Human Rights Day

Sharing from the United Nations website:

Human Rights Day, 10 December

Human Rights Day presents an opportunity, every year, to celebrate human rights, highlight a specific issue, and advocate for the full enjoyment of all human rights by everyone everywhere.

This year, the spotlight is on the rights of all people — women, youth, minorities, persons with disabilities, indigenous people, the poor and marginalized — to make their voices heard in public life and be included in political decision-making.

These human rights — the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, to peaceful assembly and association, and to take part in government (articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) have been at the centre of the historic changes in the Arab world over the past two years, in which millions have taken to the streets to demand change. In other parts of the world, the “99%” made their voices heard through the global Occupy movement protesting economic, political and social inequality.

If you think about the mission of EOR:

     “We work in partnership with local organizations to support the emotional and physical needs of Ethiopia’s orphans and vulnerable children. It is our goal to ensure that every child in Ethiopia has a warm bed, a loving influence, and sufficient education to better their lives.”

You’ll note that much of what we do is designed to give voice to the voiceless.  By educating children, feeding them, and giving them a place to call home, we help to create a home for them in the larger society.

We want these children to grow up healthy and educated, with myriad opportunities to join Ethiopian society as fully-participating members. As a result, these children will become the adults who guide future policies, who will indeed have a voice in their communities and a real chance to affect change.

The people of Busa have a voice.

The people of Busa have a voice.

When you give to Ethiopian Orphan Relief, you give so much more than a meal, or school fees to a child.  You are ensuring the future success of this adult, and as such, you are improving the society in which they live.  What a marvel YOU are!  Thank you friends, for supporting the work of Ethiopian Orphan Relief, for supporting Ethiopia.  YOU are EOR!

Ethiopia's future

Ethiopia’s future


*In celebration of this 64th Human Rights Day, I’ll donate  $1.64 to EOR for each comment shared on this post.  Lend your voice, lend your support!


Veggie Recipe

One of my favorite recipes to make is a type of cooked vegetables that I’ve seen called by several names; atakilt alicha, ye’atakilt wot.  Here is how you make it.

1/2 cup Olive Oil

4 Carrots

1 onion, thin sliced

1 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 tsp. ground tumeric

1/2 head cabbage, shredded

5 potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes


Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook carrots and onion in hot oil about 5 minutes. Stir in salt, pepper, cumin, tumeric and cabbage, cook another 15 -20 minutes, ( I cover it with a lid to keep it the moisture in). Add the potatoes, cover. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until potatoes are soft, 20-30 minutes.

Serve with Injera and enjoy!



Amharic classes in Ohio

Fellow board member Amy Harcar and I spent hours and hours this summer working through Amharic Level 1.  At the end of 10 weeks, I am fairly familiar with the alphabet (all 230+ fidel), have expanded my vocabulary,  can greet and express affection, and most important of all, have a clearer understanding of the pronunciation of Amharic words written in English.

The next Level 1 Amaharic class begins on October 1 (through December 3) 12-3 pm, at 1060 Mt. Vernon Ave.  Check the flyer for all the details!

If you live in the greater Columbus area, please try to squish this amazing class into your schedule!


Amharic flyer 7 20

Enkutatash 2004~~Melkam Addis Amet!

Ethiopia’s New Year’s Day (or Enkutatash) is celebrated in September towards the end of the big rains. Unlike the 1 January date, which is comparatively arbitrary, New Year’s Day in Ethiopia marks a new season and a new beginning.

The grass is green, the sun has come out, and there is fresh food to be harvested. Apart from the cyclical explanation for the timing of Ethiopian New Year, there is also a legend which maintains that Enkutatash is celebrated to commemorate the return of Queen Sheba from Jerusalem.
Presently in Addis Ababa, New Year’s Eve is spent feasting and partying. On New Year’s Day, the house is decorated with pretty little yellow Meskal daisies. Children make gifts of colorful paintings or spring flowers to give to their family and friends. Girls, dressed in their new Ethiopian dresses and armed with a kabero (small drum), go from house to house singing a special Enkutatash song, in return for some money. The main religious celebration takes place in the 14th-century Kostete Yohannes church in the town of Gaynt, in the Gondar region. Three days of prayers, psalms, hymns and sermons, and huge colourful processions mark the advent of the New Year. Closer to Addis Ababa, the Raguel Church, on top of the Entoto Mountain north of the city, has the largest and most spectacular religious celebration.

In the United States, Enkutatash is typically celebrated on or around September 11th.  Public celebrations of Enkutatash often occur on the weekend before or immediately after the ‘official’ holiday.  This year, in consideration of the bigger 9/11 commemorations as well as the Ohio State Football schedule, the Columbus Ohio celebration will be held on September 18th, from 10-6.

Each year,  as the workload for the Enkutatash celebration increases, I think, “This will be the last year I help to plan.  Next year, I’ll attend as a guest.” This notion is quickly shunted aside, but I’d be lying if I didn’t think it would be nice to spend summer doing a little less.

BUT, then I go to the Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services office for an Enkutatash meeting with my Ethiopian daughter by my side.  In an instant she is surrounded by a half dozen Ethiopian adults she has known for the last 3+ years.  By the end of an hour, she’s spent time chatting with another half dozen Ethiopian adults, all eager to bestow kisses and greetings.  This link to the Ethiopian community means more to me than any summer afternoon spent at the zoo,  or picnic in the park.

My daughter will grow up with Ethiopian friends to play with, she’ll know families that look remarkably like ours, but she also have adoring Ethiopian adults in her life, and Ethiopian friends who grow up in families who look little like ours.

And so, despite the large part of my grey matter that yells, “too much” when I add another commitment to my schedule, I will continue, whole-heartedly to plunge in to the Ethiopian community whenever I am asked.  These relationships, like the Queen of Sheba’s jewels, are priceless indeed.


Melkam Addis Amet!


Before Ethiopia…

Next week, our family will celebrate Eli Day.  Eli Day, as you may have guessed, is the anniversary to the day we adopted Eli.  Next Tuesday, it will be three years since Sr. Lutgarda of Kidane Mehret Children’s Home handed me the tiny, innocent baby with eyes wise beyond his years.

There are way too many thoughts and emotions that run loose in my head and heart surrounding Eli Day for me to put into type at the moment.  I’ll save that crazy, long, disjointed post for Eli Day (when they’ve all come rushing out).  Right now, I’m just trying to remember what my life was like three years ago today — before Ethiopia.  I can barely remember anymore.

What did I DO before I became a part of an Ethiopian American family?  What did I think about and care about so much before I fell in love with Ethiopia?  I really don’t remember.

Ethiopia has changed my life forever — for the better.  I can only hope to attempt to do the same in return.  But three years ago today, I really had no idea what was in store …


Amharic lessons in Columbus Ohio

One of the nicest things about living in Columbus Ohio, is the large population of Ethiopians and other East Africans who live in the area. ETSS, the social services agency that serves this community, has worked hard to make Ethiopian adoptive families feel welcome at events and within the community at large.

For years, ETSS has considered offering an Amharic class for non-native speakers, and finally, one has coalesced.

Guess who’s going to know how to say more than ‘thank you’ and ‘beautiful’ when she travels to Ethiopia next fall?

I hope, if you’re in central Ohio, you’ll consider joining us!

parallel goals

As I was bopping around the interwebby thing today, putting off adding to the Dead of Winter Bash’s auction database, I bounced from blog to blog, and landed on this little gem.  Rachel, of  If it Takes a Whole Life shared this terrific piece about raising Jewish kids.  Noting the similarities between keeping religion and keeping culture, Rachel drew some terrific parallels–enjoy:

A number of months ago, while Gabriel was in Sunday school, the rabbi at our synagogue asked all the parents to stay for a short talk on raising Jewish kids. Since it meant I was going to miss some quality coffee and pajama time at home with Kevin and Clementine, I hadn’t exactly been looking forward to going.

Once the rabbi got talking, however, I found myself digging in my bag for a pen, wanting to write down every word he said. He presented a top 10 list for raising Jewish kids–note, Jewish kids, not necessarily spiritual kids. He didn’t promise that the tips would help us raise kids who feel connected to God but he thinks that, if you follow these 10 recommendations, you stand a decent chance of giving them some of the tools they’ll need to potentially tap into their own spirituality as they grow up and mature.

Part of the reason I wrote so furiously over the course of the next hour was because I immediately saw how a list of ways to impart a sense of Jewish identity in my children was not very far removed from a comparable list of ways parents might reinforce their internationally-adopted kids’ cultural identities as well.

10. Have Jewish “stuff” around the house. Don’t just pull it out once a year to celebrate a holiday but keep it out where it blends into the fabric of the household.

Just like menorahs, mezuzahs, haggadahs, Jewish art, and children’s books with Jewish themes all reinforce children’s religious identities, the same types of purchases and thoughtful placements around the house can reinforce their cultural ones.

9. Think of religious school as an education that doesn’t end at bar mitzvah but rather goes through high school.

In the adoptive playgroups we have taken advantage of (and even helped establish) for our own kids, I can sense that it will get harder and harder to get scores of kids together, especially as they grow older. As their homecomings fade into the distant past and children make their own school friends, relying less on their parents to arrange their social interactions, I can see how it’ll fall to us as parents to keep prioritizing these activities and, ultimately, friendships.

8. Come as a family to synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Take off work and keep your kids out of school.

For those of you who aren’t Jewish, this may seem like a silly one. Like, really, we need to be told to go to temple twice a year? Ummm, yeah. We Reform Jews don’t always make it to synagogue as often as we should… that whole Friday night thing is a bit of a hindrance. Plus, regular Friday night services start at 7:30, which would just be hilarious to attempt with Clementine. What our rabbi’s really getting at here… celebrate the holidays. Make them a big deal, even if you do nothing else throughout the year. I’m guilty lately of barely acknowledging our own American holidays, let alone those in Guatemala and Ethiopia. I’d like to get better at this.

7. Observe birth, adolescence, marriage and death in a Jewish context. Assume you’ll do it that way.

Kevin and I had a Jewish wedding despite the fact that Kevin’s not Jewish. We held a Bris for Gabriel soon after we adopted him. I’m a little consumed with the whole Greece thing right now but, mark my words, a naming ceremony is in Clementine’s not-so-distant future. In other words, we’re raising a Jewish family and we do assume that we’ll mark life’s largest moments in a Jewish context. A bigger question for me is, “What would it even look like for us to observe those same moments in an Ethiopian context? A Guatemalan context?” That tells me I need more education.

6. Belong to a synagogue until you die.

This one, to me, is all about putting your money where your mouth is. Showing up, at least in the metaphorical sense:-) Visibly supporting the Jewish community. If not you, who? To do the same thing for Guatemala and Ethiopia, it means finding meaningful ways to give back to projects in the children’s countries, and it also means reaching out to find ways to help and connect with the communities of Guatemalan and Ethiopian immigrants in our own backyard. (If you’re looking for a great Ethiopian project to support, look no further than right here. Inspiring stuff.)

5. Observe Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Chanukah, and Passover at home. During Passover, have a Seder. Eat matzoh all week.

A translation for adoptive parents: do the work. Making a Passover dinner is really hard. It’s like Thanksgiving or any other meal that winds up tasting better, the more hours you put into it. It’s easier not to do it. This past year, Dad had just died and we pretended the holiday didn’t exist. One year, when Kevin and I were newly married, we went to our old synagogue’s Seder because I was intimidated by boiling water, let alone cooking lamb. The dinner was sort of lame, and it’d have been better if I’d put my big girl pants on and invited a few friends over to enjoy a meal I’d cooked. I’ve yet to cook an Ethiopian meal. It’s time to get out the berbere.

4. Send your kids to Jewish summer camp.

Just like there are tons of Jewish summer camps out there, there are a growing number of cultural camps designed to help kids, and even entire families, learn about and celebrate their birth cultures. Kids either love camp or they hate camp, and there’s a good chance that my kids will grow up moaning about the year (or better still, years) Mom and Dad sent them to culture camp… but maybe, just maybe, they’ll forgive us because they’ll figure our hearts were in the right place.

3. Plan to give your kids a high school Israel experience.

I went to Israel for the first time when I was 26. I went through the Taglit/Birthright program, which provides free trips to Jews in the diaspora, ages 18-27, who have never been to Israel. The program is really well conceived and executed and it’s wonderful that it’s there but I think that, if I’d known more about Israel at a younger age, I might have made slightly different choices during those pivotal college years. Who knows?

A lot of people say that the ideal time to take a child back to see their birth country is at around age 12, when they’re (hopefully) not yet so jaded that they completely hate hanging out with you:-) Yet, at the same time, perhaps they’re old enough to really remember the experience and feel the full impact of the trip. We took Gabriel back to Guatemala when he was four, with the full knowledge that he wouldn’t remember anything. Truthfully, Kevin and I had really missed it and just wanted to go. We know we may not be able to make a habit of popping down to Guatemala (or over to Ethiopia) every four years but we figure that, at the very least, we’ll do a family trip to each country sometime during their teen years. Our end goal is for both our kids to grow up feeling like their birth countries are accessible to them.

2. Have your kids participate in a Jewish teenage youth group.

This one relates directly back to #9. As our kids age out of playgroups, we need to find ways to build in socialization time with other kids who share their heritage.

1. Regularly observe Shabbat at home.

All right… I’ve got nothing. Kidding, kind of. Okay, it’s a stretch but here goes:

Shabbat (which we don’t observe… shame on us!) is about ushering in the sabbath, the day of rest. It’s about spending time with family. It’s about prayer. And quiet. And contemplation. Observing Shabbat every Friday night is about making time in your life so the spiritual stuff can happen. So maybe I lied when I said this list was about raising Jewish kids and not necessarily spiritual ones. Doing all the stuff on the list is good but finding a little quiet in each week to really listen… to the silence, to your kids, to what they’re saying, to what they’re not saying… that might be where it’s all at in the end.

* Full credit for the Top 10 list goes to our rabbi, who’s gonna have to remain nameless for the sake of our Interwebs privacy:-)

Thank you so much, Rachel, for sharing your post with us!  I hope that all of you comment about ways you keep a connection to your child’s culture too.  Little tips, big ones–please share!


Amharic Kids, and the latest update

A big self-congratulatory celebration for EOR!   Amharic Kids held a contest via facebook, asking friends of Amharic Kids to share information about their favorite Ethiopian non-profit organizations. I am pleased to say that Ethiopian Orphan Relief was selected as one of two to receive a very generous $150.00 gift.

Amharic Kids is a terrific online shop selling a variety of items from and pertaining to Ethiopia and Ethiopian culture. My family owns the Amharic color and number beanbags (among other products from AK) and I can attest, they are played with daily.  Lots of other great products too, I love to shop there!

Thanks you so much Staci for providing beautiful products, and for the generous prize.  We are SO pleased you are part of this community.

Here’s the latest thermometer for our annual campaign.  As you can see, we’re 95% of the way to meeting our goal.

With two days left, will you make a donation for clean water, or medical supplies?  Will you add your 10.00 to feed an orphan for 12 days?  No contribution is too small.  Please donate today.

Thanks to all of YOU who have made this campaign a success!


Update the 2nd: Water 1st

I admit it.  Tonight, as the dishwasher was humming, the washing machine was spinning, and my tween was fresh from his second shower of the day, I was peeved.  My 4 year old needed a bath, and I had to wait for the water heater to replenish the hot water supply.  It was late, getting later by the second, and for the third time this week, I began to price larger water heaters.

I can’t imagine how many Ethiopian women would like to deal with my water troubles.  In a country where less than 11% of the rural population has access to safe drinking water, and water and sanitation-related diseases, particularly diarrhea, are among the top three causes of death, I’m sure any woman who travels miles each day carrying filthy water would welcome my life, and the water (often hot!) that flows freely from our taps.


That’s why I’m particularly glad that Ethiopian Orphan Relief, Inc. partnered with Water 1st to provide safe drinking water, and sanitary latrines for the people of Kelecho Gerbi.  Last spring, we asked for your help, and you gave…generously!  By the end of May, EOR was able to donate $10,000.00 to Water 1st–enough to fund 8 community taps and 50 latrines, aka a lifetime of clean water, for the entire village of Kelecho Gerbi.

With funding secure, Water 1st was able to plan a water tour for early in the spring of 2011.  Once our portion of the project is complete, we’ll share pictures and perhaps video of the build.


Thank you, thank you to those of you who remember that clean water is vital to the people of Ethiopia.  With good sanitation and a ready source of fresh water, people stay healthier, girls go to school, and Ethiopians prosper.  From now on, when I am tempted to google  ‘endless supply of hot water’ I’ll be sure to add to my water donation instead.