bus had been rented to bring the teens to the dance and there was a stripper's pole in the bus.  I made the comment to Jay, "I wonder if their parents realized there was a stripper pole on that bus?"  Before he could answer, Emme grabbed the computer and said "What is that pole?"  I explained it to her and she looked at me with some bit of surprise and said, "I thought that pole was just for holding on to so you don't fall down." 

Jayden came home earlier than expected from his friend's house because there "was a lot of people coming over to give the baby a bath."  I was puzzled for a moment and then I realized what he meant, "Were they having a baby shower? I asked.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Every family has a comedian ...

I think every family has a comedian and in ours, it's Wesley (our 5 year old).

If you don't know the lyrics to this pre-school song, it goes ...

Slippery fish, slippery fish, sliding through the water,
Slippery fish, slippery fish, Gulp, Gulp!
Oh, no! It’s been eaten by an…
Octopus, octopus, squiggling in the water
Octopus, octopus, Gulp, Gulp!
Oh, no! It’s been eaten by a…
Tuna fish, tuna fish, flashing in the water,
Tuna fish, tuna fish, Gulp, Gulp!
Oh, no! It’s been eaten by a…
Great white shark, great white shark, lurking in the water,
Great white shark, great white shark, Gulp, Gulp, Gulp!
Oh, no! It’s been eaten by a…
Humongous whale, humongous whale, spouting in the water,
Humongous whale, humongous whale,
Gulp! … Gulp! … BURP!
Pardon me!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

He saw a helpless little girl who was alone ...

The quarterly newsletter from Kind Hearts CarePoint featured the story of one particular little girl who is attending the CarePoint.  Here is an excerpt from that newsletter ...

"Bethelhem Tamirat is one of the new children who joined the Kind Hearts School this year. Her father passed away when she was an infant. Her mother was mentally sick. Although Bethelhem’s mother was mentally ill, she continued to raise her. Her mother moved to the city (from the countryside) and lived on the streets near a dumpster.

According to Bethelhem’s guardian, it was a miserable life for both Bethelhem and her mother. As an infant, her mother always kept her close to the dumpster daily, while she left to beg for food.

Bethelhem’s guardian’s son worked in the city (Addis Ababa), as a daily laborer. He spent his day in the city and traveled back to his home at nightfall to the town called, Sebeta. One evening he passed by the dumpster and saw a helpless little girl who was alone. He realized that her mother was not near to care for her, and he took her to his own mother. His mother received her and became Bethelhem’s guardian. When Bethelhem’s mother came back and found her daughter gone, the people in the community informed her where her child was. However, she never returned to her daughter, and after some time, passed away.

Bethelhem’s guardian is a widow, and sells firewood to provide for herself.  She helps Bethelhem from what little she earns. Before Kind Hearts enrolled Bethelhem, it was impossible for her guardian to fully provide for her needs or send her to school. Her meager income would not pay for a school uniform and school supplies. Thankfully she heard about Kind Hearts School from a neighbor, received an approval letter from the local government office, and enrolled Bethelhem into Kind Hearts School.

Now Bethelhem is one of the most active and competitive students at Kind Hearts. And it is easy for her to make friends."


When our team of volunteers arrived in Ethiopia in November, Bethelhem had just been enrolled and had been attending for just a few weeks.  We immediately noticed her  - she had a spunky and spirited personality and even though she is just a tiny little girl (she is 4-5 years old), she could stand her ground with the bigger kids!

When we arrived, there were about 10 newly enrolled children that had not yet been matched with a sponsor family.  Bethelhem was one of those kids.  

One of our volunteers, Brook Moberly, came to me on the day we were handing out care-packages, with Bethelhem firmly holding her hand.  "Does this little girl have a sponsor yet?" she asked me.  I asked the staff if she was new and checked my records, and verified that Bethlehem was still in need of a sponsor.  Brook announced, "I want to be her sponsor!"

Brook and her husband Ryan are now sponsoring Bethlehem - praying for her and providing for her so she can attend Kind Hearts to receive nutritious food, clean water, clothing, medical care, education and Christian discipleship.

Later - I asked Brook what it was about Bethelhem that had so captured her heart.

"She is a very strong-spirited little girl just like my own two daughters.  I noticed right away that she could hold her own when one of the other students tried to take her little satchel and she whopped him on the head!  Other than being so darn cute and ornery, I gravitated to her because of her rambunctious, joyful spirit.  She's very independent but also enjoyed being loved on. Every time I think of her, I smile and laugh. And I can't wait to see and hug her again!"

Monday, February 13, 2012


Each quarter, the staff members for Children's HopeChest in Ethiopia create a newsletter full of updates about each CarePoint and the progress of various capital projects.  The newsletter highlights one child at each CarePoint, to tell their personal story and how the CarePoint has affected their life.

This quarter, a boy named Tariku was featured at Trees of Glory.  When I first met him 1 1/2 years ago in Ethiopia, he was a shy and introverted boy, and yet he was very curious and polite.  He observed our volunteer team from a distance the first day or so, but by the last day, he had warmed up to us and was enjoying our attention.

I noticed that he did not have a right arm, and I asked the CarePoint staff if he had lost it in an accident.  They explained that he had been born that way, and that his family felt he was cursed by an evil spirt.  That "curse" not only affected Tariku, but it affected how other villagers viewed and interacted with his family since they too were viewed as "cursed".

The CarePoint staff told me that it was common practice for children from destitute families to be "sold" as an indentured servant to local wealthy livestock owners.  These children lived day and night with their animals as a shepherd or herder and never had the opportunity to go to school.  Tariku was one of those children.

When Trees of Glory opened their doors to care and provide for destitute children, Tariku's parents relinquished him and he was now living full-time at the CarePoint with about a dozen other children who were considered orphaned or abandoned.

In November 2011, when our volunteer team visited Trees of Glory CarePoint, Tariku was one of the first smiling and outgoing children to greet our team, shake hands with everyone and welcome us to the Care-Point.  During our church service at the CarePoint, while several of the children were singing a rousing song with a lot of clapping and actions, Tariku jumped to the front of the assembly and began dancing to the music.  He has become a confident boy, who is quick to help with the other children and help with the various chores and responsibilities at the CarePoint when he is not in school.

Here is the excerpt about Tariku from the Trees of Glory newsletter this quarter:

"Tariku Aytenfesu was born in the countryside, one hour walk far from Trees of Glory. His parents are farmers. Tariku was born without his right arm. His parents were concerned for him, and believed that perhaps this was caused by an evil power. As he began to grow older, they made him shepherd. Tariku spent his days in the fields shepherding, however his parents were not happy with the circumstances.

When the local government offices offered the opportunity for needy children to enroll in school at Trees of Glory, Tariku was on the list. This was the day that the Lord rescued Tariku’s life. Tariku was relieved to know that he would have a place to live. Since his family didn’t want him, they were happy to relinquish Tariku’s care over to Trees of Glory. At this time, Tariku did not know his alphabet; he was introverted and unable to express himself. After few months, he began to play with the other children and became more active and social.

With many prayers and mentorship he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior. Now Tariku is a model to his peers. He can accomplish all of the things that the other children do. He is a talented artist (drawing). Tariku also helps his dormitory friends to prepare their beds for night. He is so thankful for the life-changing opportunity that Trees of Glory provides. He would not have this opportunity without the love of God and without your support for Trees of Glory."

November 2011 - Tariku with our translator and Sarah (from our volunteer team) receiving 
his care-package and letter form his sponsor family, the Klevens.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Life-Saving and Life-Changing Water!

Drilling for the clean water well at Trees of Glory CarePoint in Ethiopia has begun!!

Trees of Glory is located 2 hours north of Addis Ababa, and serves nearly 150 orphaned and destitute children by providing daily meals, clean water, medical care, clothing, education and Christian discipleship.

Presently, water is carried to the CarePoint each morning on the backs of donkeys - drawn from the river or a spigot in the nearby village.  This water is used for drinking, cooking and hand-washing only, as there is not enough water for bathing or washing clothes.

Plans for the well have been underway for quite some time, and it was fully funded in September.  Since then, the geographical surveys, licensing and permits were being secured, and a date for the drilling was set, and then re-set, and then set again.

In November, when our team of volunteers was at Trees of Glory for 3 days, I spoke to Simret (founder) and Girma (finance manager) about the upcoming well project.  This has been high on their priority list since they founded the CarePoint in 2010 with 84 children.  With their recent expansion and enrollment (they now serve nearly 150 children!), the well is even more of a priority!

Simret explained that the well on the property would not only provide an abundant supply of fresh, clean water for drinking and cooking, but it would supply water for the plumbing in the showers and bathrooms that have not had water flowing for nearly 20 years!  (Trees of Glory used to be the site of a Japanese construction company 20+ years ago which had shower and toilet facilities that had fallen into complete disrepair when the site was abandoned.)

She told me that that one of the first things they would do is implement a time each week for all children to be bathed or showered.  They would also teach the kids to wash their clothes and the children would be required to bring their clothing each week to be washed in the large plumbed wash basins and hung to dry during the day.  At the end of the school day, the clothes would be dry and the children could take home a set of clean clothes.

During our time at the CarePoint, we visited the homes of several children.  Mud huts with mud floors, with no running water or electricity.  Families walk a great distance carrying water from the river or the town spigot (at least a 45-60 minute walk one way) to use for drinking and cooking.  There is not enough for bathing or washing clothes, which was very apparent.

The photos I take of these beautiful children do not do justice to show the build up of dirt on their skin and in their hair.  The photos don't do justice to the stained and tattered clothing that looks grey or beige from months and years of wear.  The kids go months (if not longer) without a bath and without clothes being washed.  They walk to school in the dirt.  They play in the dirt.  Their home has a mud floor and mud walls.  They sleep on animal hides on the mud floor in the clothes they wore all day.

Having a fresh water well on the property at the CarePoint will make a dramatic difference in the lives of these kids every day.  Something we take for granted here, is a life-saving and life-changing luxury for these kids in Ethiopia!

THANK YOU to all the sponsor families and donors who funded this project!!!  Here are the first photos from the drilling which began the last week of January!!

 The drilling rigs, equipment and work crews arrive at Trees of Glory!

The drilling rig makes it way to the well site to begin the bore hole. 

After many hours of drilling and several geological obstacles, they hit water! 

 The first water mixed with the drilling slurry, flows from the well.
Girma (finance manager) on the left and Simret (founder) on the right.

 PVC pipes are inserted into the bore hole as part of the well construction.

There is still a significant amount of work to be done on the water project at Trees of Glory but it is well underway and the kids and the staff at Trees of Glory are celebrating this progress!  More photos to come as the project continues!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ear Piercing in Ethiopia

Every time I go to Ethiopia, there is always a new and interesting cultural norm to discover.  Last year when our volunteer team was in Ethiopia working with the children at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory CarePoints, I noticed a child or two that had something strange (or at least something strange and unrecognizable to me) protruding from their recently pierced ears.

This year, I noticed the same thing with several little girls, so I motioned for one of our translators and asked about it.  Here is what I found out ....

In the USA, when ears are first pierced, hypoallergenic "studs" are inserted and they remain in place for 6-9 weeks until the piercing is fully healed.  Infections are very painful, and you are instructed to clean the piercing twice a day with a q-tip swab dipped in hydrogen peroxide until they are fully healed.

In Ethiopia, without access to hypoallergenic studs or hydrogen peroxide and q-tip swabs, a girl's ear is pierced with a needle and then a thin stalk from a particular plant is inserted into the piercing.  Over time, the piercing scabs repeatedly and once the scabbing stops, the stalk can be removed and earrings can be made and inserted.

Upon hearing this, both of my daughter's removed their own earrings from their ears, and handed them to two little girls to use in their ears once the stalk was removed.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Expect the Unexpected

"Expect the unexpected," is my mantra as I prepare our volunteer team for the work we do in Ethiopia each year with the kids at Kind Hearts and Trees of Glory Care-Points.  There are so many things that can happen to throw us off schedule, or throw a wrench in the best laid plans, or just plain surprise us.

After a full day at Kind Hearts, we were nearing the end of the day and we had spent one-on-one time with all 150 kids.  Each child received a care-package from their sponsor family and our team was reading letters and going through photos and gifts with each child. 

It was finally Becky Dunkle's turn to sit with Derartu, her sponsor child that she had met for the first time last year.  Becky was part of our team of volunteers again this year and she was looking forward to her time with Derartu.

The sun was getting low in the sky, and there was beginning to be a chill in the air.  Sitting on a few chairs we had set up in the schoolyard, Becky was reading a letter she had written to Derartu (fearing she would be too emotional to remember everything she wanted to say - wanting to fill her with words of encouragement, hope and love.) 

As I took photos of their time together, movement caught my eye and I looked up from my camera.

Evidently, it was time for the cows to come home ... literally. 

I could see that the herd of cows was not going to walk right over them, so I lowered my camera just a bit and quietly said, "Becky - I don't want to scare you but there will be a herd of cows coming up behind you in a moment."

Becky was so focused on Derartu, that I don't know if my words even registered ... and then suddenly the cows were right behind them!

There was a moment or two of surprise, and they nearly jumped up to move their chairs.  Realizing they were in no danger, they laughed and went right on with their conversation, while the cows continued toward home.