Today we celebrate Orphan Sunday, a day that is dear to our hearts. A day that raises awareness for the children whose stories have changed our lives forever. The majority of our staff at Ordinary Hero have adopted one or more children, so this one is personal for us.
Although many numbers and statistics will be shared today, each number is an individual story that deserves individual attention. We try not to assume that one approach fits every case.
The reality is, most of the Western world believes orphans to be children who have lost both parents and are living in orphanages.
UNICEF defines orphans as children who have lost one or both parents. Of the more than 132 million children that fall into this category, less than 10% have lost both parents, and the majority of orphans are living with a surviving parent, grandparent, or other family member.
So with this in mind, we seek to know the story behind the child and family. We strive to support them to the best of our ability to ensure they reach their full potential. Below are some stories that sum up our approach to the orphan crisis. We hope this sheds light, not only on the issue at hand, but how we can change the reality of the orphan crisis, one life at a time.
1) Keeping families together
Too often children are orphaned because their parent(s) do not have the means to care for them. Ordinary Hero seeks to strengthen families through sponsorship, so that families can stay together.
Eulalem is 29 years old. She is originally from an area called Gojam. Eulalem came to Addis Ababa 4 years ago because she felt like she could find a better life with more opportunity in the city. She ended up settling in Korah as the cost of living in the trash dump was much cheaper than anything else she could afford. Her husband left her when she was pregnant with her daughter and she has not seen him since then. Her child’s name is Rahel and she is 3 and a half.
Eulalem recently told us the following,
“My daughter already has and will continue to change my life in incredible ways. I used to want to give my child away because I couldn’t support her but this sponsorship has given me hope. I cannot imagine not having my daughter, so this sponsorship has kept me united with my beautiful child. There are not enough thanks in the universe for our sponsor!”
2) Supporting orphaned children that reside with family members
Extreme poverty often splits families in different, complicated ways. Whatever the case, both double and single orphans are often taken in by existing family members that strive to the best of their ability to care for the child. Through sponsorship, we seek to support these family members and their effort to care for orphaned children within their family.
Desash Desalegn is one of our precious grandmothers who is caring for her granddaughter, Bethlehem (Beti). Beti’s father is currently in prison for committing murder, and even though it was an act of self-defense, in Ethiopia it is still a crime that is punishable by jail time. Once Beti’s father went to prison, her mother moved to the Middle East to find work and no one has heard from her since.
Beti is well adjusted and greatly loved by her grandmother. She is 14 years old now and in Grade 8 at Bright Hope School in the Korah community. She is loving her History and Social Studies classes this year in school and LOVES soccer! She is determined to become a famous soccer player when she grows up and works hard at it often.
3) Supporting double orphans
One of our partner ministries, Talita Rise Up, located in a town called Yirgalem, facilitates an orphanage for abandoned babies. These babies are found frequently in forests, toilets, trash cans, and the like. Talita Rise Up is the only ministry of it’s kind in the village that accepts babies from the police, and we have come alongside them through sponsorship to support them.
One of the babies that have been brought to the center is sweet baby Agaze, pictured below.
It’s been an amazing year of support for Talita Rise Up, with many great things having taken place at the orphanage as well as in the community. Our most exciting report is that some of the children in the orphanage have been moved into the care of a foster family, which gives them a deeper sense of love, stability, and security.
Talita Rise Up partners with churches in their town of Yirg’Alem to carry out this task and have seen great results. The reason that the foster care program was started was because the government closed all international adoptions in this part of Ethiopia. It is nearly impossible to find domestic families willing or able to adopt thus the need for foster care. In order for the child to be placed with a family, the foster family must have a home study, medical check up, criminal record checks, and the training that the orphanage staff gives. After this, a child is chosen and the family is introduced to them over a 15 day period. This allows them to get to know the child before signing the papers. The family then agrees to care for the child and give the love he/she needs while the Talita Rise Up staff agrees to visit the child and provide any documentation that may be needed by the family.
Sweet baby Agaze has been placed in a loving home in the city of Addis Ababa and is doing extremely well.
4) Supporting those that are interested in adoption
Lastly, for those that have chosen the beautiful journey of adopting from Ethiopia, we open our doors to you and invite you to stay in our home away from home, the OH Guest House & Life Center: an oasis and safe place to bond with your child in Ethiopia while undergoing the frequent hurdles that come with international adoption.
“Since I was a child I have always loved children and helping others. As a teenager I was able to go to Mexico twice on eye opening mission’s trips. I hated seeing the people, especially children, in such desperate situations and witnessed toddlers sniffing glue in a trash dump to mask their hunger. These trips ignited a fire in my core and I knew that I wanted to adopt some day. Shortly after celebrating my one year anniversary to the love of my life, Brian, our hearts were shattered when we were told we were unable to conceive a baby. That was incredibly devastating news as newlyweds, but it obvious for us that we wanted to grow our family through adoption. We were introduced to a local couple who had successfully adopted 3 of the most beautiful children I had ever seen. They explained they were from Ethiopia and had experienced mostly smooth and speedy processes. Their encouragement and positive stories inspired us to dive right in and the mountains of paper work began. Eight months later came the day we were longing for. We finally received a referral for a beautiful 1 month infant named Dinkinesh. There was no doubt she was our daughter and we knew from that point that we would do whatever it took to ensure her safety and to get her home.
After lots of waiting, we finally received exciting news! We were told by our agency that we had gotten the approval we were waiting for, we just needed one more signature which was estimated to be happening very soon. A month at tops.
I just couldn’t take it anymore. Brian and I decided it would be best for us if left my job at the hospital that I had worked for 8 years and go be with our precious Dinkinesh. My brave mom and I boarded a plane Ethiopian bound to seek out my baby girl. We were able to rescue her from the overcrowded orphanage and care for her until we could all go home.
The first guesthouse we stayed for a month what basically a nightmare. It was dirty, the locks did not work, I was electrocuted several times when plugging in electronics, we were eaten alive by bed bugs and I vomited several times from the food. The staff was friendly enough and I had lost about 10 pounds, but I knew I had to get my mom and baby out of there ASAP. I was desperate and began searching my options when I came across the Ordinary Hero Guest House. I was skeptical of all of the wonderful reviews and the beautiful pictures, but I was hopeful that anything would be better than where we came from. We pulled up and I felt like we hit the jackpot.
The staff was super friendly and spoke English! It was very clean and beautiful, there was a huge breathtaking view of the city, the food was great and they even provided fresh fruit juice. Our room was the size of an apartment and even included a microwave and mini fridge. I was certain we were going to survive here. We felt safe at all times. Little did we know that this “short” trip to get Dinkinesh was going to turn into 6 LOOOONG months. We encountered problems and defeat left and right. I often wondered if I would ever get home and if I was going to lose my mind.
I kept gazing and my daughter and knew failure and leaving her was no option. I was not always strong and positive, but I had to try my best to make a conscious effort to start over daily. By choosing this option, God opened my eyes to so many truly awesome people, experiences and life lessons that I will take with me forever. These outings led us to feeding programs in Entoto Mountain and Korah Dump, celebrations and excursions with the kids at the Hope for the Hopeless, and visiting Talita orphanage. Talita Orphanage was probably the most impactful blessing I have ever experienced. I was able to be a part of OH’s first visit to the orphanage and saw it change from having no hope and barely surviving to fully funded and thriving. The staff, the visitors and the teams became our family away from home. Despite my fears about Dinki’s adoption I had so many loving people who would take time to encourage, cry, laugh hysterically and pray with me.
It was scary being a first time parent by myself, but the staff loved my daughter as their own and were always there to help. Had I not had OH as a rock and support system, I doubt I would have had the strength and endurance to keep going. Every time I would feel defeated, I would come “home” to OH’s love, support and encouragement which would always redirect me to fight with faith and to trust in God. Through the darkest time in my life, I was able to see past my own struggles to seek the underlying beauty and deep faith of the Ethiopian people and to experience their great love and culture. Although I had never felt worthy to change the world, God taught me that even I can be an Ordinary Hero.
P.S. Love truly does heal all wounds because we are currently in process of bringing home a little brother for Ellie from Ethiopia.” – Ashley Yoder