I am an Ethiopian Orphan Relief volunteer, though I do not have any adopted children. I met the group because at one time we were considering adopting and Ethiopia was one of the countries I was drawn to. Through my interest in this, I was invited to a talk by Hanna Fanta, a woman who runs Children’s Heaven, an orphanage for teen girls in Addis Ababa. That woman amazed and inspired me. She was a strong, capable woman who spoke multiple languages and had raised her children in Ethiopia and then later in the United States. She decided that she was not done mothering so she went back to her home country to foster a child or two and ended up caring so deeply that she couldn’t turn children away. Children’s Heaven grew but money has always been a struggle. She showed us pictures of her girls and a few that lived in dumpsters that she simply had no room for. I wanted so much to help and thought of creative ways I could do something more after writing a sponsorship check for one of the girls.
I am an amateur artist for fun and I often give away my pieces to raise money for my children’s schools. I thought it might be possible for me to organize an art event if I found a few other people who would contribute art along with mine and give the proceeds to Children’s Heaven. I told my idea to Emily Barr and she, connected, caring woman that she is introduced me to some amazing people who were instrumental in making it work. Danielle Marquis had just formed a non-profit group for helping orphans just like this and so provided the perfect vehicle for getting money to the orphanages. Greg Cradick is a fantastic photographer who was incredibly generous with his time, his talents, his artists contacts, and the use of his gallery. Shawn Rodda and Jane Gregory were tireless in their efforts, making great use of their contacts and their knowledge to make the event go so well. I later met some other generous, caring people through EOR that helped make the events so successful. Many of them flew in from all corners of our country to help: Kim Pasion, Lauren Andronici, Paige Chapman-Layland, Dawn Finley, Becky Mitchell, and Katie Bell
With all of these people around my table that first night I knew this was going to be even bigger and better than what my initial vision had been. And it was. The first year we raised around $13,000 toward a building for Children’s Heaven, because at this point they were operating out of an abandoned storage container that was covered with tarps to keep out the inclement weather. This year we raised more than $7000, enough to fund a well for a different orphanage. I felt so good, so proud to be part of a team that made that happen.
We don’t have any plans for adopting at this time, but it does feel good to be part of a group like this, even if I don’t share the same circumstances as everyone else in it. It doesn’t matter. It is incredibly satisfying to do good for people even without a stake in it for yourself. I continue to look forward to find ways to make a small part of our world a better place with this great group of people that have now become my friends.